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SHOW UP! / Fr. Martin Chittadiyil V.C.

SHOW UP! / Fr. Martin Chittadiyil V.C.

The saints and great spiritual writers have always said that there is only one, non-negotiable rule for prayer, “Show up! Show up regularly!”

The beloved disciple John records in his post-resurrection account, Thomas, one of the twelve apostles, was not with them when Jesus came. That means he failed to show up.  His failure to be present with other disciples caused him to loose many blessings that the other apostles received. He missed:

(1) Presence of Jesus. “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them” (John 20:19).

(2) Peace of Jesus. “Jesus showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you” (John 20:20).

(3) Power of the Holy Spirit. “When he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).

(4) Plan of the Father. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21).

(5) Purpose of their call. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:23).

Though he missed all these blessings, the story of St. Thomas the apostle of Jesus is still relevant in our spiritual lives because it is one of a doubter turned a firm believer of Christ. We cannot ignore the fact that St. Thomas had a crisis of faith. But it is also true he overcame it with the help of Jesus. We can’t see anything properly while our eyes are blurred with tears. It was the condition of St. Thomas the apostle. He lost his master Jesus and in his sorrow even his spiritual vision became blurred.  He becomes like a child making stubborn demands. Sometimes words, though they are consoling and encouraging, are not enough for us.

“The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my  hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).

Ronald Rolheiser, a specialist in the fields of spirituality and theology, in his book Our One Great Act of Fidelity says a story. A young girl woke up one night frightened and disoriented, convinced that there were monsters around her in the darkness of her room. Crying, she ran to her parents’ bedroom for safety. Her mother brought her back to her own room. She put on a light to show the child that there was nothing hiding there. She gently tried to reassure her that she was safe.

Then, just before leaving the mother said to her, “You don’t need to be afraid. You aren’t alone. God is here in the room with you.” The child replied, “I know that God is here with me, but I need someone here who has some skin!”

Human beings are creatures of the senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. We are not angels or spirits. We need things that we can touch, see, hear, taste and smell.  Spiritual masters point out that is true in terms of our relationship to God. God who knows human nature since He created it respects that need and that leads to incarnation. God took on concrete flesh and become tangible and physical. In Jesus we have a God who can touch and be touched.

It is really consoling to know that God’s mercy worked wonderfully, for when that doubting disciple touched his Master’s wounded flesh he received the miracle of restoration of faith and was delivered from the crisis of faith. Thomas believed in Jesus and offered his life for Gospel from then on wholeheartedly. The sacred tradition says that St. Thomas travelled to many places preaching the Good News to them. He visited India, our country and the thriving Christian communities  our country still preserve the faith given to them through St.Thomas the Apostle. He would go on to die in martyrdom defending his faith. From a doubter of the Lord and from feeble faith, God had transformed St. Thomas into that true and strong follower who was even ready to lay down his for the sake of the Lord.

Happily, there are people who are truthful to themselves revealing, “I have a crisis of faith.” Yes, they exist. This is their moment.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith-being more precious than gold that, though perishable , is tested fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:3-7).

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