Acts 5.12 – 16
Revelation 1. 9 – 11a, 12-13, 17 – 19
John 20: 19 – 31
Today’s reading includes two of Jesus’ resurrection appearances- both of them deeply moving
- we stay with the second, the dialogue between Jesus and Thomas, and let the earlier
appearance provide the context. We are free to identify either with Thomas or with Jesus,
but not with both at the same time. We need to be clear on how we understand Thomas. The
popular interpretation puts him in a bad light, as “doubting Thomas”. This however is not the
movement of the text, which culminates in Thomas’ admirable act of faith, the most explicit
in the New Testament – “ My Lord and my God!”.
We are more in accord with the spirit of the text, therefore, when we look at Thomas as a
model of faith. He was right to insist that before he could believe in Jesus’ resurrection he
must see the holes the nails made in his hands, put his finger into the holes and his hand into
the great wound made by the centurion’s lance.
On the night Jesus was arrested, most of his disciples ran and deserted him. Thomas was no
exception. Thomas does not go back to be with the other disciples right away after Jesus’
death. The result is that Thomas loses out on the fellowship of the apostles and he does not see
Jesus on the first Easter. John is suggesting to us that Christ appears most often within the
community of believers, and when we separate ourselves from the Church we take a chance at
missing his unique presence.
When Thomas does return to the disciples’ group, he hears from them that Jesus had been
raised from the dead and hard appeared to them. He begins to deny the testimony of the
apostles and state rather emphatically that he will not believe until he gets to see Jesus for
himself. Then he goes a step further, he wants to touch Jesus, put his hands where the nails
were and where the spear was put into Jesus’ side. After a week, Jesus appears again and He
greets the entire group and turns His attention on Thomas and offers exactly what he was
asking for, baring for his benefit the proof he had sought. This time he witnessed the risen Lord
firsthand and he believed.
What can we learn from the life of St. Thomas? There are three things:
First of all, Jesus id not blame or castigate Thomas for doubting. Jesus was not offended or
angered by his doubt. He never condemned Thomas. He must have understood that once
Thomas worked through his doubts, he would be one of the surest men in all Christendom.
Authentic faith begins with intellectual honesty, and doubt is the bedrock of honesty. Put
another way: faith is not the absence of doubt; faith is the overcoming of doubt.
Secondly, we can learn from the life of Thomas that the most endearing things in life can never
be proven. As Jesus himself said: “Thomas, you have believed because you have seen. Blessed
are those who have not seen yet still believe.” Jesus is talking about us. We still never literally
see the person Jesus. We will not have the chance to put our finger into his nail scars. We will
not get the chance to touch his pierced side. Forensic science will not be able to prove that
Jesus died and was raised from the dead. Jesus understands that it is harder for us to believe
than for Thomas, and he counts us blessed.
Thirdly, we learn from Thomas that we must move beyond doubt, to faith. It is alright to doubt,
but in our discipleship we should move beyond doubt. Occasions do come in our lives when we
face grief, or disappointment, or pain, or depression or disgust at what is going on in the world.
Sometimes our faith-hold on God also falters. When these moments of true and deep doubt
come, think about the Lord’s admonition: Stop doubting, start believing.
Thomas teaches us the important lesson that we must not separate the resurrection from the
cross, since we are called to be followers of Jesus. He also teaches us the truth of the Church
and of our individual spiritual growth. We cannot live the life of grace, the “risen life”,
authentically unless we bear in our bodies the wounds of the cross. This means being
conscious that we develop the capacity to love and to be loved only by dying to ourselves.
Our wounds are also a constant reminder of our frailty, and that it is God’s grace that raises
us up to new life.
St Paul’s epistles show that the first Christians needed the corrective of Thomas’ faith. They
tended to relate with the risen Jesus without reference to his crucifixion. They forgot that
they were called to be “followers of Jesus crucified”, choosing to die with him so that they
could rise with him (see especially 1 Corinthians 1).
We Christians fall into the same error today when our lives and our teachings proclaim an
abstract “disembodied” Jesus, dispenser of graces and teacher of morality – we forget the
historical person who was put to death for proclaiming the kingdom of God.
Thomas professes the true faith of the Church. We too must insist that the Jesus we follow is
the true Jesus, the one whose risen body bears the wounds of Calvary.
Jesus is the model leader and spiritual guide. He is pleased to give Thomas the assurance he
is looking for, and then challenges him to look forward to the day when he will believe
without seeing – always in the Jesus who passes through death to resurrection.
The blessedness of believing without seeing came from the experience of the early Church.
Jesus is not moralizing, but inviting Thomas – and us – to celebrate great people of faith, in
our local communities and world-wide, who take up their cross with confidence in the
As always in our meditation we must not limit ourselves to personal relationships. We
celebrate the resurrection faith lived by communities, nations and cultures.
The resurrection marks an important shift in the way Jesus makes himself present to his
followers. In his earthy life Jesus was in one place at a given time. After the resurrection there
is no such limitation. Before the resurrection the usual way to encounter Jesus was in the body.
After the resurrection the way to encounter Jesus is in the spirit. That is what we hear today
with the story of the ‘doubting Thomas’.
Like St Thomas the Apostle, we are called to overcome our doubts, believe in the resurrection
and put the Gospel into practice in our lives.