Doubting Thomas is a familiar story. But the things which strike me with this passage is the emphasis on the qualities of the resurrected Christ, entering the closed doors but being physically present enough for Thomas to see and feel the wounds from the crucifixion. And then, the spiritual message to the inevitable male dominated group of Christ and Apostles.
The physicality of Christ’s presence combined with his ability to move anywhere looks like it may have inspired aparating in Harry Potter, but in the context of this story it is a profound metaphor for God in human form on Earth.
And then breathing the Holy Spirit into the Apostles and then saying “if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them and if you retain the sins of any of them, they are retained.” I am not quite sure what the Church might teach about this statement, but breathing is a deeply spiritual practice in Eastern practices, perhaps not well understood in Christian Church’s but used to connect with the Divine. I would go on to say if breathing is practiced well, as a pranic discipline, it brings the Holy Spirit into the body.
And then to say forgiving, perhaps that is the ability to let someone else’s sin or karma go or be released, no longer held, nor the associated repetitive, and often negative, behaviour patterns. I guess that ability has passed through the Apostles and then priesthood in Catholicism as taking confession. Christ is passing on his own ability, or perhaps awareness of what is possible in his human form. Eastern spiritual perspectives might interpret this Divine awareness as a feature of enlightenment that comes and is available to anyone. But equally the passage refers talks to holding on to sin, or I might say karma, and suggesting that without forgiveness, as someone with the Holy Spirit, you might retain the sin of others if you do not forgive. But Christians would tend to believe that Apostles and their lineage are the only people with this power, but personally I think there is evidence for me that this is a journey for anyone who finds the right spiritual practice at the time that is right for them.
But how is there a gay interest in this. Well there is no mention of marriage as a sacrament as a way of receiving the Holy Spirit so thankfully it seems marriage is no barrier to receiving the Holy Spirit. Although Christians do seem to see sex as a sin, not in itself a sacrament, something that allows the Holy Spirit in. Sex practiced in the right way outside of marriage does indeed connect with God in my humble and wonderful experience. So in my way of seeing this, the gospel passage could be inclusive for gay men. And for me doubting oneself is a big part of the journey of being gay, self-belief not strong for many gay men. So doubting Thomas is someone we can relate to. But this is a passage that I think brings profound truth or potential truth about the dynamics of how we forgive and let go. To do this with the Holy Spirit awareness within is to make this a deeply spiritual process of change and transformation. But in doing so we must take great care of this power in our intention to retain, or forgive and let go, and the impact this has on people around us and ourselves. Oddly enough that insight had already come from my non-Christian spiritual practice before I ever re-read the gospels.
Image by Lance