There’s a sense of church at its best going on this weekend. It’s that early enthusiastic excitement of a new relationship or hobby. We’ve got all the gear and are ready to spend ourselves fully in the pursuit of love of person, sport or activity. We couldn’t imagine missing a meeting, training session or opportunity to progress our interest. “The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul..”, “the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord with great power …” Certainly it was a great time to be alive in the wake of a wake and the awe-filled wonder of an emptied tomb.
We move then to John’s letter and he laying it on the line for us. Commandments and the keeping of them are discussed. Recipes are given for overcoming the world. “Only the one who believes that Jesus is the son of God” can overcome the world. It looks like the cycling gear, the fitness regime, the daily texts or calls of friendship and love are gathering a bit of dessert dust.
Enter Thomas – the Twin! Rather don’t enter, for he wasn’t there when the Lord came. He had his doubts much and all as he wanted to believe. He knew the marks had to be left on Jesus and unless he could see them, touch them (maybe even weep because of them) he could not believe. Yes, he’d heard the tomb was empty. He’d heard of the Emmaus conversation and broken bread but it wasn’t sinking in. “Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands ….”
“Peace be with you”, Jesus had told them but Thomas wasn’t there to hear. He had to rely on others and he found it difficult to accept their version of events. Chances are he wanted to but couldn’t. What did the others lack in their telling that stalled the transmission of Jesus’ message? “Where did we go wrong?” parents sometimes wonder when their children give up on the faith. Sometimes we priests wonder too when people seem to drift away from church and practice. The closer people can be to the direct word the better. Hearsay evidence is only part of the story. It’s a pity Thomas wasn’t there with the others, even in the confusion of that room. Maybe that’s why the church places such strong emphasis on the weekly call to Sunday worship – so that it’s not hearsay for people but first hand.
Despite all this Thomas had his moment. Wounded flesh touched, he came to know the man he had walked and worked with for three years in a way that hadn’t fully dawned before. Yes he knew him as friend, one for whom he had mourned, but more than that, he recognised him as “My Lord and my God”. It’s appropriate that in Ireland we have made these words our own. God is recognised.
For this, Thomas gets the title “The doubting Thomas” and it seems so unfair to label him – anyone for that matter, based on a single event. Thomas asked the question and received an answer that took us to a deeper place. It wasn’t the first time he’d done that. “I’m going to prepare a place for you”, said Jesus, “and after I’ve prepared it you can come with me. You know the way to the place where I am going”. They hadn’t a clue but stood there and said nothing. Not Thomas though – “We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way …” and this led to the words that are central to all we’re about today; “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one can come to the Father, except through me”.
Good man Thomas! From hearsay, to recognition and the new enthusiasm that is Faith in action.