Reflection for the second Sunday of Easter
“Somebody once said about him that he had a questioning faith, as if this was a bad thing, but you’ll never grow spiritually without questions and curiosity.”
The former Bishop of Norwich, Graham James, of Prince Philip.
The man now known as Doubting Thomas got his name because he wasn’t present when the resurrected Jesus came to those frightened disciples hidden away for fear of what might now happen to them. Although they told him Jesus had appeared, Thomas refused to believe until he’d seen for himself, perhaps thinking that they might have seen a ghost or exaggerated what had happened. He told them he must see for himself the marks of the nails and touch the wound caused by the spear. When Jesus returned a week later, Thomas was present and was invited to see and touch the reality standing before him. His needs were answered by Jesus and, after openly wrestling with his doubts, Thomas became the first person to call Jesus not only Lord but God. Later, Thomas took the Gospel to South India, clearly convinced of the truth of the bodily resurrection of Jesus – he was a man of an enquiring mind, wanting to see and touch reality for himself. Although called the doubter, Thomas was a man who became sure of the good news about Jesus and wanted others to know of it. As Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Through the questioning of Doubting Thomas, the honest man who wanted to find out for himself, Jesus’ word of hope comes down the years to encourage us as we struggle with the issues we face today.
Another man who had a questioning mind was Prince Philip, also the Earl of Merioneth, and the former Bishop of Norwich was convinced of the importance of this to develop a robust and lively faith. As well as the support and service he gave to the Queen and his many charities, the Prince was also known for blunt speaking and the gaffes he sometimes made on his visits. However, he had had a very difficult childhood with his family having to flee Greece in 1922, his father later leaving home and dying at an early age, his mother being in a psychiatric hospital for five years and the death of his sister Cecile’s entire family in a plane crash in 1937. Of the latter, he said, “I thought I would never get over it. It was such a terrible blow.” Prince Philip knew much of loss and death at an early age but Gordonstoun School and service in the Royal Navy gave him a structure on which he built without self pity. It’s clear from the tributes to him that he was a man of vision and action to whom the United Kingdom owes much in the service he gave to so many. Perhaps, in the wake of the mental health crisis now facing so many, his fortitude and example will inspire others to find fresh courage in the face of their own adversity.