Puvis de Chavannes + St. Thomas’ Recovery

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes: interesting painter

How did St. Thomas manage to miss the Lord Jesus on Easter Sunday?

“Gosh, I would love to hang out with you brother Apostles in the Upper Room and pray the afternoon away, but—wouldn’t you know it!—I have a conflict. Catch up with you next Sunday!”

Okay. Thomas had a lot of friends and associates. Kept busy. Always on the go. No harm in that.

But: when Thomas refused to believe his old friends when they said the Lord had risen from the dead—should we fault him for that?

“He came here. Flesh and blood. And He gave us the Holy Spirit.”

“No He didn’t.”

“Yes. He did.”

“No He didn’t.”

“Yes. He did.”

“No He didn’t.”

“Thomas, you’re hopeless.”

Maybe Thomas did not doubt out of stubbornness. Maybe this was a matter of playing it safe emotionally. Maybe Thomas loved Jesus so much that the possibility of any further disappointment frightened him into a state of paralysis.

We know that St. Thomas wore his heart on his sleeve. The Lord Jesus had said, on Holy Thursday night, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions…You know the way I am going.” St. Thomas had pleaded with Him like a child, “Master, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

So we can imagine St. Thomas saying to himself, when the other Apostles told Him about the resurrection: “No. Not this time. One broken heart is more than enough. Let him prove it to me this time.”

Well, Thomas…This hardly makes sense. After all, it’s not as if your Master killed Himself. And it’s not like He never prepared you dolts for what your trip to Jerusalem would bring. At least three times, on three different occasions, He told you Apostles that He would die—and then rise again.

Still, can’t we sympathize with St. Thomas’ feelings? None of us likes to have our hearts broken with disappointment.

As it turns out, the Lord Himself sympathized with Thomas. Christ could justly have said, “Oh, so this loser won’t believe St. Peter, St. John, St. Matthew, and all my other chosen Apostles, when they tell him that I have risen from the dead? He won’t believe the heralds that I have chosen to take the message to the ends of the earth? Well, I can’t do anything for him. Let him go.” Christ had every right to give up on Thomas. But He did not give up on him.

When Thomas finally did lay eyes on the Lord, the doubter made a sublime act of faith. Thomas saw a man risen from the dead, and He believed the unseen fact that this man is the Almighty Lord and God. He saw the restored humanity and believed in the invisible divinity.

And I want to add: Thomas believed in something else, too. He believed in the infinite divine mercy.

Thomas had carried on like a petulant child, like a little whiner who hadn’t gotten the toy he wanted and decided to pout.

And then what happened? The Lord calmly showed up with the toy that Thomas demanded. No recriminations, no punishments, no stern lectures—all of which would have been fully deserved. Instead, Jesus calmly walked in. Here you go, buddy. Touch the wounds. Satisfy yourself. I’m all yours. Let’s be friends.

My Lord and my God.

You didn’t demand that I be big. You took me small, loved me small and petulant and immature and needy—you took me and manned me up with Your own bigness. You never insisted that I be careful, considerate, or understanding. You took me as the willful little cry-baby that I am, loved me that way, and soothed me into reason and understanding by Your own patience and wisdom.

How could I not worship You as my God? This convoluted earth does not know mercy like Yours. We do not find such invincible gentleness, such longsuffering patience among the children of men. We just twerp around and fuss at each other over petty slights that don’t amount to a hill of beans. We demand elaborate expressions of repentance, crow-eating, and obsequiousness before we even begin to forgive anybody for anything.

And here You just suffered Your bitter Passion for the sake of my salvation—here You just went down to the nether world to free our ancestors from death—here You just conquered Satan, and rose from the dead…and I don’t give You so much as a thank you. Instead, I wallow in self-pity and play little games with You.

You take it all in stride. You find me—wherever I manage to lose myself, You find me. You give me nothing but peace and love, and carry on with Your plan, as if all my little hissies never even happened.

O Christ, You are the Lord and God. We would be fools to trust in ourselves. We trust in You.

Include dahabiehs in your paintings whenever possible.

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3 thoughts on “Puvis de Chavannes + St. Thomas’ Recovery

  1. Father Mark,

    And, isn’t it interesting that Thomas served the same role with the miracle of Christ’s resurrection as the modern-day “Devil’s Advocate”. Good questions make for good answers. Faith untested may not be faith at all. But, to question, and then believe, that may well be the true foundation of faith.

    Don’t accept that? Just ask any convert — oops, I forgot; you don’t have to do so; you already KNOW (and are known).

    In God we trust.

    LIH,

    joe

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