Disbelief is a helpful companion on the journey of life. It is the incredulity that induces awe and the skepticism that provides safety and sometimes truth. It is invaluable as a tool for living. In the Upper Room, locked in with grief and fear, the disciples knew those moments of disbelief. Suspended between the rejection of the Pharisees and the tyrannies of Rome, the disciples clung to one another for meaning and purpose, for support in a world where, somehow, the impossible had occurred: the stone of the Tomb rolled away and Jesus nowhere to be found.
It was Thomas who was not there for the appearance; Thomas who navigated his disbelief alone. He armed himself with critical thought, with rational claims, and he wondered at the understandings of his companions. He willingly, consciously, wrestled with disbelief. Living in his own time, he grappled dramatically with discomfort and anxiety; he did it with bravery and determination and respect.
And so he lays out an invitation to future generations: use your questions and your critical thinking skills, find the strength to follow through, be determined to confront the issues. Do not walk away from the challenge. Instead, aware of vulnerability, trust your instincts and consult with your friends. Find the path that empowers and invites deeper peace. Beleive that discernment is necessarily an uncomfortable process, but it possesses the promise of an outcome that is worth far more than the price of the process. Thomas, in his vulnerability and fear, invites the movement towards an outcome.
That invite resounds in the contemporary world. Here, too, the institutions which once provided a coherent and organized structure have all but collapsed for so many. Navigating the waters of faith demands close scrutiny, weighng the variables and the evidence, the science and the scams. It also means having the courage to imagine something beyond what is immediately perceivable, opening the psyche to the possiblity of the soul.
In a world of black and white, Pharisees can find the comfort of paths and rules. In the world of the Upper Room, when a spectrum of colors replaces the old continuum, there are new possibilities transfiguring old realities. Reality and perceptions are re-shaped in each generation; there is a life-cycle that belongs to youth and allows for the architecture of their vision and truth. There are moments when the old order simply fades away as it did around the table in the Upper Room.
That is the moment Thomas lived; it is the moment that each is invited to in the re-telling of the story. It is the moment when disbelief becomes a strength not because it is stagnant, but because it is openness to a new moment. Disbelief allows the chance to entertain truths and possibilities, if so allowed. The grace that Thomas presents is his full embrace of humanity and his example to us to do the same.