Ac 4.32-35; Ps 118; 1Jn 5:1-6; Jn 20.19-31
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The idealized description of the first assembly of believers in the risen Jesus does not mean we may ignore it or that it offers us nothing. Central to the description are the apostles, who with great power, bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The power of their proclamation matched risen Jesus’ power of his Holy Spirit, who transformed the first disciples, who had seen Jesus taken and killed.
The point is this: the apostles had to accept this power, which risen Jesus invites each of us to do. One way the Fourth Gospel functions leads me to suggest today’s selection invites us to see our limitations as opportunities to accept risen Jesus’ power, too.
Throughout, the Fourth Gospel refers to a beloved disciple. It never names the beloved disciple, which means that each of us, indeed all believers, may give our names to the disciple Jesus loved./1/ Love, especially Jesus’ risen love, cannot be contained by time or place. Further, being loved changes us, and being loved by risen Jesus transforms us most of all.
Some of that transformation remains unseen by others. Yet our ways of living and choosing as well as our service in the name of Jesus are glimmers that we have been transformed and continue to be transformed by our Messiah. Unless we welcome Jesus’ transforming love, we refuse to be gripped by his life-giving power. This is how Thomas figures for us.
Thomas, like many people past and present, had a nickname, the Twin./2/ Thomas is our twin, indeed the twin of all believers in Jesus. How like our twin we are! It is silly to think that only as time passed people had difficulty with welcoming the deepest reality of Jesus’ resurrection. Within a week of Jesus rising from the dead, one of his apostles was more resistant than the others. Thomas was the same apostle who had a couple weeks earlier urged them all, Let us go to die with [Jesus]./3/ Like our twin we have our exhilarating moments.
We also have a weakness for fact, for reality we can measure, see and touch. So did Thomas as we heard: 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. Thomas did come to believe by releasing his resistance.
Because we are more than our bodies we also have a desire for more than reality we can measure, see and touch. We desire to be in communion with our Creator and Redeemer, our risen Jesus, the victor over the world. While we commune with Jesus through many incarnate ways, much exists to frustrate our deeper desire. Like our twin Thomas, we have our times of denial, despair and doubt. Jesus never chastised or belittled Thomas for being himself, for being human. Nor does Jesus belittle us twins of Thomas either.
We may have a mistaken notion that the opposite of faith is doubt. Unless one is a fanatic, then doubt has no room. The ancient Roman, Cicero, described humans well: “By doubting we come at truth.”/4/ So it is! What is more true and amazing and consoling is that Jesus, our Truth, comes to us! Jesus visits us not to chastise or belittle us but to invite us to place our selves--not our minds only but ourselves--in his care and his power, his divine mercy. The memory of Thomas and many others is handed on to us to encourage us to do that and come to believe/5/ that Jesus is our Truth and our power. Faith is a life-giving process.
In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week, continue feeling recreated by the life of our triune God. Ask Thomas, our model twin, to encourage you to entrust yourself to Jesus. Converse with Jesus: tell him your desire to follow him wholeheartedly. Ask Jesus for the courage to live as his disciple. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which is about God reshaping you with power so you may live from it at each moment, aware of Jesus meeting you and giving you a mission at once human and divine.
1. See John 13.23; 19.26 and Chapters 20 and 21.
2. It is peculiar that printed versions of the gospel have reverted to the Greek word for Twin, Didymus, when few hearers know Greek!
3. John 11.16.
4. Quotation #5243 from Cole's Quotables
5. This is the meaning of the Greek tense of the verb, to believe, indicating that it is a life-long process.
Wiki-images of the Incredulity of St. Thomas and a star cluster are in the public domain.