In the early days of the state of Colorado, there were a lot of mines and the miners went on strike for better conditions. They brought in some miners from Missouri, but things didn’t go very well at first. They tried to tell those guys what to do, they just didn’t get it. Clueless. It wasn’t until they demonstrated what needed to be done that they were able to get the new miners to produce. So whenever they brought in a group of new miners, they would have to say: “He’s from Missouri; you have to show him.” You couldn’t just tell him what to do, you had to show him. And that’s how we came to be known as the Show Me State, although now we say that with a great deal of pride.
In today’s Gospel, I think that Thomas may have come from Missouri. His attitude is understandable: urban legends didn’t start with the Internet. Folks can get convinced of some crazy ideas, and when the disciples all tell him that they have seen the risen Christ, we can hear Thomas saying “Nu-uh!” After all people don’t come back from the dead; and Jesus was definitely dead. They were hiding from the Romans for a good reason: if they found out where Jesus’ companions were, they would have done the same thing to them that they did to him. The Romans were ruthless: they didn’t leave any stones unturned and they didn’t believe in letting people survive rebellions. Remember the scene from Spartacus when the slaves were crucified all the way up the Appian Way to Rome? They would have done the same thing with the 12 if they had caught them. So the disciples were behind closed doors. But somebody didn’t let them stay behind closed doors. Someone came through the closed doors and showed them that there were more important things than personal safety, a reason to come out of hiding and put themselves in the middle of Life again.
The next Sunday Thomas was there. A week after that morning in the garden. The disciples were excited, but they still had the doors locked. Why did they? That Easter day it made sense, but a week later when they knew that Jesus had returned from the dead it didn’t make sense. Jesus came in anyway and he invites Thomas to probe his wounds. There is more here than meets the eye: you can’t touch a ghost or a spirit. And without those wounds, how would they know it was Jesus? Thomas get his proof, and he can finally make the leap of faith.
I think that it’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t condemn Thomas for wanting proof. That’s a very human attitude, a very Missouri attitude, and he invites Thomas to go through his doubt to the point where he can believe. Doubting Thomas has gotten some bad press over the years, but I think that Jesus treatment of Thomas is very telling.
We don’t have the ability to literally put our hands into Jesus’ wounds. We carry doubts with us from time to time, and sometimes we need our doubts to keep us from running headlong into trouble. Our doubts can keep us balanced and they can also lead us to a deeper faith once we have traveled to the other side. Our doubts can keep us in touch with our own wounds, and by tracing our own wounds we open up the possibility that they can be transformed as Jesus’ wounds were transformed. The wounds of the risen Christ proclaim his triumph over pain and give us hope that we also can be reborn from our woundedness.
Like the disciples, we can keep the rooms of our hearts locked up. We can try to guard ourselves from danger through our own sense of fear. It’s safe to hide from harm, particularly when we see so much pain and destruction in our own world. Christ comes through the locked doors of our hearts to send us forth as he sent forth the frightened shepherds and Doubting Thomases to to spread the Good News, to spread his presence through the World. He doesn’t ask us to be perfect, he doesn’t ask us to ignore our doubt. He calls us to follow him just as we are.
Today Christ comes to us as he has for almost 2,000 years. Christ becomes known to us through the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup. Christ breaks in on us through ordinary means, through the doors that we try to lock out pain, to make us a new people like himself. Christ breaks in through our doubts, calling us to put our hands in the wounds of our lives which he has transformed through death and resurrection. Christ breaks in on us to free us to new life.