St Thomas: Luminous with Love and Delight

St Thomas has always been a favourite of mine and, I daresay, of many people. His doubt makes him easy to relate to, but his faith — that clear-sighted ‘My Lord and my God’ — makes me tremble. It is the kind of faith I would like to have myself: gloriously generous, absolute. Fortunately, it is not the kind of faith I have been given. I say ‘fortunately’ because the questionings and hesitations that I, at least, experience are undoubtedly part of the way in which God draws me, and without them there would be a dissonance between my ordinary life and my supernatural one.

St Thomas is a great encouragement as one who made sense of religion, who worked through the doubts and difficulties to come to an understanding that was luminous with love and delight like the very Wounds he touched. It is an understanding and knowledge that I pray will be given to all of us one day.

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Families: holy and unholy, perfect and imperfect

Readers of iBenedictines’ predecessor, Colophon, will know that neither I nor the community to which I belong really ‘like’ the feast of the Holy Family. It’s a fairly recent addition to the calendar and often sentimentalised. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were hardly an average family, so not much use to us as role models, unless we are prepared to live with a constant feeling of failure because we can’t begin to emulate their perfection.

The fact that we don’t like a feast or find it difficult is, paradoxically, all the more reason for thinking about what it has to teach us. Maybe if we could drop the ‘role model’ idea for a minute we might see more clearly, because it is not the perfection of the Holy Family we need to aim at but its imperfection.

Jesus grew in stature and understanding, just as Mary and Joseph grew in understanding and obedience. The key words, I think, are ‘growth’ and ‘understanding’. Mary gave her consent to the angel without realising all that would be asked of her in the future. She grew as her vocation grew, constantly renewing her initial acceptance of her role as Mother of God. Joseph obeyed the angel, only to find that one obedience demanded another. Jesus himself seems not to have understood all at once what his Sonship would entail. He had to choose obedience to the Father step by step, had ultimately to accept death on the cross. For all three, it was a process, a perfecting of their lives.

In the messiness and imperfection of our own lives, that is a tremendous encouragement. None of us lives in a perfect family; many of us don’t live in families at all; but each of us can learn and grow through our experience of ordinary, everyday life. The Holy Family of Nazareth prepared the way for the Holy Family gathered around the cross on Calvary. We too have to make a similar journey, perhaps with many false turnings on the way but always with the same end in view. As we draw closer to Christ, we hope that we shall be made holy, not as members of his family but as members of something more wonderful still, his Body, the Church.

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