Gospel Reflection for April 24, 2022, Second Sunday of Easter

If last week we encountered the brashness of Peter, this week we see yet another even more stubborn model of discipleship in Thomas. Peter and the beloved disciple confirmed the report from Mary Magdalene and the others that the tomb of Jesus was empty. This surely must have at least opened the possibility that Jesus was raised from the dead. Certainly, when Mary Magdalene returns sometime after she reports that she actually spoke with Jesus, more and more of those gathered in the upper room must have come to believe that Jesus was indeed truly raised. Throughout the day even other disciples have encountered Jesus along the way. This would raise the question as to why Jesus waited until the end of the day to reveal himself to his innermost circle, the remnant of the twelve gathered in the upper room. 

For whatever reason, Thomas is not with them when Jesus appears to them there. Jesus enters the room though the door was locked, and yet he is mysteriously physically present to them. Bestowing on them the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus empowers them to forgive or retain sins. The disciples are incredulous and filled with great joy. 

Yet, with all this evidence and the testimony of those other disciples of Jesus with whom he has shared his life throughout their time with Jesus, Thomas refuses to believe. He stands in stark contrast to the beloved disciple peering into the tomb earlier that morning. He is even more stubborn than Peter who searched the tomb looking for evidence of what might have happened. No, Thomas needs to touch Jesus, and not just a resurrected Jesus, but Jesus in his passion – the nail marks and the hole in his side. 

This is a very unusual and, in a sense an off-putting request. Was he expecting that someone was mockingly pretending to be Jesus so they would be deceived? Could Thomas have had such a low opinion of the other disciples that he actually thought them delusional? While no doubt this made for some tense moments among the disciples during that week, it also seems to deepen the bond that exists among them all. The disciples continued about their changed lives, trying more and more to understand what Jesus had shared with them, and the doubting Thomas remained with them.

One of the challenges addressed in the early Church was the issue of what do to in cases of a disciple of Jesus being married to an unbeliever. There are occasions when this is a comfortable compromise between both spouses, and then, especially when one becomes a convert after the marriage, this situation can become quite contentious. 

In our lives we encounter those who are naysayers about the truths we proclaim and live as disciples of Jesus Christ. Through various videos and websites, we are exposed to those who choose to diminish our beliefs and deny the very tenets of our faith. Many of them coming from backgrounds of a Christian upbringing yet are unable to make that leap because they need physical proof, or at least claim that they do. 

Many of us still experience tension over religious faith within our own families. People drift away from faith, and others find a new vibrancy to their faith, and in either case often at some great tension within the marital relationship or the extended family. Our faith, which is to bring us the joy experienced by the disciples when Jesus appeared to them, can become darkened as the various Thomas’s in our lives, desire to mock and deny what we know and believe.

Thomas received the singular grace and gift of being able to encounter Jesus on his own terms, by touching the nail marks in Jesus’s hands and feet. We might fervently desire such an experience in our own lives of faith, and even more so pray that members of our family might have such an encounter. Sadly, those encounters are not forthcoming. We see through the eyes of faith. Many still seek to “prove” the tenets of our faith through various forms of research, but they are more like Thomas than Peter or the beloved disciple.  While Thomas quickly exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” at the sight of the crucified one now risen, many cannot see life in the face of death, or God in emptiness. We, like Thomas, rely entirely on the mercy of Jesus Christ to lead us to life.   

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.