On Doubting Thomas Sunday – 2023

A stained glass version of the Apostle Thomas proving to himself that Jesus had risen…

*   *   *   *

Back in 2014, I posted First musings – Readings for Doubting Thomas Sunday. Looking back – nine years later – the post seems primitive. But it was only the second blog post I ever did. My first post was The Bible – Lectionary Musings and Color Commentary. It was about Quasimodo Sunday, also known as Second Sunday of Easter. (Because Easter isn’t one day, it’s a whole season. It lasts 50 days, from Easter Sunday to the day of Pentecost or “Whitsunday.”)

As if all that isn’t confusing enough, this April 16, 2023 – the Second Sunday of Easter – could also be called “the Sunday of Many Names.” Aside from the two mentioned above, it’s called “Doubting Thomas Sunday.” That’s because the Gospel reading is always John 20:19-31, the story of disciple Thomas and the doubts he had about Jesus being risen from the dead after being crucified. It’s also called Low Sunday and the Octave of Easter, but I’ll get to those later.

Getting back to Doubting Thomas, Wikipedia defines the term generically as a “skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience.” The term refers to the Apostle Thomas, “who refused to believe that the resurrected Jesus had appeared to the ten other apostles, until he could see and feel the wounds received by Jesus on the cross.” On the other hand, you could say that experiencing – in person – the Force that Created the Universe is or should be what church-going is all about. (See for example, Wesleyan Quadrilateral.)

Wikipedia went on to explain that Thomas the Apostle – also called Didymus, meaning “The Twin” – was best known from the account in John 20:19-31. He questioned Jesus’ resurrection at first, but after his direct experience – seeing and touching Jesus’ wounded body – he proclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” Of course we can’t have that direct experience – not in this life anyway – but there’s something to be said for having doubts and then overcoming them.

You could say there are two kinds of faith. The first is blindly believing, without asking any questions, having any doubts or asking how other people have interpreted the Bible. The second type does ask questions, does dig deeper and as a result often comes across doubt. You could think of that second type of faith as a form of resistance training. The Blind Faith Christian doesn’t like “resistance.” He does the same old boring exercise, over and over again, and stays at the same low level of spiritual fitness. The Healthy Doubt Christian welcomes resistance, and asks the probing questions that often lead to doubt. But in the process, he ultimately grows spiritually stronger by overcoming that resistance, by overcoming those doubts.

That 2014 post had a link, If you doubt and question … answers.yahoo.com. It asked, “If you doubt and question your faith will it become stronger?” Unfortunately the current link won’t take you there, but back then the “Best Answer” to the Yahoo question included this:

Remember Thomas, the disciple, who wouldn’t believe in Christ’s resurrection until he put his hand into Jesus’s wounds. He went on to die spreading the gospel in Persia and India. God gave us free choice, He doesn’t want us to be robots, He could have made us like that, but wanted us to choose for ourselves. You learn and grow by questioning. 

In other words, there seem to be Christians who see The Faith of the Bible as a spiritual strait-jacket, a pre-shaped form into which “we” have to mold ourselves. This type of Christian also seems to believe that St. Peter will have some kind of checklist at the Pearly Gates, so that if you don’t answer every litmus test question exactly right you won’t get in.

Other Christians see The Faith as a set of Spiritual Wings, like it says in Isaiah 40:31:

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

I.e., a set of spiritual wings that can take you to wonderful places and experiences you couldn’t imagine. The choice is yours, but as for me an my house, I’ll pick the spiritual wings.

And now back to those other names for the Second Sunday of Easter. One is Low Sunday, because church attendance falls off so drastically that first Sunday “after.” (Compared with the high attendance of Easter Day itself.) Another name is the Octave of Easter. That’s the eight-day period, “or octave, that begins on Easter Sunday and ends with the following Sunday.”

Then there’s that Quasimodo Sunday. But that’s not because of Quasimodo – the guy shown in the image below – better known as the “Hunchback of Notre Dame:”

Instead, the name comes from a Latin translation of the beginning of First Peter 2:2 , a traditional “introit” used in churches on this day. First Peter 2:2 begins – in English and depending on the translation – “As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile…” [Or, “pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up” in salvation.] In Latin the verse reads: “Quasi modo geniti infantes…” Literally, “quasi modo means ‘as if in [this] manner.’”

Since “geniti” translates as “newborn” and the translation of “infantes” seems self-evident, the “quasi modo” in question roughly translates, “As if in the manner” (of newborn babes)

And incidentally, that character in Hunchback of Notre-Dame was named after the opening words of First Peter 2:2. In the New International Version it reads, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” 

Which brings us back those “Blind Faith” Christians. They like staying “newborn babes,” spiritually. They don’t want to grow up in their salvation. Or as noted below, they stay in the security of Christian boot camp, where they learned the fundamentals. They don’t want to venture out and use the skills they’ve learned. Or have the spiritual adventures of a “spiritual wings” Christian.

The bottom line? Don’t be a Quasimodo!

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Doubting Thomas – Image Results. See also Crossroads Initiative, which featured the image.

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

Season of Easter. See Eastertide – Wikipedia. Also ponder this: The second Sunday after Easter – Easter Sunday – would not be until next Sunday, April 23. On that note see also 2021’s Happy “Sunday of Many Names!”

“As for me and my house.” Joshua 24:15, “if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Quasimodo Sunday. The link from the Catholic News Agency shows yet another name: The “Sunday following Easter is typically remembered as ‘Divine Mercy Sunday,’ a feast day established by Pope John Paul II which honors the divine mercy of Jesus.”

The lower image is courtesy of Quasimodo – Wikipedia. Caption: “‘A tear for a drop of water’ Esmeralda gives a drink to Quasimodo in one of Gustave Brion‘s illustrations.”

*   *   *   *

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *