Second Sunday of Easter
Doubting Thomas

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The Incredulity of Saint Thomas - by CARAVAGGIO - from Sanssouci, Potsdam

 

John 20:19-31 (A,B,C)

On the evening of that first day of the week, even though the disciples had locked the doors of the place where they were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood before them. "Peace be with you," He said. When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. At the sight of the Lord the disciples rejoiced. "Peace be with you," He said again. "As the Father has sent Me, so I send you." Then He breathed on them and said:

"Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men's sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound."

It happened that one of the Twelve, Thomas (the name means "Twin"), was absent when Jesus came. The other disciples kept telling him: "We have seen the Lord!" His answer was, "I'll never believe it without probing the nail-prints in His hands, without putting my finger in the nail-marks and my hand into His side."

A week later, the disciples were once more in the room, and this time Thomas was with them. Despite the locked doors, Jesus came and stood before them. "Peace be with you," He said; then, to Thomas: "Take your finger and examine My hands. Put your hand into My side. Do not persist in your unbelief, but believe!" Thomas said in response, "My Lord and my God!"

Jesus then said to him: "You became a believer because you saw Me. Blest are they who have not seen and have believed." 

Jesus performed many other signs as well -- signs not recorded here -- in the presence of His disciples. But these have been recorded to help you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, so that through this faith you may have life in His name.

 

 Second Sunday of Easter
Doubting Thomas

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crucifixion3.jpg (1600 bytes)Have you ever wondered why we observe Sunday as a holy day rather than Saturday/Sabbath even though the 3rd commandment says "Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy."

The answer is traceable to the many appearances of our Risen Lord Jesus to His disciples. Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, Sunday, and appeared to His disciples on the same day in the evening. He did not appear to them again until "a week after," i.e., the following Sunday.

All the recorded appearances of the risen Lord to the group of disciples took place on no other day of the week than Sunday. Even the descent of the Holy Spirit on the group of believers on Pentecost day took place on Sunday.

On account of this, the disciples came to see Sunday as the "day of the Lord," meaning the day when the risen Lord comes "physically" in the midst of His disciples gathered together in prayer. Even after the Lord's ascension into Heaven, the disciples continued to gather together in worship on Sundays, in expectation that the Lord Jesus would appear "spiritually" in their midst. We see this in the first reading where the apparition to John on the island of Patmos takes place also on Sunday, as John writes, "I was in the spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice saying, 'Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches."

In the gospel we read about the appearance of the risen Lord in the assembly of the apostles on the day of resurrection and a second appearance a week later. The second appearance focuses on Thomas who was not present with the rest of the apostles when Jesus appeared among them. Where could he have gone. We do not exactly know but as soon as he comes back the other disciples told him that the have seen the Lord.

Could it be that when he heard that Jesus was risen from the dead he went out on his own to seek Him out? Perhaps he went to the houses of Jesus' friends, to the house of Lazarus, Martha and Mary in Bethany, to the village where they ate the last supper. He was seeking Jesus alone while Jesus was with the community of believers. Could it be that the evangelist's way of telling the reader that encountering the risen Lord is something that happens not in the individual's private practice of religion but in association with the community of believers?

So come the following Sunday and Thomas is there assembled together with the rest of the community. Jesus appears as usual and Thomas experiences the desire of his heart and exclaims, "My Lord and my God." Next time he will not miss the community Sunday assembly.

We do not have to look far around us to see so many Thomas's today -- men and women who deep down in their hearts seek the risen Lord Jesus outside the worshipping community. Instead they try to draw near to God by engaging in philanthropic deed and self-imposed devotional exercise. Religion is personal, they say, and they are right. But religion is also communitarian, and this they need to learn just as Thomas learnt.

Jesus in today's gospel commissions the apostles to forgive sins. This is a function that can be exercised only where there is a believing community, or else each of them would be absolving their own personal sins. Today's Thomas's often do not appreciate this avenue of reconciliation with God and with the community that is affected by our sins. May the success story of Thomas help us all to appreciate the important role of the Church in our search for the risen Lord Who will transform this doggy-doggy life with meaning.

 

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