Doubting Thomas that’s the label we stick on those doubt when we tell them something. Incredulity is what we associate Thomas with. On this 2nd Sunday of Easter we meet Thomas again; but isn’t there something more he can offer us?
Acts 5: 12–16
Psalm 118: 2–4, 22–24, 25–27
Apocalypse 1: 9–13, 17–19
John 20 19–31
In the Gospels we have no accounts on the resurrection itself as such, but the narration about those who met the risen Lord. That should give us a hint: we can’t talk of the resurrection like an ideology for which we seek to recruit followers. It’s an experience. Easter is meaningful, and indeed life changing, in the measure that it becomes a personal experience. In that case, we talk of the resurrection in terms of our renewed lives thanks to our encounter, in some way, with the risen Lord. Confessing faith in Jesus in a personal way is something we can emulate from Thomas.
Is Thomas unbelieving?
What I want to retain from the Gospel of this Sunday, among other things, is not as such the disbelieving Thomas, but rather the process through which the disciples, Thomas included, finally come to make this encounter with the risen Lord despite the initial doubts. It’s a process of growth in faith which is equally ours. When Jesus comes the first time Thomas is absent and he doesn’t believe when later the others tell him: “We have seen the Lord.” He responds: “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.” Such apparent disbelief makes us, unfortunately, pass by the beautiful confession of faith of Thomas.
From cultural to personal faith
What I find beautiful is the way Thomas finally confesses faith in risen Jesus in a personal way. Not satisfied with what the other disciples told Thomas wanted his personal experience with Jesus. What’s important the second time Jesus comes is not that Thomas can see the marks of his wounds and insert his finger in his side, but rather the fact he meets Jesus. And there’s no other foundation of Christian faith other an encounter with Jesus. Christianity is about the person of Jesus. That’s why Thomas defies us to identity: what’s the foundation of our faith?
I’m Christian, perhaps, simply because I’m born in a Christian family and I have grown in a country where going to church on Sunday is the fashion. In the end what I call faith may be a sheer habitude that has only a Christian appearance -but never deeper than the skin. And when the cultural tendency becomes secular my Christianity cracks. On the contrary, where there’s a personal touch to faith, I remain steadfast no matter what happens around me. Indeed, we can lament to see how churches have become almost empty in some countries, at the same time, you can’t but marvel at the personal faith which the few remnants radiate. I see in them the Thomas -not in terms of incredulity but in the sense that they confess someone they have met. They can say: Oh yes, Lord, I believe.
Thomas and evangelisation today
Not only does Thomas challenge us in making Easter experience our own, but he also symbolises the challenge of announcing the risen Lord in the world today. Certainly, we shall have hard time explaining the resurrection, which we can’t, but we can inspire others if we can testify the fruit of our own experience with risen Jesus. Don’t simply tell me about it, let me have my own experience. These Thomas of our time are a little bored with sermons; they are on the lookout for experience. They want to hear our own resurrection stories thanks to our faith in the risen Jesus. Thomas pushes us to keep the link between what we profess and what we live. What link?
Perhaps, an experience of liberation.
In the Gospel we have disciples confined in the house, behind locked doors. The encounter with risen Jesus turns these timid and fearful disciples into audacious, zealous apostles -chains are loosened. Then, I can check, what are my chains: in my personal life, in my family or in my place of work? How does this Easter experience liberate me?
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