April 16, 2023

Helped by a doubting apostle

First Reading: Acts 2. 42 – 47. Responsorial Psalm: 118. Second Reading: 1 Peter 1. 3 –

  1. Gospel: John 20. 19 – 31.
    The apostles must have been suffering from a severe dose of depression since Good Friday. Their
    teacher and friend, Jesus, whom they believed to be the Messiah, was dead. Jesus had been
    betrayed to the chief priests by one of their own, Judas, presumably because he thought that by
    putting Jesus into a corner, Jesus would have to act to drive out the Roman occupiers of Palestine.
    Then this same Judas took his life. The crowd which welcomed Jesus with palms turned against
    Jesus on Good Friday morning calling for the release of Barabbas and the death of Jesus. The
    apostles, now afraid of the crowd, had shut themselves in for their own protection. There were ten
    of them gathered in this state; Judas was no more, and Thomas was temporarily absent. Gathered
    in fear we see that the words of Jesus during the Last Supper are fulfilled, “Satan has got his wish
    to sift you all like wheat.” (Luke 22:31-32)
    Into this situation of pain and being sifted like wheat by Satan, Jesus came with his healing,
    “Peace be with you” as we heard in today’s Gospel. (John 20:19-31) How much peace they must
    have felt within now, combined with shock and doubts. This meeting with the risen Jesus
    certainly brought peace to their troubled minds and hearts. When Jesus came to the ten apostles,
    he healed them of their pain, doubts, and depression: “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19) Jesus too,
    like the apostles, had been sifted like wheat by Satan during the agony in Gethsemane when he
    prayed that the chalice of his passion would pass him by. But Jesus now came to strengthen the
    apostles. Yet his suffering had left its marks; he showed them his hands and his side.
    The ten apostles were blessed because they had to wait only from Thursday evening to Sunday
    evening to have their pain and doubts healed. Thomas had to wait a week longer until he met
    Jesus. We don’t receive visions of Jesus when we are being sifted like wheat by Satan, and we
    have to wait longer than a weekend or a week to have our pain or doubts healed. Some people
    bear crosses all their lives; they are heroic. Those who bear heavy crosses, and there are many,
    and who don’t see Jesus, have the faith that Jesus spoke of when he said, Blessed are those who
    have not seen and yet believe. (John 20:29).

This is the faith that Peter wrote of in our second reading:
Through your faith, God’s power will guard you until the salvation which has been
prepared is revealed at the end of time. This is a cause of great joy for you even through
you may for a short time have to bear being plagued by all sorts of trials; so that when
Jesus Christ is revealed, your faith will have been tested and proved like gold – only it is
more precious than gold…and then you will have praise and glory and honor. (1 Pet
Although we don’t receive a vision of Jesus to heal us in times of anguish, God does send us
comforts when we are being sifted like wheat by Satan. How many times we have heard someone
say, “If it wasn’t for so-and-so I would never have survived during that time.” We all know of
people who are sensitive and kind and caring and they bring peace to others in need just as Jesus
brought peace to his anguished apostles. Thanks be to God for his gift to us of people who bring
peace. Because of them we can say, “My Lord and my God” even when times are tough. (John
20:28) During the Easter Vigil, I said that the apostles being asked to return to Galilee to meet the
risen Jesus is like us meeting the risen Jesus in our ordinary everyday lives. One of the ways in
which we meet the risen Jesus is through the kindness of others who care enough to help, and
what they say is wise.
We pray that the peace of Jesus will touch that troubled region and bring healing and forgiveness
so that a time will come when they too will be able to say, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)

The expression “Doubting Thomas” comes from this remarkable Easter story. The apostle
Thomas, one of Jesus’s inner circle, was slow to believe in the resurrection. He demanded
concrete evidence before he could believe that the risen Jesus had appeared to his fellow apostles.
His story offers some comfort to those of us who are always nagged by doubts. With the memory
of our Lord’s crucifixion fresh in their hearts, the nervous disciples had locked the doors of their
meeting room.
They had locked themselves for fear of Jewish reprisals. They were afraid that what was done to
Jesus could be done to them. The turning point came when Jesus appeared among them and
breathed the Holy Spirit into them, filling them with new purpose. “As the Father sent me, so am I
sending you.” In the power of the Spirit they left their self-imposed prison, to go out and spread

the message of Jesus. In today’s reading from Acts St Luke shows them witnessing to the
resurrection both in word and by the quality of their living.
Some people who cannot believe profess to envy those who do. They would like to experience the
certainty of believers and share the faith of their parents. And indeed, most ordinary mortals have
moments of doubt during our spiritual journey. Thomas’s recovery from his doubts offers a
valuable insight into God’s mercy and kindness.
Are we sometimes like those disciples, indecisive, inactive, unwilling to promote the faith. The
“slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” have dented our confidence. Are we tempted to
abandon our faith journey, unable to see a way forward? Our past failures make us hesitant to try
again. Today’s gospel offers a solution. The Lord himself has power to revive our courage and our
faith. No locked doors, nor even locked hearts, can keep him out.
At first, Thomas refused to believe that the others had seen him. He demanded definite and
demonstrable, tangible proof. Jesus gave him the proof he needed. “Put your finger here,” he said,
“and feel my wounds.” He forgives our fears and doubts too, and offers us a fresh start. We need
to say in our turn, “My Lord and my God.
Today we meet with the risen Christ, just as St Thomas did. Sharing in the Eucharist is our
statement of loyalty, our act of personal and shared faith. In praying the Eucharist together we
help each other’s faith and strengthen our Christian community. It was because the members of
the early Church in Jerusalem met in public for prayer and seemed such a joyful little community,
that so many others came to believe and the church grew steadily in those early, Spirit-filled days.
No-one else can do our believing for us. Eventually Thomas came to believe in the resurrection,
when he saw the risen Jesus with his own eyes. The story ends with a message for all who have
received the gift of faith: ‘Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’ Our faith is a gift
from God. But it is not an inert gift that can we lock away like some precious heirloom. It is a
living gift that needs nurturing, to grow and mature. Like other life-forms, faith can wither from
neglect. We need to pray about it, think about it, and express it in actions arising from love. This
does not mean that we will never have any doubts. But if like Thomas we continue seeking, we
too will come into the presence of Jesus and say “My Lord and my God!”
God bless