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Poor Thomas. Each year on the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) we read the account of his doubting that Jesus had been raised from the dead and had appeared to the other disciples while he was absent. As a result, over the years he has come to be known as “doubting Thomas.”
Now I have to admit, I have a grudging respect for Thomas. And as a result, each year I feel compelled to offer a defense of him. I base my defense on three things. 1. I believe the witness of the other disciples wasn’t nearly as strong as it could have been. Think about it for a minute. The disciples had been with Jesus for three years. And yet they couldn’t convince Thomas they had seen the risen Lord. It seems to me that if their witness was a little more compelling, perhaps they could have convinced Thomas. 2. When Jesus first appeared to his disciples we are told that after he had greeted them “He showed them his hands and his side.” Jesus must have known that his disciples would need to see some kind of physical proof before they would believe he had risen from the dead. Thomas was asking for no more than what the other disciples had already been given. 3. When Jesus appeared a week later he invited Thomas to put his finger in the nail wounds and his hand in his side. Thomas, though, didn’t do this. Instead he was the first to give voice to Easter faith: “My Lord and my God.” The other disciples had a whole week to think about their encounter with the risen Lord, but none of them had put it all together in a clear, concise, and dramatic statement of faith.
Given the above, I think Thomas deserves to be “rehabilitated” or at least to lose the nickname: “doubting Thomas.”
Our first reading this Sunday is from the Acts of the Apostles. It speaks of the life of the early Christian community. “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.”
In our second reading this Sunday, from the first Letter of Saint Peter, we are reminded that because of Jesus’ resurrection we have been given “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. Do you think Thomas deserves the nickname: “doubting Thomas”?
2. How would you try to convince someone of Jesus’ resurrection?
3. Is it more difficult for modern day Christians to devote themselves to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to prayer than it was for the early Christians? Why or why not?