On the evening of the first Easter Sunday, which we celebrated last Sunday, the disciples of Jesus huddled together in the locked upper room. To a man they were in utter despair: they had left everything to follow Jesus, but now he was dead and his body was stolen. They were frightened that the same people who had killed their Master would surely come looking for them. They were confused where would they go now? What would they do? Into that despairing, frightened, confused company steps Jesus. The grave couldn’t hold him in and the locked door of their meeting room couldn’t keep him out. There he was standing right in front of them. They had been trembling with fear, but he says, “Peace be with you.” They look to each other thinking, surely this can’t be him. He extends his hands and points to his side. They felt lonely and afraid, but he breathes on them and says. “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Their fear and trepidation had held them in hiding and now he sends them out to a needy world, saying, “As the Father sent me, so I sent you.”
Thomas, for some reason, had been missing from that memorable encounter. the others kept telling him. “Thomas, we have seen the Lord.” But Thomas was having none of it. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” But before long he would be utterly transformed worshiping Christ while exclaiming, “My Lord and my God.”
We need to ask ourselves just what was it that ruined Thomas from a doubter into a believer? And what is it that canallay our doubts, and bring us to joyful faith in Jesus Christ? Let’s look in turn at Thomas the doubter and Thomas the believer..
The infamous Thomas the doubter we had previously met earlier in St. John’s Gospel, In the story of Jesus and Lazarus. Lazarus was critically ill. Jesus announced his intention to go to him. But the disciples realized that this would take Jesus straight back to the very people who were plotting to kill him. So Thomas gloomily says to the others, “Yah let’s go so that we can die with him.” Later in that same Gospel Jesus had been explaining that he must go to his Father’s house, and that he would come back and take his disciples with him. “ He said, ”You know the way to the place where I am going. Thomas argues “We don’t know where you’re going so how can we know the way?”
We readers of the Gospel of John, begin to think of Thomas as a bit of a pessimist – someone whose cup was always half empty rather than half full, a man whose football team was never destined for a championship game, but only tobe drooping in the record books. He was a man who’s light at the end of a dark tunnel wasn’t a sign of hope but an out-of-control-freight train, roaring down the track at him..
Thomas wasn’t the first person to have doubts and he certainly wasn’t the last. Over the years doubt has often been elevated to the status of a virtue.
Here we are in the 20th century celebrating the scientific method of research where doubt is the only assurance of ascertaining absolute truth.
Let’s be clear that doubt itself is neither a good nor a bad thing. Doubt can sometimes he highly desirable or really misleading. If we believed every story we’ve heard about tooth fairies, Santa Clause and boogie men, we would soon lose out sanity. If we were taken in by every advertising commercial or by politicians or religious leaders we would lose all our money, we’d be hard-put and unwilling to lend credence to any proffered statement we hear.
But, on the other hand it is neither sensible, nor necessary nor healthy to doubt everything. I need to know if a can trust my monthly bank statement when it comes in. I need to know if the witness of the Bible to Jesus Christ is believable or whether it is just a piece of pious fiction.
There is a place for confident knowledge. There is a place for Christian dogma. In those matters which are clearly revealed in Scripture, Christians should not be doubtful or apologetic. The corridors of the New Testament echo with dogmatic affirmations begging. “We know. We are sure. We are confident. If you question this, try reading the First Epistle of St. John in which with its reiterating “knowing, “ the verb to know occurs about forty times in that book. They strike a note of joyful assurance which is sadly missing from many parts of the church today and which needs to be recaptured.
Doubt then is a very widespread phenomenon. Many of our doubts are normal and proper. But we should resist the temptation to doubt anything and everything. And there is good news for doubting Thomases. Thomas had an encounter with the living Christ, and he would never be the same again. Having looked at Thomas the doubter let’s now consider Thomas the believer.
One week later, after their first meeting,, that would be today. The disciples were assembled again and Thomas was there this second time. Although the doors were locked again the same Jesus stands among them again, large as life. And he speaks directly to Thomas.
Thomas had said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands…” Jesus said, “See my hands.”
Thomas said, ”and put my finger where the nails were…” Jesus stretched out his hand and said, reply, “Put your finger here”
Thomas said, ”and put my hand into his side” – “Reach out your hand and put it into my side
Thomas I will not believe it” Jesus ,”Stop doubting and believe”
That’s enough for Thomas. His astonished reaction is “My Lord and my God” As soon as he saw he believed and as soon as he believed he worshiped.
Jesus’ response was, “Thomas, Because you have seen me you have believed, blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus has presented a blessing on any and all who have come to believe even though they haven’t seen.
Christians do not require a blind faith.
Faith is not merely agreement. Faith is not superstition. Faith is not credulity. Faith is rather knowing and believing the truth about Jesus Christ and committing oneself to Him.
Jesus is commanding faith without evidence He is commanding Faith without sight.
If everyone demanded touching and feeling Jesus before believing and having faith there wouldn’t be any Christians alive today and yet we know that in fact there are millions of Christians who have never seen his hands or touched the wounded side of the Lord Jesus the Lord Jesus but they all come to believe by faith.
St Peter in His first letter said, “Though you have not seen him, you love Him, and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.
Do any of us here ever have a doubt. When this happens call to mind the short prayer, Jesus, I believe, in you, help my unbelief.
Even in this day and age, we are given exercises to strengthen our gifts of faith.
At the beginning of Mass, Fr. Augustine mentioned that this is the annual commemoration of Divine Mercy. This feast reminds us of the great faith of the Polish Sister, Maria Faustenia, it reminds us of the great faith of His Holiness Pope John Paul the second, and it reminds us of the great faith of Catholics across the World and their tireless novenas of the divine mercy.
Today we should ask ourselves just how strong is our faith.