The Incredulity of St. Thomas, Guercino 1621, The National Gallery, London, UK.

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Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”    John 20:28.

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If possible, put yourself in Jesus’ shoes in this scene from today’s gospel. He had gone through hell and even down to hell according to the Apostles’ Creed, and was essentially on his own, abandoned by his closest friends, save at his actual moment of death with the two women, including his mother, and St. John, present. But there was no-one standing up for him at his “trial” in front of the high priest, where St. Peter betrayed him (“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said. But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway. Mark 1:67-68). All the others had vanished. They were now cowering from the authorities, fearing they would be condemned to the same fate as their master. And now Jesus was standing in their midst, among the very people who had abandoned him. Note loudly and clearly, he had not abandoned them! Now, standing in his place, what would you have done and said? Having undergone most brutal torture, suffered an extreme agony and humiliating death nailed to a cross, naked and utterly without any protection whatever, what would you have said to these “friends” who had left you there? That is worth a moment’s Easter meditation. Then compare that to what Jesus said at that moment.

“Peace be with you”

Christ Appears to the Apostles Behind Closed Doors, Duccio 1311, Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary, Siena, Italy.

It says it all. This man held no anger, resentment or retribution to spray over his unfaithful, treacherous so-called friends. He only wanted them to be at peace with him and themselves, probably the last thing of which they were capable at that moment. They thought he was dead! They thought they were next in line for the same punishment. Peace? Never, But peace is what they received from him. Then there is Thomas’ famous moment. He had refused to believe his colleagues who claimed to have met the risen Lord. Not unreasonable. I would have said the same thing and I’m sure I am not alone. It was not logical or reasonable to say this man was alive after what he had been put through. Then, with Thomas present, he appeared in their midst. Not letting the moment go, he went straight to Thomas and presented his tortured but now glorified body to him still displaying the wounds made just a few days earlier. We are not told if Thomas actually responded to Jesus’ invitation to touch his wounds, but we do know the effect that all this had on Thomas. I imagine his reaction was to sink to his knees before the Risen Christ and utter the most profound words in all Scripture: “My Lord and my God!” addressed to a mortal man. He was the only one to utter them, and it summed up Jesus’ entire mission, completely human, yet supported with the power of God. And you could say Thomas more than made up for his incredulity, or disbelief, in Jesus’ resurrection. He, by reputation and very long history, established the Christian Church in India,to be precise. It was the furthest any of Jesus’ apostles went to spread the Good Word, and is still active and productive today. It was a very suitable response. By their fruits you will know them....

Finally, this being Divine Mercy Sunday, we have a supreme example of mercy in today’s gospel. One fine definition of mercy is “compassion on someone who doesn’t deserve it”. Who among those close “friends” of Jesus, except perhaps John, deserved any compassion or forgiveness from the Lord? They were cowards, protecting their own skin rather than anybody else’s, not worth a second thought. Except from Jesus who saw in them the seeds of a tremendous movement which would spread throughout the world focussed on recognizing and developing the good in all of God’s creatures, trying to be Christ to the world in all and every way. Thomas and his followers have proven their loyalty to Jesus for 2000 years! Alleluia!

Malayattoor Church, Kerala, India – established by St.Thomas (52 AD).

Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.

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