“Doubting” Thomas’ Encounter with the Risen Jesus

This is the second week of an Easter series on the Resurrection. This week, we encounter the Risen Jesus from the perspective of Saint Thomas the Apostle.

By: Rev. Robert Wagner, Secretary to Bishop Loverde

To be fair, none of the Apostles were quick to believe the news that Jesus had risen, as is seen in the Resurrection accounts of Mark, Luke and John. Thomas, however, was the only one saddled with the unfortunate moniker of “Doubting Thomas.”

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First, it is important to note that, unlike the other Apostles, Thomas was not present in the upper room on Easter Day. In this way, he had separated himself from the Church, that is, the disciples of Jesus. Yes, they also wavered in their faith, but they were able to support each other and encourage each other with memories of Jesus and what He taught them. By himself, Thomas was prone to doubt, just as we are when we remove ourselves from the community of the Church. Jesus revealed Himself to the 10 who stayed together, in a sense showing us how we must remain united to Him through the Church, His Mystical Body, so that He might come to reveal Himself to us in our lives as well.

Yet even when the others share with Thomas how Jesus showed them His hands and side as proof of His identification, Thomas, in his doubt, declares his desire not only to see the hands and side of Jesus, but to probe the nail marks with his fingers and place his hand in the great wound in Our Lord’s side. To many of us, this request seems extreme, if not grisly. Seeing the wounds seems sufficient. But there is something deeper that drives Thomas, boldness in his quest for the truth.

At the Last Supper, Thomas showed that same boldness of speech after Our Lord told the 12 that He would prepare a place for them in heaven, and they could come to be with Him and His Father. “Where I am going, you know the way,” Jesus told them (Jn 14:4). Confused, Thomas asked what everyone else was thinking: “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” (Jn 14:5). His boldness to ask a question that others were afraid to ask was rewarded by a response that must have rung in the hearts of the Apostles as it rings in ours today, for Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6).

Similarly, the boldness of Thomas’ Easter request to place his fingers in the nail marks and his hand in the open side of Jesus was rewarded by Our Lord the following Sunday. When Jesus appeared the Sunday after Easter, He told Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe” (Jn 20:27). We cannot help but think that Thomas took Jesus up on His offer, perhaps because it was a command from the Lord, or perhaps because it was a desire of Thomas to know the Resurrection through the senses. Our Lord generously answered the bold request of Thomas, moving the Apostle to proclaim, “My Lord and my God!” Today, this is a phrase that many Catholics piously repeat when they kneel in the presence of Our Lord as the priest elevates the Eucharist at every Mass. Like Thomas, they are ready to meet Jesus intimately in the Eucharist as the Apostle met Him intimately in the flesh.

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As at the Last Supper, when Jesus revealed that He was the Way, the Truth and the Life, Jesus once more offers Thomas words that are meant to bring us joy and peace today, 2,000 years later: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Yes, we who cannot place our hands in the side of the Risen Christ or put our fingers into the nail marks in His hands are blessed because we have the faith to believe what Thomas encountered through his boldness.

Through the intercession of Saint Thomas, may we boldly seek to know Jesus Christ through the Scriptures, in prayer, and especially in the sacraments. Strengthened by the faith that tethers us to Jesus and our brothers and sisters who make up His Church, we will be rewarded for our boldness, just as Thomas was.

Blessed are we who have not seen and still believe.

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