Father Leslie Hoppe, OFM

April 16: Second Sunday of Easter

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

‘Doubting Thomas’

Acts 2:42-47; Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; 1 Pt 1:3-9; Jn 20:19-31

The evangelist had a problem — how to persuade his readers that the disciples had an authentic encounter with the Risen Christ. He wanted to portray the Risen Christ as the same person who enthralled the crowds with his preaching and amazed them by his healings.

He was the same person who suffered an agonizing death on the cross. He was the same person but different — so different that he was not subject to the laws of physics. He effortlessly passed through the bolted doors behind which his disciples cowered in fear.

The evangelist had to convince his readers that all this was not a group hallucination brought on by a combination of grief and fear. Thomas was the evangelist’s “fall guy.”

Thomas’ blemished reputation is undeserved. He was just a victim of circumstances. He had the misfortune of being absent the first time the risen Christ appeared to the disciples.

He has come to be known as “doubting Thomas.” If Thomas had any doubts, they were about the sanity of the other disciples who told him that they saw Jesus and that he spoke with them.

Thomas simply wanted proof that what the other disciples saw was not just a phantasm. Thomas wanted to see what the other disciples claimed to have seen so demanded to see and examine the wound inflicted on Jesus during his passion.

The evangelist used Thomas’s demands to make it clear that the risen Christ was the same person as the Jesus who preached, healed and was crucified.

There is a striking anomaly in this appearance of the risen Christ to the disciples. If Jesus’ resurrected state transformed his body in a way that it was no longer subject to the laws of physics, why were his wounds not healed? The wounds were still there. Indeed, Jesus identified himself  by showing the disciples his wounded hands and his side.

These wounds were not scarred over, but were still deep wounds so he was able to invite Thomas, “Take your finger and examine my hands. Put your hand into my side.”

The evangelist uses this anomaly to assure his readers that they too can have an authentic encounter the risen Christ just as surely as the disciples did. All they need to do is look into the faces of their wounded brothers and sisters.

The risen Christ is present in those who bear his wounds today. The risen Christ is not bound by the laws of physics or by time and space.

Christ is present as his word proclaimed. Christ is among believers “in the breaking of the bread” as they remember his death and resurrection. Christ is present among us in those who still bear his wounds. Christ’s resurrected body still bears the wounds of his suffering on the cross because that suffering continues in the person of suffering people.

The disciples’ encounter with the risen Christ was life changing. It was an experience that transformed them from people paralyzed by fear to people who went into the world proclaiming the Gospel — even at the cost of their lives.

The risen Christ reminded the disciples that he had come from God “as the Father had sent me.” Jesus makes that statement more than 30 times in the Gospel according to John, insisting that God sent him into the world to reveal his love for the world.

The risen Christ adds “as the Father has sent me, now I send you.” The disciples reconciled with God are to become instruments of reconciliation.

Christ sends all the baptized into the world to be instruments of reconciliation. The grace of baptism empowers believers by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ whose death and resurrection has reconciled the human family to God.

Fidelity to this mission will hasten the day of Christ’s return when he will take our feeble efforts at transforming the world and join them to his own in order to present to God as new world — a world of justice, peace and love.

The story of “doubting Thomas” illustrates how an authentic experience of the risen Christ is possible for all believers who recognize that the wounds of the crucified Christ are still visible in the wounds of suffering humanity. The crucified and risen Christ calls those believers to be instruments of reconciliation as they announce the forgiveness of sin in the name of Christ.


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