2. Sunday of Easter Time (C); Joh 20:19-31 – St Vincent de Paul, London
The apostle Thomas in today’s Gospel is popularly known as “doubting Thomas”. Thomas has not been named as apostle of the sceptics, but he might seem suitable to fulfil this function. I have no doubt that a saint for sceptics would be very popular. But is it this really the right characterization of Thomas as he is presented to us in John’s gospel? I think today’s gospel is not just about doubt and unbelief. We can read the story in a different way.
Thomas does not easily accept the report of the other disciples about Jesus’s resurrection appearance. He wants certainty. The other disciples have only seen Jesus. But for Thomas, it is not enough just to see Jesus. He wants to come close to Jesus with all his senses. He wants to feel and touch the wounds of Jesus.
The gospel does not tell us whether Thomas actually touched Jesus because it is not necessary. When Jesus finally comes a week later and Thomas is present he does not need the physical reassurance any more. When Jesus invites him, he immediately professes his faith: My Lord and my God.
Jesus gives Thomas all the reassurance and proves that he asks for. Thomas is not criticized that he still has questions that he cannot believe unconditionally. Thomas’s view is accepted. Jesus meets him where he is right now on his journey of faith. Asking critical questions is an important step towards a mature faith. Jesus accompanies him so that his faith can grow. Of all the disciples portrayed in John’s gospel, it is the doubting Thomas who makes the strongest statement of faith: My Lord and my God.
And what about Jesus word: Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed. Doesn’t this sound like a criticism of Thomas? Thomas, like the other disciples, is a witness of the resurrection. His faith is based on direct and first-hand experience. The Christian communities after the time of the apostles, this includes us as we are gathered here this morning, had no resurrection appearances. Nonetheless, they believe as they trust in the faith of the apostles. The last word of Jesus in John’s gospel is for those who did not have the chance of touching Jesus physically after his resurrection and still confess: My Lord and my God. They are called blessed.