When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
We may be surprised by the slowness of the apostles to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead in today’s Gospel. Last Sunday we heard how the apostles, particularly, Peter and John, were hinted about the resurrection of Jesus by looking at the winding sheet and the cloth that covered the head lying in the tomb.
It seemed that other apostles were not convinced by what Peter and John believed after seeing the circumstantial evidence of the winding sheet and cloth that Jesus had risen from the dead. So, Jesus appeared to the apostles on the evening of the Sunday. He came through the closed door to show the spiritual quality of the resurrected body. The spiritual quality of the resurrected body is described by St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians: “It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven (1 Corinthians 15:44-48).”
The first act Jesus did was saying to them “Peace be with you”. It was tradition of Jews to wish one another the peace of health and prosperity in the material and spiritual sense. Here Jesus is not wishing but giving the peace as he once said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid (John 14:27).”
After giving them his peace, Jesus showed them his hands and his side to prove that he was the Jesus Christ who had been crucified and now alive once more. Having established who he is, Jesus then commissioned the apostles to continue the work of divine salvation begun by him, which was promised by him before his passion and death. As a move to encourage the apostles, Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” that he promised when he had returned to the Father in glory in John 7:39, “Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Immediately following this giving of the Holy Spirit, we see his act of the instituting the Sacrament of Penance by saying: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
However, Thomas, who was not at the scene at the time of the appearing of Jesus to the apostles, demanded for stronger evidence to prove the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus never blamed Thomas’ doubt. Instead, for Thomas’s sake the risen Jesus appeared again in the very same place and same circumstance eight days later. He invited Thomas to prove for himself that his body bore the marks of the crucifixion. But this time, Thomas did not touch the sacred wounds but proclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” He used the words that stress he true God “Yahweh Elohim” to address Jesus.
Jesus does not belittle Thomas’ faith but his slowness in accepting it on the testimony of others. Could we who have not had the privilege of seeing the risen Jesus with our physical eyes but yet have believed in him on reliable testimony, such as the church and the Bible? Amen.