SET-2: Season of Resurrection
Saint Thomas the Apostle insisted that he would believe that Jesus had resurrected only if he would see the Risen Lord and touch the scars left by the wounds on his hands and side. Jesus’ apparition to Thomas in the presence of the other apostles added yet further proof of the resurrection. Jesus is the focus of the story because he who washed the feet of his apostles was so humble as to appear before Thomas and bow to all his demands to set his doubts at rest. Thomas expressed his firm belief in the Risen Lord and committed himself to the spread of the gospel and even became a martyr for Christ in 72 AD. Today being the feast of the Divine Mercy, let us express our trust in the Lord, seek his mercy for our sins and the sins of the world, and show mercy to all whom we encounter!
My Lord and My God
(Jn 20:24) Thomas, the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. (25) The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he replied, “Until I have seen in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (26) Eight days later, the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. Despite the locked doors Jesus came in. He stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” (27) Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands; stretch out your hand and put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.” (28) Thomas then said, “My Lord and my God.” (29) Jesus replied, “You believe because you see me. Blessed are those who believe although they have not seen.”
(Jn 20:30) There were many other miraculous signs that Jesus did in the presence of his disciples, but they are not recorded in this book. (31) These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Though Jesus had predicted his resurrection on the third day after his burial, the disciples did not expect it. On Sunday early morning, while it was still dark, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb and noticed the stone removed from its entrance. She reported that to Simon Peter and John. They ran to the tomb, went inside, and believed in the resurrection. Later, Jesus first appeared to Mary of Magdala, and she recounted that to the disciples. On that evening, Jesus appeared to the disciples, who were in a locked room for fear of the Jews. “He showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (Jn 20:20). He told them he was sending them like his Father sent him. He gave them the Holy Spirit by breathing on them and handed them the authority to forgive and retain sins (Jn 20:21-23). Thomas missed this opportunity because he was absent at that gathering of the apostles.
My Lord and My God
(24) Thomas, the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
Thomas, called Didymus
Thomas is a Hebrew name, and Didymus is its Greek equivalent. Both names signify twin which Thomas apparently was in his family. The Jews used to have a Jewish name and a Gentile name. In Judaea, the public knew them by their Hebrew names, and in Galilee and other non-Jewish areas, people used their Gentile names. For example, Saul was the Hebrew name and Paul was the Greek name of the Apostle Paul.
One of the Twelve
Jesus kept many Jewish traditions, and one was the importance he gave to the numeral 12 when selecting his apostles. They stood for the 12 sons or tribes of Israel. After the death of Judas, the college of the apostles was very particular about keeping the same number by selecting Mathias to substitute Judas Iscariot.
Thomas was not with them when Jesus came
It was not only Judas or Peter who failed in their promises during Christ’s passion. Thomas, who had told his colleagues, “Let us also go to die with him” (Jn 11:16), also made himself scarce when Jesus’ trial and crucifixion took place. However, he worked hard for the Church and accepted martyrdom in 72 AD. Thomas might have been suffering from the guilt feeling that he, like Peter, had behaved like a coward. Further, he might have opted to grieve in private rather than with the group. He probably forgot the words of Jesus, “ Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them” (Mt 18:20).
(25) The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he replied, “Until I have seen in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the marks of the nails and my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Thomas doubted the testimony of his ten colleagues, probably because he thought they were hallucinating. He needed to physically touch and feel the scars of the severe wounds on Jesus’ body before his doubts could be set at rest.
The crucifixion of criminals was by nailing or fastening the hands and feet to the cross with cords. Thomas’ statement is a secondary confirmation that Jesus had been nailed to the cross. It also dovetailed with Psalm 22:16, “They have pierced my hands and feet.”
Put my hand into his side
Thomas probably knew that Longinus, a blind centurion, had pierced Jesus’ heart. He probably came to know about it from the eyewitness account of John. So, Thomas wanted to touch that wound mark.
(26) Eight days later, the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. Despite the locked doors, Jesus came in. He stood among them and said,
“Peace be with you.”
Jesus’ second appearance to Thomas and the other apostles was on the Sunday after Easter. Though the apostles might have been gathering often, this Sunday gathering might have been for special prayers to commemorate the Lord’s resurrection. This time also, as in the past week, the disciples locked the doors for fear of the Jews. And the same greeting of Jesus as before, “Peace be unto you,” was a normal greeting with a new meaning of the peace of the resurrection added to it.
Thomas was with them
Thomas probably didn’t want to miss out on the privilege of meeting the Risen Lord, should he make a repeat appearance. So, this time, he joined himself with them in prayer.
(27) Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands; stretch out your hand and put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.”
During the previous Sunday, Thomas missed Jesus’ visit and all that Jesus did for the other apostles. However, on the second Sunday, Thomas got exclusive attention from Jesus by being called by name and invited to touch the scars left on his body by the wounds resulting from his crucifixion. The other 10 apostles might have wondered about the special privilege Jesus gave to Thomas.
Doubt no longer but believe
The doubt here means the unbelief of Thomas in Jesus’ resurrection and his tendency to move backwards in his spiritual relationship with Jesus. A firm believer trusts the Lord without seeking evidence.
(28) Thomas then said, “My Lord and my God”
Jesus, knowing the demands of Thomas without him asking, surprised Thomas. Besides, the Lord was humbling himself by way of appearing before him and yielding to his demands. Without waiting to touch for belief, Thomas responded with a striking profession of faith.
“My Lord and my God!”
There are different shades of meaning for the words “Lord” and “God”. The term God comes from Hebrew “Elohim” and Greek “Theos”. God stands for the all-powerful one who created the world and sustains it. The word “Lord” comes from Hebrew “Adonai” and Greek “Kurios”/“Kyrios.” Its translation is Yahweh (Jehovah), who interacts with people like making Adam out of clay, breathing into his nostrils, creating Eve out of Adam’s rib, conversing with our first parents, and making a covenant with the people. Elohim came from the Priestly tradition, and Yahweh came from the Yahwistic tradition in the Bible. Thus, the Old Testament used both Lord and God when referring to God the Almighty. Psalm 35:23 uses, “My God and my Lord.”
The disciples called Jesus “the Song of God” or, “the Lord”. That could mean someone in a higher rank. In Matthew 16:16, Simon Peter answered Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus had asserted he was God and for that reason, the Jews accused him of blasphemy. However, that might have been precisely where Thomas got the inspiration to say to the Risen Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” By that, Thomas declared that he had seen Jesus so far, as his Lord. However, he acknowledged that the Lord is also the Mighty God. Hence, Thomas had advanced in his belief and conviction. He expressed his faith in the divinity of Jesus. Jesus himself had said in John 14:9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Thomas, while seeing the Risen Lord, acknowledged that God the Father was visible in Jesus.
(29) Jesus replied, “You believe because you see me. Blessed are those who believe although they have not seen”
We believe many things in our daily secular and spiritual life without seeing or with no proof. We trust in the words or reports of others. Jesus compliments those who believe with spiritual sight than with physical sight. Thomas’ expression of doubt and Jesus’ yielding to his pre-conditions to belief became another proof of Jesus’ resurrection.
(Jn 20:30) There were many other miraculous signs that Jesus did in the presence of his disciples, but they are not recorded in this book .
There were many other miraculous signs that Jesus did
The evangelists recorded details of only a few miracles of Jesus. Others are summarized such as, “Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them” (Mt 15:30). The intention of the evangelists was not to write a thorough biography of Jesus as such, but to put in writing for posterity the Gospel for the faith of their readers.
in the presence of his disciples
The disciples were witnesses to Jesus’ miracles, even from the first one he had done at the wedding at Cana in Galilee. From then on, they realized the truth of his glory and believed in him. John the evangelist was a close companion of Jesus and witnessed most of the public ministry of Jesus. We’ve seen earlier in this book that he was with Jesus even on certain rare occasions, along with Peter and James. He was the only apostle who witnessed the crucifixion along with Mary, the mother of Jesus. John, after documenting the piercing of Jesus’ heart, says, “An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may [come to] believe” (Jn 19:35).
but they are not recorded in this book
During the public ministry of Jesus, the disciples did not know that they would later document the life and teachings of Jesus. When it did finally come to putting it on record for the use of later Christians and evangelists, they selected what they each thought might be relevant to their respective readership from among the numerous actions and teachings of Jesus. Presumably, it was difficult to record all the vigorous activities and teachings of Jesus for over three years at a time when documentation was yet to develop.
(31) These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God
These verses conclude the gospel, expressing the intention of the evangelist. His purpose is the missionary goal of convincing non-believers that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God, or to cause an upsurge in the faith of prospective Christians in Jesus. While helping others who desperately needed the miraculous intervention, Jesus made use of them to reveal his glory to facilitate the faith of his disciples (Jn 2:11). “A large crowd followed Him because they saw the signs He was performing on the sick” (Jn 6:2).
Though the terms “Messiah” and “Son of God” do apply to Jesus, they each have different shades of meaning. The Hebrew word “Messiah” or in Greek “Christ” means the anointed one. The Jews were expecting the anointing of a new King for Israel as a reminiscent of David, whom God would send to liberate them from bondage, and rule over them forever. The appellation, “Son of God”, meant that Jesus is God, who came from God with the mission of saving humanity unto Himself.
by believing you may have life in his name
The outcome of belief in Jesus is the inheritance of eternal life, free from the bondage of Satan and sin. Referring to Moses who lifted up the serpent in the desert, Jesus predicted he would also be lifted up “so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3:14-16). That belief involves hearing the word of God and belief in God who sent Jesus. “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life” (Jn 5:24). Our goal as Christians should be the inheritance of eternal glory. That can be achieved only through Jesus as we see in Peter’s address to the Sanhedrin: “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12).
MESSAGE OF DIVINE MERCY
Today is also Divine Mercy Sunday. This devotion to Jesus developed from the visions of a Polish nun, Maria Faustina Kowalska, who was born on 25 August 1905, and died on 05 October 1938. She had a vision of Jesus on 22 February 1931. Jesus asked her to paint his image as she had seen in the vision. An artist completed the Divine Mercy painting in June 1934 according to the description of Sister Faustina. Jesus gave messages to Faustina from 1931 to 1938. The message of the Divine Mercy was a great comfort for the victims of the Second World War. Pope John Paul II issued an encyclical on the Divine Mercy on 30 November 1980. He canonized Faustina and proclaimed the Divine Mercy celebration on Sunday, 30 April 2000. Based on the message of Jesus to Sister Faustina, the Catholic Church celebrates this feast every year on the second Sunday of Easter.
The Divine Mercy gives us three themes:
1. To ask for and get God’s mercy,
2. To trust in Christ’s abundant mercy,
3. To show mercy to others and function as a channel for God’s mercy towards them.
The five chief forms of Divine Mercy devotion are:
1. The Divine Mercy image with the specific inscription, “Jesus, I trust in you,”
2. The Divine Mercy Sunday feast celebration,
3. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy recital,
4. The designation of the Hour of Mercy at 3:00 pm,
5. The spreading of the acts of mercy to the entire world, to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ.
The image of the Divine Mercy depicts Jesus standing with one hand outstretched for blessing and the other pointing to his pierced heart. From the broken heart proceed beams of red and white light. The two colours represent blood and water that flowed from Jesus’ heart when the centurion pierced it. The water stands for Baptism and the blood for the Holy Eucharist that we receive for our salvation.
Jesus taught us the mercy of his Father and shared that mercy during his life on earth. He was kind to Thomas, who missed the first post-resurrection appearance to the group. Jesus conveyed his special love towards the modern world through visions and messages to Sister Faustina. Let us trust in the Lord and seek his mercy and get involved in acts of mercy.
1. Jesus appeared every Sunday to his disciples after his resurrection and before his ascension into heaven. Jesus comes down to meet us during every Holy Mass, especially on Sundays. Let us give proper importance for our Sunday observance.
2. Since Thomas did not keep the company of his fellow apostles, he missed the excellent opportunity to meet the Risen Lord on the day of the resurrection. While he was absent, Jesus breathed on the other apostles and commissioned them to spread the gospel and empowered them to forgive and withhold sins. Though he got these later from Jesus, the experience of Thomas is a lesson for us to keep up the Christian brotherhood.
3. Thomas’ missed opportunity of witnessing the first appearance of Jesus to the apostles on Easter Sunday holds a lesson for us. Some claim that true spirituality has got nothing to do with the community. They hold it suffices to have faith in God and do their prayers. Jesus wants us to be in communion with the Church because he is the head of the Church, and the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church. Holy Mass and the other sacraments are our essential spiritual nourishment.
4. The compassion of Jesus towards the stubborn Thomas is a model for us. Jesus, who washed the feet of his disciples, again showed them how to be humble and caring towards ‘difficult’ people.
5. Divine Mercy Sunday reminds us that we must show mercy to others just as God is merciful to us. Jesus gave that message several times, including his prediction on the last judgement. Let us put that teaching into practice.
6. The experience of Saint Thomas and the messages of Divine Mercy through Saint Faustina are messages to trust in the Lord, to seek God’s mercy, and to show mercy to others in our daily lives.
7. Saint Thomas, seeing the Risen Lord and Saint Faustina’s vision of Jesus, points to the wounded heart of Jesus. His sacrificial love from his heart is a lesson for us to follow in serving others from our hearts.
8. John the evangelist concludes his gospel, stating that he wrote its contents so that we may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief we may have life in his name (Jn 20:31). Let us read and reflect on the gospels and put into practice the teachings of Jesus contained therein, so that we inherit eternal life as its outcome.