Gospel reflection for April 16, 2023 -- Second Sunday of Easter
Father Koch: Thomas demands proof
In our world, skepticism about truth, the experiences of others, and even reality itself seems to be rampant. We validate the opinions and experiences we identify with, and reject as “fake” that which we do not. At the same time there is an intentional proliferation of falsity being woven as truth. This indeed leads to a healthy skepticism, but correction of entrenched skeptics is hard to achieve. Thomas the Apostle stands as a model of skepticism. He stubbornly refuses to accept the testimony of the other disciples who encounter the risen Lord. He demands a higher level of truth. This is a lesson for us as we evangelize the world.
Each one of the men and women who were huddled together in the Upper Room, listening to a barrage of reports concerning the tomb of Jesus being empty, and even encounters with him alive, had their own personal reaction to these events.
They have spent a great deal of time together, especially the eleven, as they traveled with Jesus from one town and village to another. They heard him preach -- even about death and resurrection -- they were witnesses to his many miracles, including the raising of Lazaus from the dead just a few weeks prior. They had no reason to distrust one another in the ordinary matters of daily life. They had built a community among them. They were growing to love one another as Jesus had loved them, and as he had instructed them to do just days before at their final meal with him.
The news of this day seems to threaten all of what they had achieved. There were practical reasons for skepticism here. Something like this has never been done before. If Jesus is truly raised from the dead, why is he appearing before seemingly random individuals in different places. Why has he not come back to the room where he knew they were all gathered?
We do not know if anyone has articulated any of this among them, but certainly they must have all had at least a fleeting moment of asking any of these, and perhaps many more questions.
And then it happened. Jesus stands there in their midst. Alive, yes, but there is something very unusual. He didn’t come through the door, it was locked, and yet, there he is. His appearance is physical. They recognize him. They see the nail marks and the slash in his torso where the lance was thrust into him as he died on the cross. Jesus was dead -- they knew this. Joseph and Nicodemus had buried him and rolled the stone across the tomb entrance.
Each one of these disciples must now confront their own skepticism and doubts. The Lord is truly wisdom.
One of the eleven, Thomas, was not there. They couldn’t wait to tell him. All that had been reported throughout the day is indeed the truth. Jesus is alive!
Thomas cannot; will not; does not, accept their testimony. He embodies the worst fears and doubts among them. He has to see it for himself. It takes a week. A week of doubt. A week of arguing against the others. A week of thinking that he is the only sane one left, that the others are all out of their minds. A week of wondering what he is going to do next. Yet, he stayed. He is doubtful, yet curious.
It took the full week, and then it happened again. Jesus appears just as he did before. This time he speaks directly to Thomas and conquers his skepticism, leading him to a deep profession of faith.
So much of the world -- so many of our family and friends -- live in the week that just passed in the empty room. They hear our testimony. They see our processions, celebrations, and festivals, but they cannot believe. They need to see it for themselves.
What have we to show them other than living faithfully the Gospel and proclaiming loudly and boldly that Jesus Christ is Lord and God?
Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.