EASTER 2012 B2
This gospel passage is considered important enough to be read every year on this Sunday. It may cause us to remember the Adam and Eve story. God has come looking for them, but they were ashamed of who they knew themselves to be. Adam and Eve were in hiding, as shame seeks the darkness.
Jesus enters a similar group of human beings, who having failed the test, were lost and hiding for fear. Jesus meets them in a condition in which they all wish were different. They in their fear continue to betray Christ. But instead of accusation, there is “Peace be with you.” It is noteworthy that the first word attributed to the risen Lord is “peace.”
One can presume, then, that this community was somehow not only in fear of the Jews, but in a state of disturbance. And it seems that the reason was not only fear and terrible disappointment. Quite possibly it may have been divisiveness, since it is forgiveness that Jesus next addresses: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
The disciples “rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” They were divested of their fear, and the greeting of Christ dispelled their shame.
Then enters Thomas. It is hard to accept that Thomas could have been such a skeptic after Mary Magdalene and the other members of the Twelve insisted that they had seen the risen Lord.
Thomas was not among the weak, huddled in fear. He was out and about. Thomas is portrayed in the Gospels as being very brave. In
These are not the words of a timid and fearful man; a man beset by doubts. Yet when the other Apostles tell him of their meeting in the Upper Room with the Risen Lord, which for some unknown reason he had missed, Thomas flatly refuses to believe them. He is reported to have said: “Unless my hands touch the marks of the nails and I see them, and unless I put my hand into his side, I will not believe”. Whenever you see an artist’s conception of
Christ certainly showed him his wounds and invited him to put his finger into them but it seems that Thomas never took up the offer. What he did instead was to make an extraordinary profession of faith with the words “My Lord and my God.”
This second appearance, resolving the doubt of Thomas, is peculiar to the gospel of John and represents a concern of the early church—how is it possible to believe in the risen Lord if one has not seen him?
The answer is that even to see him is no guarantee of faith. Even the disciples had to make the leap of faith when they saw him. It is therefore possible for those who have not seen him to make that same leap.
The resurrection accounts make clear that, not only Thomas but all the disciples were guilty of disbelief. Doubt remained in their minds even after they had told Thomas that they had seen the Lord.
Saint Luke’s account says that, "while in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them “Have you anything to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence." St. Cyril of Alexandria said centuries ago; “Because of his desire to convince the whole world, he most willingly showed them the marks of the nails and the wound in his side; because he wished those who needed such signs as a support for their faith to have no possible reason for doubt, he even took food although he had no need for it.” Yet St. Cyril, did it dispel all doubt?
The gospels in most resurrection appearances make clear that the same Jesus who ate and drank, who walked in
In any case, the greatest doubter ends up by making the greatest profession of faith in the Gospel. Thomas is able to make a profession of faith that comes from the depths of his soul: “My Lord and my God.” It is one of the most powerful acknowledgements of Jesus’ identity in the whole Gospel and the only time anyone directly calls him God. The risen Lord is relentless in drawing us to belief.
The doubting Thomases of our world, those who doubt life itself, need us. They need us to tell them about Jesus Christ with our lives as well as with our words. They need us to explain how His Presence in our lives gives life purpose and beauty. They need us to tell them about that weekend or a week we spent on a retreat when we realized that we were happier than we have ever been. They need us to tell them how we felt at our babies’ baptisms, and how we feel the times that we listen to our children pray, and the genuine pride we have in our Teens and young adult children when they stand for strong morals and virtue.
When your friends ask you, “Why did you go to Church during Holy Week or every Sunday?” Or, simply, “Why do you take your faith so seriously?” Tell them, “I love the Lord, and I love having Christ in my life. I have met so many beautiful people on this journey of faith.”
We have a glowing picture of the early Christian community in the second reading: one heart, one mind, no one of them claimed anything as his or her own. This idealistic portrait of the Church may not mirror our own parish in every detail. But when our individual faith wavers, we can gain strength from the Holy Spirit at work in the midst of a community of faith. Thank you for being part of our parish!