St. John 20.vv.19-29

~ When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you". After he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you". When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained". But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord". But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe". A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you". Then he said to Thomas, "Put your fingers here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe". Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe". ~

What a pity it is that we sometimes remember people for the wrong or inadequate reasons and their names become associated with their defects and not their virtues. Peter is often remembered for the "crowing of the cock" on his denial of Jesus; Judas's name has become a synonym for a traitor; and Thomas seems ever to be associated with doubt (usually in a bad sense).

Thomas is not simply "Doubting Thomas" but the one who made the greatest affirmation of faith when his eyes were opened and he declared, "My Lord and my God!".

The title of "Doubting Thomas" obscures some of the most wonderful characteristics of the man. He is often alluded to in the Gospels as close and loyal to Jesus. It was Thomas, who, when Jesus determined to go to Bethany where Lazarus had died, urged the other Disciples in the words, "Let us go and die with him (Jesus)." He was brave and loyal. He knew what was probably in store for him and them, but showed great courage. We need to remember that courage is not the same as recklessness. The courageous person realises and weighs up the risk, fights down the fear and makes the decision to face danger. Such was Thomas. On another occasion, when Jesus spoke of his departure (meaning death), Thomas asked Jesus his destination - he had to know; he had to be sure; but he was apparently quite reassured when Jesus said, "I am the Way", for Thomas was prepared to go with Jesus wherever he might go.

Thomas was moreover a fiercely independent man. Like his companions, Thomas fled from the scene on Calvary, but to his detriment stayed apart from the others and was not present when Jesus appeared to the other ten Disciples. It is, however, to his credit that he did not simply accept the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus while he still harboured doubts.

A second-hand faith would not do for Thomas - he had to be sure - and Jesus, who knew his man, knew also that his doubts must be dispelled. Jesus did not find fault with him. He was concerned for him, for Thomas had work to do for Jesus. So Jesus came to him to convince him and received the amazing tribute, "My Lord and my God!". There was no need for Thomas to touch the body of Jesus; for him "seeing was believing".

Thomas was privileged to see the Risen Christ, but it is a mistake to consider Jesus' beatitude "Blessed are they that have not seen and yet believe" as a rebuke to Thomas.

We can all be grateful to Thomas for his steadfast refusal to accept spiritual truths on insufficient evidence. If we do not know the presence of the Risen Christ in our own lives, it is a matter of supreme indifference whether he rose from the dead. "If Christ did not rise, your faith is vain" said St. Paul and he was right.

In the conviction that he had to do with a Risen Lord, Thomas set out to witness to the gospel and, if the evidence is correct, he may well have travelled to India where the Thomist Church yet honours him.

Some people (the inveterate "doubters"!) may find it difficult or incredible that the Risen Jesus took the trouble to come and reassure Thomas, but they would do well to remember the astounding fact that no-one by searching found the Risen Christ, for he came to them. Saint Augustine said, "I would not even have searched for you, Lord, if you had not first found me".

As he came by the lakeside with his call "Follow me!" so he comes to us all if only we have the spiritual insight to know and respond to him.

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