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They rejoice in seeing the Lord
The doubting of Thomas of today’s gospel is proverbial. However a closer reading of the gospels depicts that all the disciples doubted, but only poor old Thomas became famous for it.
But why does John focus on Thomas? John is writing to third generation Christians, people who have not seen the Lord Jesus.
Many of them did not even know any of the apostles. They find it hard to believe; they are struggling in the midst of many doubts; they would like to see, touch and verify that the Lord is truly risen.
To them, Mark, Luke and Matthew respond by saying that all the apostles hesitated, but the answer from John is different: he takes Thomas as a symbol of the difficulty that everyone who comes to believe has.
It is hard to know the reason why he chose this apostle; perhaps, because he took more time than the others to have faith.
What John wants to teach his communities (and us) is that the Risen One has a life that escapes our senses; a life that cannot be touched with bare hands or seen with the eyes.
It can only be achieved through faith. This also applies to the apostles, who have had a unique experience of the Risen Lord.
The end of the passage presents the reason John wrote his book. His gospel is a sign for people to believe in the person of Christ.
John calls miracles signs. Jesus did not perform them to impress. He even had words of condemnation of anyone who did not believe unless they saw a miracle (John 4:48).
The signs are not pieces of evidence, but a revelation about the person, nature and mission of Jesus. Whoever reads his book and understands these signs clearly confronts the person of Jesus and is invited to make a choice. The gospel is the ultimate proof.
It is significant that both apparitions take place on a Sunday. The Lord presents himself with the same words: “Peace be with you.”
The disciples are gathered in the house. The meeting to which John alludes is clearly what happens on the day of the Lord—every eighth day when the whole community is called together for the celebration of the Eucharist.
When all the believers are gathered together, there appears the Risen One. He, by the mouth of the celebrant, greets the disciples and wishes them, as on the evening of Easter and then eight days later: “Peace be with you.”
Disciples, who like Thomas, desert the meetings of the community, cannot have the experience of the Risen Lord, because he makes himself present where the community is gathered.
Contrary to what we see depicted in the paintings of artists, not even Thomas put his hands into the wounds of the Lord.
From the text, it does not appear that he has touched the Risen One.
He also gets to pronounce his profession of faith after hearing the voice of the Risen One, along with his brothers and sisters of the community.
And the ability to have this experience is offered to Christians of all times… every eight days.
Father Fernando Armellini SCJ