By Carol Younger
Just before the holiday season last November, my brother Stan died on his front porch. In many ways, he had been entombed in the family home for 15 years. His mental condition would not allow him to hold a relationship with me, his brother-in-law, his niece, his 2 nephews, or their families. He was alone. My self-accusation followed immediately: Could I have done more to close the separation? Somehow, I realized, I had been hoping that someone would crack that door he held shut. What could I have done differently to protect him, I kept asking, as we looked through the only home Stan had ever known, now filled with trash. Inside the garage were two broken cars, with another parked askew in front of it. Everywhere I saw a crazy life lived in solitude, lacking meaning or relationship. What could I have done to fix this? Would Stan have forgiven if I had somehow cut through it all? If I could, would he have seen me as a real relative, a sister?
So I understand Thomas from this Sunday’s readings. Thomas mourned the only Truth he had ever lived with. Now He was gone, buried. And I hear Thomas’ angry words: “unless I see the mark of the nails….” Thomas wanted Jesus to be alive; maybe Thomas even thought: what if I had done more in the Garden of Gethsemane? Could Jesus have escaped? Now, these other disciples are hallucinating about resurrection. Thomas would not go to hallucination for comfort. Jesus would have to have a real body, a real overcoming of that painful death.
After we secured Stan’s house with 24-hour armed security, a friend of some 30 years called on a whim, then he volunteered to help. On the third day of trying to secure the three cars, just before dark closed in, my friend attached a tow-strap to the underside of my brother’s beloved ‘63 Corvette, and pulled it out of the garage at an angle into the late afternoon pale sunlight. A “survivor” car is what collectors’ call it. Suddenly that glittering gold paint, out from under all the coverings, out of that garage tomb, said to me: he’s alive in eternity, another world, where he is free of that craziness he had to live with. I looked up, and I shouted: “He can see me! He can see me!” I knew at that moment we would meet again, brother and sister again, in a family home that was not trashed and crazy, but new, beautiful. We would have a joy-filled relationship in our true Father’s home.
Just so, Thomas, on the next evening of the first day of the week, answers in a shout of joy, belief, and surrender: “My Lord and my God!” Jesus’ gentle reproof about seeing-to-believe, instead of believing-to-see, doesn’t faze Thomas. His joy outweighs his mistaken recriminations of the other apostles. His request for help for real vision has been answered. His sorrow for his lack of faith is wrapped up in the joy and belief that they will all “have life in His Name.”
About the Author:
Dr. Carol Younger is a senior fellow for the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, advisory board member for the Great Adventure Bible Studies, author of listening and study guides for biblical and theological presentations through St. Joseph Communications, and author of the Retreat Companion for 33 Days to Morning Glory through Marian Press. An accomplished leader in public and private education and a popular adjunct professor at an evangelical Christian university in Southern California, Carol is active in many parish ministries, including RCIA and catechetical training.