1 John 5:1-6
The drama of Holy Week and Easter continues in our readings for today’s liturgy. A key phrase for me is taken from the second reading, the letter from St. John: "The victory that conquers the world is our faith. Who indeed is the victor over the world, but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"
Thomas, the apostle, believed in Jesus of Nazareth, his mission, his gospel, his work on earth. He probably believed that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the one Promised by God, to bring salvation to Israel. In fact, Thomas loved Jesus so much that he was willing to go with him to Jerusalem and die with him. (John 11:16) Thomas got his wish. He followed Jesus to Jerusalem, was with him as Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, reclined at table with him at Passover and accompanied him to the Garden of Olives. Up to that point, Thomas’ faith in Jesus was absolute, unshaken and without measure.
Then his faith was tested, tested beyond his human endurance. The unthinkable happened. He stood in shock as Judas came with heavily armed guards to take Jesus prisoner, as he prayed in the Garden. His heart stopped. Fear for his life overcame him. The only thing he could think of was to run away, run away so fast and so far that they could not find him.
So where was Thomas all this time? Was he with family? Was he hiding out? Did he go back to his old ways before meeting Jesus? We know that he was not with the disciples when they came back to that upper room, as they gathered in fear for their lives, on that first Sunday night, when Jesus first appeared to them. As the days went by, he felt overcome with shame. He had allowed personal fear to triumph over his faith in Jesus. He needed to come back. He needed the kind of community that the first reading for today’s Mass describes, a community of believers of one heart and mind, a community where he could feel accepted and loved, even though he had sinned. He believed his friends, the apostles and the women followers of Jesus, was such a community. It took a while, but he finally went back and found them in the upper room, behind locked doors.
The community welcomed him with open arms. Then came the news: Jesus is alive! Jesus is raised from the dead, and has appeared to them, in the very room where he is standing! Jesus spoke of peace and forgiveness, and He gave them the power to forgive sins. Thomas did not know what to think. He hit a wall. He could believe in Jesus, the Master and Teacher, Jesus the Messiah. Could he come to believe in Jesus, as His Lord and God?
Thomas’ moment of truth came when he saw the wounded, Resurrected Jesus standing before him, wounds of death on his hands and feet and side, but now so healed that one could touch them, even caress them without fear of feeling the pain that open wounds bring. Thomas did not realize how wounded he was when Jesus approached him. He covered up his wounds of betrayal by focusing on the wounds of Jesus. As Jesus stood before him, Thomas took that leap of faith. No longer was he seeing Jesus the Man, Jesus the Master, not even Jesus the Messiah, but he was now seeing Jesus, the Son of God. He was no longer unbelieving.
Many of us identify with the "doubting" Thomas. We even take some pride in being one. When we find ourselves there, we may well be blinded to the Resurrected Jesus as He stands before us, His wounded hands and feet and side within reach. Thomas was not blessed because he remained unbelieving. Do we have the courage to go beyond our wounds and say to the Resurrected Jesus before us: "My Lord and My God?"
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.