Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
Our readings are those for the Feast of St. Thomas, celebrated on December 21. Yes, I know we're pretty far ahead of December 21, but there's a big pile of holidays at the end of December and beginning of January, so we'll be behind before you know it.
There comes a time in all our lives when we have to discard our questions. That time came to Thomas eight days after the resurrection of Christ. Our Gospel reading for this week, from John 20:24-29, records the occasion.
Thomas has been unbelieving. That's clear already from the fact that he was missing at the earlier visit of Jesus to his disciples after the resurrection. Thomas didn't believe it was real. His hopes had been shattered by Jesus' death and by the end of Jesus' three days in the tomb, Thomas had decided the message Jesus had been giving him for several years was null and void.
Somehow his fellow disciples managed to reach out to him and gather him together with them again. He still didn't believe, but at least he was there.
Thomas had been saying that he needed not only to see Jesus but to touch his wounds. Then, and only then, would he believe in the resurrection. In short, Thomas was asking for a proof of the resurrection of the very person who was crucified, and was asking for a proof which nobody else had received, which nobody else had demanded.
Most of us, confronted with Thomas, would rather shortly shrug our shoulders and allow him to go his way. Not these other disciples, and not our Lord. They gathered with him. There was no guarantee that anything would happen. Jesus had not, as far as we know, promised the disciples that he would come to them when they could get Thomas into the room.
The other disciples, acting in faith, and Thomas, acting in unbelief, were assembled. Jesus came into the room. He knew what Thomas had been saying, and apparently what he had been thinking.
Did Thomas actually touch the risen Christ, putting his finger to the nail marks and his hand to the side? It's what Jesus offered. This is an argument from silence, but I think it is a valid one. John, who normally gives a good bit of detail, says nothing about Thomas' actions when Jesus tells him to go ahead and touch him. John simply records Thomas' confession that Jesus is indeed his Lord and his God. I don't think Thomas checked. He saw, and that is was enough.
Jesus even asked him if he believed just because he saw him! This also suggests that Thomas never did lay his hands on Jesus.
Jesus then proclaims a blessing on those who have not seen but have believed. With this gentle chastening, Thomas realizes his unbelief. We don't know much about Thomas' later actions. However, early and credible accounts suggest that Thomas brought the Gospel to the people of India and died a martyr's death there.
This passage suggests that it might just be a good idea to gather unbelieving people, including those who seem to have walked way from an earlier Christian faith, to hear the Gospel some more. Who might be the next person who comes, unbelieving, into the gathering of Christians, hears and believes the Gospel, and lays down his arguments? It might just be the person who will carry the Gospel with him to many others who have never heard, but need to believe, even without seeing.
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