To put it mildly, Thomas is rather reluctant to believe in Jesus’ resurrection! He makes his position on that very clear: ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ His words are very harsh. Thomas knows what happened to Jesus – he has no doubts about his horrific death; and judging by his words, he certainly was a witness to Jesus’ final hours. Jesus is dead, and that’s the end of the story; nothing’s going to change that.
Thomas’ incredulity reflects the stance of many our fellow countrymen and -women. There are very few who would question the existence of Jesus, an individual born and living in Palestine about two thousand years ago. Many can appreciate his teachings on social and moral aspects of life. But, for an ever-growing number of people, Jesus is a stone-cold dead figure, buried in the past and irrelevant to modern life. The whole concept of the resurrection is a thing of fairytales like Santa – nothing that a grown-up would take seriously.
The conditions set by Thomas seem to be prohibitive, impossible to fulfil. But as we heard in the gospel, that’s exactly what happens eight days later. His wish is granted, the risen Jesus offers Thomas his hands and his side for inspection. In response, Thomas professes his faith: ‘My Lord and my God.’ As his follower, and as one of the closest disciples, Thomas was deeply upset by Jesus’ death. His refusal to believe in the resurrection was so strong because of that. Meeting the Risen Lord was possible because Thomas was passionate about Jesus.
The greatest problem with faith nowadays is that many people are indifferent to it. They don’t bother; religion is of no importance to them, but they do accept others’ right to believe whatever they want, however ridiculous the beliefs may seem. This kind of social agreeable harmony is welcome, and should be valued as a great achievement. An unintended effect of that is the atmosphere of indifference. In the Book of the Apocalypse there are words describing this: ‘I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.’ In this climate of indifference, it’s up to you and me to make a difference.
In today’s gospel it’s a simple sentence that fires up Thomas; a simple statement of faith, a simple sharing of the good news: ‘We have seen the Lord.’ These words knock Thomas out of his stupor and his resignation to Jesus’ death. They unintentionally open up Thomas’ own wounds and push him to react angrily, expressing his anger in harsh words. But over the course of eight days – quite a while – he has to deal with that new reality, and eventually it brings him to the recognition that Jesus is indeed alive.
Paradoxically, today’s gospel is a call to us who do believe in the Risen and ever-present Lord. It’s a call to share with people around us that ‘we have seen the Lord.’ It’s not a call to tell people about going to church or attending Mass; it’s a call to show them by our words and actions that Jesus is alive and that he has a positive impact on our lives. Does he?