MY LORD AND MY GOD!
(A biblical refection on THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER – April 12, 2015)
[Sunday of Divine Mercy]
Gospel Reading: John 20:19-31
First Reading: Acts 4:32-35; Psalms: Psalm 118:2-4,16-18,22-24; Second Reading: 1John 5:1-6
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And 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; if you retain the sins of any they are retained.”
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, 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 in His hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe.”
Eight days later, His disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side; do not be faithless, but believing.” 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 believe.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:19-31 RSV)
Today’s Gospel reading contains what scripture scholar Bruce Vawter calls “the most complete affirmation of Christ’s nature to be found on the lips of anyone in the Gospel.” This precious affirmation is uttered by the apostle Thomas, who ironically is more remembered for his doubts than his faith. He never deserved the title of “doubting Thomas”, which has shadowed him through the ages. He should be known as “courageous Thomas”, with the uncanny habit of speaking clearly his opposing views, regardless of the pressures to agree or remain silent.
His calm heroic strength is completely ignored by the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). John only highlights a few incidents where Thomas’ inward bravery shines forth. In John 11:16, when Christ’s life is feared to be in jeopardy, Thomas exhorts the others, “let us go along and die with Him.” In John 14:5, Jesus is telling the Twelve about eternal life and adds parenthetically, “You know the way that leads where I go.” In reality they didn’t know what Jesus meant and, lest they appear stupid, no one asked except Thomas. He broke into the Lord’s dialogue with the query, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, how can we know the way?” Had he remained silent like the rest, we never would have heard the great summary of the Lord’s mission. “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Thanks, Thomas. We needed to hear that.
Today, John says the apostles are huddled in the upper room, hiding behind locked doors for fear of their enemies, finding courage and protection in numbers. Strange, isn’t it, that Thomas isn’t with them? Did he need the security of numbers and bolted doors? Apparently not. He was somewhere on the outside, all on his own. He was just that kind of guy.
Lord Jesus makes His unscheduled visit, and the apostles are hysterical with sheer joy. When Thomas returns they shout in unison: “We’ve seen the Lord” (John 20:25). Thomas calmly seems unimpressed and simply says that he wants to see the wounds before he shares their ecstacy. When Jesus invited him a week later to see and touch the convincing wounds, he offered no apologies and did not try to “explain” his need for further proof. He saw no need for any mental squirming. The truth was now present and typically he said what he felt: “My Lord and my God”. That’s the great statement that should be remembered rather that his previous lingering doubts.
Thomas encourages us to think, probe and question. Our faith must be real and sensible to us. If it is not, we have a good example for direct and vocal inquiry. To just sit back and nod our heads in agreement to confusing presentations is being very “unthomistic”.
Dear Sisters and Brothers, let us try to catch the contagious spirit of the faith-filled apostle Thomas. We (you and I), like millions of others, might want to whisper his famous words at the elevation of the living bread, during the celebration of today’s Mass.
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, we long to see Your face. Heal our unbelief, so that we can bow before You and proclaim, “My Lord and My God”. Amen.
Note: Please also read the biblical reflection entitled “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN AND YET BELIEVE” (reading for April 14, 2012) in the blog: A CHRISTIAN PILGRIMAGE.
Jakarta, 10 April 2015
A Christian Pilgrim