John 20:19-31 NRSVue
19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors were locked where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
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Some thoughts on this scripture
Brave, honest Thomas had gone off to grieve on his own, so he missed that meeting with the Lord. I can taste some of his isolation and resentment in his Unless.... I will not believe. I have suffered in this way when I isolated myself from the community of faith. It is when I am stunned by sorrow that I most need the company of friends and the support of faith.
Thomas was a modern man, finding faith hard, like many people today. He was let down by the others who ran away, the leader denied Jesus, his trust in the group of apostles had been abused. He didn’t want much more to do with them. He had got tired of it all. He wanted to believe but needed a sort of proof. But faith grows within a community. That’s why we baptise children, because faith grows from the beginning of life. We find growth in our faith through the community - for example, in the Mass, shared rosary, sharing our faith in a group, a good spiritual book, sharing our doubts but never closing the door to Jesus, sharing our faith in thanks for what our faith gives us.
In community, the disciples found faith in the risen Christ. Thomas, for some reason, was not with them when the Lord came. Separated from the community, he found faith more difficult. Faith in the Lord, while personal, is not a private affair. In the faith of one, the faith of another may be strengthened. Formation in faith for the disciples had its communal experience - together they learned and found faith in the Lord.
The risen Jesus penetrates the disciples' defences, overcomes their fears, and brings them joy. I ask him to pass through all my security systems and liberate me from whatever prevents me from 'having life and having it in all its fullness'.
Jesus always brings peace and reconciliation. Saint Augustine called peace 'the tranquillity of order', meaning order in my relationships with God, with other people and within myself. Where is there lack of peace in my life? Who do I need to make peace with? Do I make space to experience God's forgiveness and gift of peace? I ask for his peace so that I may bring others peace.
How did the others feel when Thomas challenged their testimony? Watch with them when Jesus comes to Thomas. Do they sympathise? Are they a little smug, even judgmental? Perhaps there is a lot of Thomas in me.