Feast of Divine Mercy
In this Sundays Gospel reading we see how, after Jesus had being taken away and crucified, the apostles remained behind closed doors. Without Jesus, the only thing they held in common was fear. It is at that moment, the height of terror and despair, that Jesus comes back and says, ‘Peace be with you’. Once more, Jesus calls them together and binds them with a common purpose. They are sent out beyond the locked doors into a world in need. Yet, one of the apostles was not there. For some untold reason, Thomas had separated himself from the others. When they try to explain to him what they had experienced, Thomas refused to believe. Thus, he has earned himself the title, ‘Doubting Thomas’. In actual fact, however, Thomas was no different from the other apostles. They too, refused to believe Mary Magdalene when she met the Risen Lord. Thomas, like the other apostles, struggled to believe in the testimony of others. He needed to encounter Jesus in a real and personal way before he could become a true believer.
We must remember that Thomas was not like the sceptic who refuses to believe. He was not indifferent or hostile to the truth. Thomas always wanted to believe, but he knew that he had to make this personal connection with Jesus for himself.
When Jesus reveals himself to Thomas, we find that there is no note of judgment or condemnation. Rather, Jesus shows him compassion and understanding. Like a shepherd who will not rest until the entire flock is gathered, Jesus comes back for the one person who needs to see him. One struggling believer is important enough for the Creator of the universe to come back and touch him, and be touched by him. It is this personal encounter which makes Jesus’ resurrection real to the believer. Thomas’s answer, ‘My Lord and my God’, is one of the high points of John’s Gospel. No one else had offered such devotion or named Jesus as God. Although Thomas was the last to believe, he was the first to make the full confession of the Divinity of the Risen Saviour.
There are some who will not believe even when they see, and others who believe only when they see. Above both of these, Our Lord places those who have not seen and yet believe. Thomas thought that he was doing the right thing in demanding the full evidence of sensible proof. We, however, must accept the resurrection without such proof. Writing much later than the other Gospels, John the Evangelist was particularly concerned with future generations who never met Jesus and will never meet anyone who met Jesus. Thus, John explains to us that Jesus passed that work on to the Church and remains truly present with us in the sacrament of the Eucharist. When Jesus says ‘believe’, he is talking about trusting God and following him, even when we are struggling in the midst of a fearful world. Just like the apostles who tried to lock themselves away, we need to go out beyond the locked doors and proclaim that Jesus has risen. But like Thomas, we cannot become true disciples until we have encountered Jesus in a way that is real and personal to each of us.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.