Happy Easter – again! Six more weeks of Easter to go! A week of weeks. We’ll conclude our Easter celebration on June 5 th when we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. But until then, we’ll continue focusing our attention on the resurrection of Jesus. This week we’re given the famous story of doubting Thomas for our reflection.
The account begins on the day of the resurrection. Very few of the disciples were brave enough to be with Jesus when he died, only Jesus’ mother, Mary and her sister, another Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary of Magdala, Salome and the beloved disciple, John. At his death, Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus carried the body of Jesus and buried him in a tomb. After the burial, the Eleven, Jesus’ mother, and a group of disciples went into hiding in a space they had rented in Jerusalem. But they didn’t feel safe there. They were gripped with fear. They were sure the Jewish authorities would be looking to arrest them, too, at some point.
Suddenly, Jesus was with them. The doors were locked. No one saw him come in. But Jesus was standing there, right in their midst. He greeted them with the holy greeting, “Shalom,” peace. They stood in silence as he showed them his hands and his side. It was Jesus. His wounds were raw but he was alive! The room broke out in jubilation.
Then Jesus began an odd ritual. He came up to each person and breathed on them. Each one felt his warm, moist breath. He was bringing them back to the first moment of creation. “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while the Spirit of God breathed over the waters.” Their lives had become a dark wasteland of chaos and fear. He whispered in their ears, “Receive the Holy Spirit” planting the seed of divine light into them. “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, whose sins you retain are retained.”
As suddenly as he appeared, he vanished. Shortly after the event, Thomas knocked on the door. Waiting for someone to open, he was surprised to hear loud, excited talking inside. The moment the door opened everyone at
once began to tell him that Jesus had appeared to them.
Even though Thomas knew them all and trusted them, he couldn’t believe their crazy story. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week passed by. Another Sunday arrived. Everyone was gathered in the room. Thomas, too, was there. Again, they had the door securely locked, but somehow Jesus stood in their midst. Again, he extended the holy greeting, “Shalom,” peace. He walked right up to Thomas and addressed his disbelief. “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving but believing.”
Then Jesus turned and looked into the distance. He was looking at you. He was looking at me. “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Our reflection today need only focus on that one sentence. A number of questions should cross our minds and challenge our faith when we think about it.
We’ve listened to the accounts of the resurrection and we believe that Jesus rose from the dead 2000 years ago. But that isn’t enough. It’s true that we haven’t seen Jesus the way the early disciples saw him that day. We haven’t touched his wounds. But Jesus’ statement about believing reaches wider and deeper than that.
In today’s account Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into the disciples who had gathered in fear. It rested within them for a while but burst forth on the day of Pentecost. That day, their belief exploded into witness, powerful witness. Their belief was like a light that burst into the hearts of those who listened to them.
We’re the ones who believe though we haven’t seen. Now, the question for our reflection today is very important. Have we freed the power of the Spirit that was planted within us when we first believed? It’s not enough to believe – we have to succumb to the Spirit so that the Spirit can give witness to the resurrection – so that those still in the dark can open their hearts to the light of the risen Lord.