Sunday Day Reflection by Sister Marie Tighe, SNDdeN
It is not difficult to picture the disciples as they huddled behind closed doors on the evening of the day of the Lord’s Resurrection. John tells us that the doors were closed for fear of the Jews. Fear was not the only emotion felt in that room. The disciples probably felt guilty that they had abandoned the Lord when he most needed them. We can sense the darkness of depression; the pain of bereavement; the hopelessness for the future without their beloved friend. It was into that place of fear; guilt; darkness; depression; bereavement, and hopelessness that Jesus came to them bringing them joy that left them dumbfounded! He came to them as the Jesus they knew and loved with his usual greeting, “Shalom, Peace be with you.” He showed them his hands and his side and they were so astounded and filled with joy that he had to repeat his greeting again! Jesus then breathed on the disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” They were given the gift of the Holy Spirit; the fullness of life.
John speaks about Jesus in his First Letter: “Something which has existed since the beginning, that we have heard, and we have seen with our own eyes; that we have watched and touched with our own hands; the Word who is life…
Earlier in John’s Gospel Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” (Jn. 10:1-10) They were bubbling over with this life when Thomas returned. It is no wonder that in his brokenness he reacted so badly to their joy. He refused to believe their story that his crucified Lord was alive again and had appeared to them.
Which of us under similar circumstances would not have reacted in the same way as Thomas? It was eight days later before Jesus returned through those closed doors. Thomas was with them this time. As those eight days passed Thomas had time to think about the pain of the wounds in Jesus’ hands and feet. Maybe he wanted to reach out and touch those wounds gently with healing love. Thinking of the wound made by the sword piercing Jesus’ heart he would remember the warmth of the love that Jesus had for him, and the love that he himself had for Jesus. Thomas would be able to vividly remember the relationship he shared with Jesus before Jesus was crucified. Those eight days may have given Thomas time to ponder on who Jesus really was for him; not just a human friend, but a Divine-Human Friend.
Teilhard de Chardin in our own day says: “Some think to make you more loveable in my eyes by praising almost exclusively the charm and kindness of your of your human face as men saw it long ago on earth. No, what I cry out for, like every other creature, with my whole being, and even with all my passionate earthly longings, is something very different from an equal to cherish: It is a God to adore.” (Hymn of the Universe, Pensees number 67)
During those eight days did Thomas come to realize this too? If so, it is not surprising that Thomas no longer needed to respond to Jesus’ invitation to touch the wounds in his hands and in his feet, or place his hand where the sword pierced his heart. Instead Thomas knelt and adored and made the most profound and beautiful expression of faith in the whole of the Gospels: “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus’ words to Thomas; “Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe” are words of encouragement for each one of us. It is good to remember that believing, does not only mean ‘head believing’ but much more ‘heart believing’. In the second reading today Peter says: “You did not see him, yet you love him; and still without seeing him you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe…”
Perhaps during these coming eight days we can take time to just sit still and ponder the words of Psalm 46, verse 10: “Be still and know that I am God.”
However, since pondering on Thomas’ story I would like to add a another phrase to that verse in Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am your God, and I am your friend.”
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
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.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to 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 into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
The Gospel of the Lord