Reflection - Divine Mercy Sunday (2nd Sunday of Easter) 2021
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Easter Sunday is barely over; now we are thinking of the death and resurrection of Jesus and the impact which his appearances had on the people who were close to him.
John’s gospel informs us that his appearance to the community huddled together for fear that the Jews may come after them and hurt them, even kill them, astonished them. Jesus is suddenly standing in their midst and says to them, ’Peace be with you!’
Jesus is ‘there’. He has not knocked on the door and announced his presence; he has not walked through the doorway. John informs us that he is in his resurrected body which allows him to defy the physics of science which guides our grasp of reality.
At this point, no doubt many modern people brought up with a scientific mindset switch off, because bodies of solid matter cannot, do not come through doors and walls. But John is writing for a pre-scientific people but what was happening was difficult to grasp for anyone at any time in history.
Thomas wasn’t present with the disciples when Jesus appears to them. We don’t know why. Thomas like Peter asked a lot of questions.
Jesus comes into their midst again and Thomas is present this time. This is like the scene in a film or a play when the rest of the actors melt back into the surroundings leaving Thomas and Jesus as the centre of attention.
Thomas ran away like the other disciples, he was the disciple who exclaimed about Jesus, ’Let us go and die with him’! Now he is face to face with Jesus who does not cut him any slack. He demands Thomas to place his hand into the wounds he received, into his hands and feet and side; they are present in his resurrected body.
Thomas is the one who exclaimed that he would not believe unless he could touch the wounds Jesus suffered. Is this a question in the minds of the other disciples as well but they were not outspoken like Thomas?
‘Here are my wounds, doubt no longer but believe!’
Is this a request or a demand to Thomas? Is this a question for the other disciples as well? Thomas responds with five words that have echoed through the centuries through every generation of Christian people: ‘My Lord and my God!’
The Christians in Ephesus had been enduring severe persecution and this gospel was aimed at them as well as the world. They carried their own injuries and scars received for their belief in Jesus Christ. They needed to know that they were like Jesus, they were imitating his life, they were his people who would be transformed as he was transformed.
The empty tomb remains. Christians have to trust the testimony of those who saw Jesus and were changed by him into men and women of God, full of the Spirit. And generations have accepted the invitation and have the Spirit living within them.
Columban Fr Gary Walker is currently living at the Columban house in Sandgate, Brisbane.