The Apostle Thomas gets a bad reputation. We’ve called him “Doubting Thomas” and made his name to mean a skeptic. But as I listen to the Gospel today, I find myself close to Thomas. Why wasn’t he with the other disciples when they all gathered, and Jesus appeared in their midst the first time? Was he still grieving, afraid, regretful, or feeling lonely and isolated? It took longer for Thomas to have the courage to return to community, but when he arrives, he hears astonishing news. Jesus is Risen! Yet, like the other disciples in the story, Thomas cannot believe just by hearing the Good News. He yearns for what the other disciples had: an encounter with the Risen Christ and the visible wounds of the Crucified One. Thomas longs to be transformed with that same resurrection power, but locked away in his own darkness and fear, he cannot begin to hope or trust in this news.
Thomas is one of my favorite apostles because he always speaks plainly (and sometimes comically) throughout the Gospel of John. This continues after Jesus’ death, when he shares with honesty and authenticity in today's Gospel: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side I will not believe!” Days later, Thomas’ desire is granted: Jesus returns to that locked away place, appears to the disciples again, and greets them with peace. Thomas courageously names his needs and desires before God and community, and Jesus draws near and shows Thomas his wounds. God meets his needs and offers Thomas an encounter with the Risen Christ! This is God’s Divine Mercy at work.
As disciples, we are called to be as honest as Thomas, to speak our minds and express our hopes to God and community, trusting that Christ will meet us where we are, and provide for our needs. Jesus says in our Gospel today, “blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.” Perhaps some of us believed without seeing, but many of us, like Thomas and the disciples, need an embodied encounter with Resurrection Life. We desire to have Jesus’ transforming power come into our lives in palpable ways, so we can enter more deeply into love, trust, and relationship.
Today’s scriptures remind me that we are not alone in this need and desire! Jesus meets the disciples where they are and invites them into life in the Spirit. So too, Christ invites us into new life, and empowers us by the Spirit to be the Body of Christ. This means we are also called to be the presence of the Risen Christ: to be instruments of grace, mercy, and peace for those who are locked away, and to meet the deepest desires of those who cry out to God in our world today.
As we continue in the Easter season, let us name our needs boldly to God and one another, and trust that God will continue to transform us, freeing us from all that locks us away or blocks resurrection life. May we become beacons of resurrection. May we be formed anew into disciples, into communities of faith and fellowship that proclaim God’s joy, hope, life, and transforming power, with our lives in tangible ways, that all may see and believe.
~ JoAnn Melina Lopez, Campus Minister for Liturgy