Thomas could not believe in Jesus’ resurrection simply on the basis of what he heard: “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” (John 20:25).
Perhaps we could fault Thomas for his stubborn refusal to believe. We feel we ought to be better than Thomas, not needing hard evidence to believe in Jesus. But we should not forget that God wants to show himself to us. He wants to have a personal relationship with each of us—something that goes deeper than our simply believing based on others’ testimony.
Thomas is a marvelous sign of hope to us. In his doubts, Thomas was in a sense a “stranger and sojourner” (Ephesians 2:19). Yet, when he met the risen Lord, he became part of the “foundation of apostles and prophets” (2:20). In a homily on Thomas, St. Gregory the Great (c. 540-604) said:
God’s mercy arranged that the disbelieving disciple, in touching the wounds of his master’s body, should heal our wounds of disbelief. . . . As he touches Christ and is won over to belief, every doubt is cast aside and our faith is strengthened. So the disciple who doubted, then felt Christ’s wounds, becomes a witness to the reality of the resurrection. (Homily 26)
How good of the Lord to include in the company of his apostles one who disbelieved for a time. Thomas should encourage us that we too can ask to see Jesus and trust that he will show himself to us. In going from unbelief to belief, Thomas became the first to direct our attention to Jesus’ wounds and their incredible power to change our faith and bring us healing.
Jesus’ wounds represent his compassion, his love for us, and his desire to be near to us. The Holy Spirit wants to increase our faith. He wants to teach us that it is only through Jesus’ wounds that we can be saved. Let us place our hope in Christ, who freed us from sin and death. Let us ask to see Jesus so that we can cry out with Thomas: “My Lord and my God!”
Think about this verse from Isaiah: “With his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Meditate on it. How have you allowed the wounds of Christ to heal your sins and suffering?
When he saw Jesus, Thomas not only believed that he had risen from the dead, he also proclaimed that Jesus was God—a knowledge that could only have come through faith. Do you permit your faith in Jesus to be weakened by those things you can physically see—like suffering or evils in the world? Ask the Lord to increase your faith in him, even (and especially) when you don’t understand why some things happen the way they do.
We encounter Christ every time we receive him at Mass in the Eucharist. Do you hunger for Jesus? Ask the Lord to give you a greater appreciation and awe for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Jesus, let us know your presence this very day. Strengthen our faith and fill us with your love so that we can proclaim you to everyone we meet.
This is a selection from A Year of Celebration, ed. By Patty Mitchell (The Word Among Us Press, 2001).