In a study done in 2017 by the the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, the research are on the United States Catholic Conference, about why our young people are leaving the Church (15-25), one of the reasons we are losing them is their struggle with the beliefs of the Church, especially some of the moral beliefs. One thing that struck me was the statement by many of them was that they felt that they were not given a space to discuss their doubts and struggles with the faith.
One thing I wondered was if we, the older church, had helped them to develop a living relationship with Jesus? It was this relationship that allowed Thomas in today’s gospel to ask his questions, to struggle with his grief and loss, to wonder why. It was being part of a community that welcomed him in spite of this fears and questions that provided Thomas a safe place to wonder why.
Although this study did not provide the solution, it did provide the questions. We all wonder why people do not practice the faith, even if they are brought up in families that practice the faith. We mourn the loss of the church that was filled with all ages of people; from the baby crying in the back of the church to the person who has been coming for their whole life’s.
Thomas again provides us a direction and the beginning of the solution. Thomas turned to the Lord in his doubt and fear. He touched the wounded Body of the Lord and found healing for his fears and doubts. He could only do this if he knew Jesus in a deep way. The place for us to start is to develop our own personal relationship with Jesus. We do this by spending time in prayer, by talking to Jesus about our joys, but also our doubts and fears, we develop a relationship with the Jesus Thomas knew by reading the Gospels…..but, most importantly by spending time with Him, our crucified and risen Lord.
The other important part is to commit ourselves to be a part of the community of faith. If we are going to invite others into the community of faith, then we will have to ask in they will find Jesus here…not just in the tabernacle, but in the tabernacles of our hearts. We have to ask ourselves if the way we live matches what we say we believe.
Thomas stands in front of us today saying: it is ok to doubt and questions, but do it in the community of faith. Touch the wounded Body of Christ in the poor and needy, in the hurting and struggling and believe.
My brothers and sisters, let us commit ourselves as a community to pray for the Young Church, our teens and 20 somethings, that they will find Christ through us and with us. May we hear and say to them what Jesus said to Thomas: Do not persist in your unbelief, but believe!