Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Healthy Skepticism


Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Easter

Gospel: John 20:19-31

Divine Mercy Sunday

A BLESSED EASTER! When it comes to belief not just religious belief but any kind of belief most people fall into three groups: the gullible, the critical and the skeptical. The gullible are those people who accepts practically any statement as true even statements which extravagant or fantastic. They require very little evidence to believe. If you say your mother has green hair, they will accept your statement at face value and just marvel that they themselves have never met a person with green hair. Skeptics are opposite. They mistrust people, ideas,statements etc., in general and almost on principles. They doubt everything and everyone . If you show a photo of your mother with having green hair and even explain that she dyed her hair green, they will doubt your statement, question the authenticity of the photo, wonder why you are mentioning your mother’s hair in the first place, speculate about your sanity, and so on. Fortunately, most people fall into the groups situated midway between two extreme. They will be inclined to trust you up to a certain point, but they will require a minimum of evidence or explanation before accepting your statement about your mother’s green hair. They are critical but moderately so. In the first group the people are not critical enough. In the second group they are excessively critical.

Jesus expected people to be critical of his teachings. As a rule he did not expect people to accept all his statements naively. On the contrary, he constant appealed to their personal experience, their judgment, their opinion. Obviously, he expected his listeners to use their brains. He want intelligent, critical disciples, who would not accept just any statement of his without minimum of evidence. Naturally, this evidence could be indirect, for example his miraculous powers, his shining holiness, his great wisdom. But it was sufficient to warrant faith.

Today’s Gospel reading presents an extreme skeptic, Thomas As such he is not a monster or a freak. In fact he represents all those who, like him are by nature and temperament suspicious of everyone and everything. and in that connection it is interesting to observe how Jesus deals with this sort of people. As we can see from this gospel scene, Jesus accepts them as they are. Thomas demands to examine the marks of his wounds. Well and good. With utter meekness, Jesus submits to the test imposed by Thomas. Only after Thomas drops his unreasonable demands does Jesus gently chide him. Oh but the rebuke is so mild and indirect that it is hardly felt! “Blessed are those who have not seen but believed.” Let this welcoming attitude of Jesus towards the naturally skeptic reassure those of us who belong to that category of people. Jesus does not reject them in the least. He just regrets that they are hard to convince. Their distrustful nature makes them miss a lot of beautiful insight or discoveries. A healthy skepticism is good but it must not exclude a sense of wonder and an openness to mystery.

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