How many times have you addressed Jesus as “My Lord and my God?” I was taught by my father to say those words whenever the priest elevates the consecrated host. I have done it at every Mass I’ve attended or celebrated. But those are not words of the beloved apostle, John, or, of Peter, the head of the apostolic college. They’re the words of the one we nicknamed “Doubting Thomas.” So much for doubt. I don’t want to sound like a Thomas-apologist, but I think that Thomas’ “doubt” has done much greater service to faith than his silence would have. Let us examine a few times Thomas’ brashness has done so much good. We’re used to the expression, “Dying with the Lord.” That also came from Thomas when in John 11:16, he enjoins his colleagues: “Let us go along and die with him.” Jesus had mentioned something about a trip to Judea when the disciples reminded him, “Rabbi, it is not long since the Jews were trying to stone you; are you going back there again?” (John 11:8). Then Thomas says: “Let us also go to die with him” (John 11:16). Perhaps, one of the greatest revelations of Jesus about Himself as “the Way, the Truth and the Life” came after the brash Thomas, again, indicated that they didn’t know what Jesus meant by the way to where He was going. Thomas asked, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5). Do you think the other apostles understood what Jesus meant? Not likely. But they all kept mute as many of us would. If Thomas had not asked, maybe we wouldn’t have known Jesus today as “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” If that’s the product of doubt, I’ll say, bring it on.
That brings us to the emphatic statement of faith by Thomas today: “My Lord and my God.” Jesus had appeared to the ten. Thomas was not there. Where had he gone so that he wasn’t with others? Maybe he’d gone to chill out with his twin brother after the sad event of Jesus’ death—you know how twins hang-on to each other, especially in adversity. Maybe he was so daring that he left to get food for the others locked up inside the room for fear of the Jews. Maybe he’s the kind who releases tension by taking a walk. Whatever be the reason why Thomas was missing from the community, we’re not told. But his absence did more good than bad. The Resurrected Christ appeared again, now a week later; but the most significant thing was that He reappeared as He did before on the first day of the week. Could Jesus be firming for them the practice of gathering on this first day of the week? There’s abundant evidence to suggest so; for from then on, Sunday became the day they gathered to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. And the practice has stayed on till today.
But something else was also happening on this day: Jesus had a week earlier come to the disciples, made peace with them, offered them his forgiveness—for they’d behaved like wimps, abandoning and denying him and perhaps filled with utter shame for their infidelity. He gave them the Holy Spirit and commanded them, in the same Name, to absolve the sins of those who seek reconciliation. Hence, the Sacrament of Reconciliation was instituted—the reason we call today Divine Mercy Sunday. By returning a week later, he wanted to fulfil His words and confirm the faith of Thomas, for He’d said earlier: “I did not lose anyone of those You gave me” (John 18:9). Thomas and all who would be brought to the faith after the resurrection need not see the nail marks, nor put their hand through them and into his riven side before they would believe; “they will walk by faith, not by sight” (II Cor 5:7), and thus will be blessed.
On this Octave of Easter, let us renew our faith and hold firm the promise and hope of the resurrection. A little curiosity, like Thomas’ won’t be completely out of place, if we’re true seekers. It may be easier to accept blindly or reject frivolously. The via media is “faith seeking understanding,” aka theology.
Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo