In this morning’s gospel (John 20:19-31) we find the first disciples dispirited and terrified after the death of Jesus. They have to confront their failure to be faithful to Jesus in the hour of his passion and death. They are in a huddle, having locked themselves away in a room. Suddenly, Jesus stands among them and says to them, ‘Peace be with you,’ and breathes the Holy Spirit upon them. The risen Lord is reconciling his failed disciples to himself; they come to recognize themselves as forgiven, and so their hearts are filled with joy. Having experienced the gift of the Lord’s forgiveness, they are sent out in the power of the Spirit to offer to others the gift of forgiveness they have received: ‘Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven.’ That gift and mission is given to all of us who have been baptized into the risen Jesus. Having been reconciled to the Lord we are all sent out as ministers of reconciliation.
But Thomas, the Twin, had not been in the room when the risen Lord appeared to the other disciples. He had missed out. As a result, he will now be better known as doubting Thomas. But though he has earned a negative label, Thomas was not lacking in some very good qualities, as we see earlier in St John’s gospel. He displayed great courage and loyalty. When the other disciples tried to keep Jesus from going to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead because of the danger there. (John 11:8). Thomas said to them, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (John 11:16). He also asked Jesus a famous question when he said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'”(John 14:5-6).
Thomas is loyal, straightforward and not afraid to question Jesus. His disbelief is not aimed at Jesus, but rather in this instance, he is perhaps posing the question, how come the disciples are locked inside, terrified with fear and yet they say they have seen Jesus ? How can I believe them? Are they a credible community? “Unless I see… I can’t believe.”Are we to-day a credible community to those who see us? Do they see us as people who express our faith and our joy in the Risen Lord?”
Thomas is one of those people who insists on certain conditions being met before he makes a move. But Jesus takes Thomas on his own terms. The Lord accommodates himself to his conditions and says, “Put your finger here…”
The gospel today implies that the Lord meets us wherever we are and accepts us as we are. He takes us seriously in all our fears and doubts. He takes himself to where we are on our journey of faith and there he speaks to us a word suited to our personal state of mind and heart. We might pray to-day for the openness to receive the Lord’s coming into the concrete circumstances of our own lives, so that we too may proclaim with Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”
Because of the disbelief of Thomas we receive these inspiring words of the Risen Lord, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:26).