In today’s Gospel we see a shaken Thomas, often branded as the doubting Thomas, receiving special attention from Our Lord in order to help him persevere in his vocation as one of the Twelve apostles. John reminds us that Thomas was not present the first time the Risen Jesus appeared to the disciples on the evening of his Resurrection, the moment in John’s account where Jesus gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit in order to empower them in their ministry of reconciliation (see John 20:19-23 and Divine Mercy Sunday). Our Lord knew Thomas was not going to be there; for some reason he waited–for Thomas he must have perceived that the time was not right. Maybe Thomas was out in a dark night like Peter after denying Jesus three times, or Judas after casting the money he’d been payed for betraying Our Lord at the Pharisees’ feet. The last thing we’d heard from Thomas in John’s Gospel was that resignation to following Jesus back to Jerusalem in order to die with him (John 11:16). Peter came back, Judas committed suicide, and, thanks be to God, Thomas came back too, but from his reaction to the disciples’ news he was still in a vulnerable state.
In Jesus’ first appearance in John’s account (John 20:19-23), he told the disciples that there was peace between him and them: all was forgiven. When he re-appears in today’s Gospel, he repeats the same words of reconciliation. Could they have been this time for Thomas, who was having a serious crisis of faith? Jesus offered the opportunity to be reconciled with him by offering the exact proof that Thomas had demanded in order to believe: to touch the wounds of his Risen friend with his own hands. That’s not faith–that’s demanding proof out of a lack of faith. With that merciful gesture on Jesus’ part whatever blockage in Thomas’ heart was swept away: not only did he acknowledge Jesus as his friend, but as his Lord and God. They were reconciled. In the end tradition tells us that Thomas made it as far as India in his apostolic ministry before being martyred as a great witness to the faith.
Sometimes we have a timetable that we want to put Our Lord on in order to address a crisis of faith. He chooses the time and the way to reveal himself, and it’s often at an unexpected moment or in an unexpected wait. In today’s Gospel he says we’re blessed even more for not having the incredible “proof” that Thomas received. Let’s ask St. Thomas to intercede for us today and help us to growth in our faith.
Readings: Ephesians 2:19–22; Psalm 117:1bc, 2; John 20:24–29.