During this period, where we are unable to meet together in church, Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 19th April 2020.
The Gospel reading set for Sunday 19 April is from St. John’s Gospel, and is the story of ‘Doubting Thomas’, who said that he would not believe that Jesus was risen from the dead until he could see him again: ‘‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’ As the Gospel tells us, a week later, Jesus appeared to the disciples, including Thomas, in a locked room. And Thomas’s reaction to Jesus’s invitation for him to touch the wounds in Jesus’s hands and side was: ‘My Lord and my God’.
Thomas did not have belief or faith in the risen Lord until he could personally experience the reappearance of Jesus. Belief and faith are not the same. Belief is about knowledge and personal experience, but faith is to accept what we have not experienced. Thomas at first did not believe that Jesus was risen from the dead, because he was more preoccupied be personal experience (or lack of it) rather than by faith.
At this time of lockdown due to the coronavirus, many people will be worried about relatives and friends they cannot get to see. For example, I spoke by telephone this week to a lady who cannot either phone or visit a relative who is in a nursing home and suffering from dementia. I feel sure that no amount of reassurance from the reception desk at the home will give her peace of mind. She will only really believe that her relative is all right when she can actually see him again. I am sure, if we are honest, that we would all feel the same.
But in such circumstances, we can only rely on faith that everything will be all right. As I said in a sermon recently, my father had a saying: ‘Don’t worry – it might never happen.’ By that he meant that, if you spend a lot of time worrying about something and then it never happens, you have given yourself a lot of unnecessary worry and grief.
Instead of saying “Don’t worry”, Jesus would have said, “Have faith”. Faith is in fact the antidote to worry. Worry is a negative and damaging human attribute. Faith is a positive, healthier attribute, inspiring other positives, like hope and trust.
So let us endeavour to live in faith, hope and trust that it will not be long before the current crisis comes to and end, and life will return to normal. In the meantime, let’s be positive. Instead of worrying, phone a friend, phone a relative, phone a neighbour, phone someone you haven’t spoken to for years. It will make us feel better to know they are all right, and make them feel better, too, to know that someone cares at this difficult time.