In the first of this weekend’s readings, from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear an account of how many people came to faith in the risen Jesus Christ through the testimony of Peter and the other apostles, and through witnessing signs and wonders done in their midst “at the hands of the apostles.”
In the second reading, John, caught up in the spirit on the Lord’s day, is told by one that he sees in a vision “like a son of man” to “write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards.” Again, testimony.
And in the gospel, again, we hear of signs and wonders, and testimony. Despite locked doors, the risen Lord Jesus comes and stands in the midst of the disciples, saying “Peace be with you.” He shows them his wounds and gives them their mission: “as the Father has sent me, so I send you.” On Pentecost the fullness of the Holy Spirit is given to them and they are able to carry out their mission with astounding effectiveness, as is illustrated in today’s first reading.
The thing is, it’s our mission too to preach the good news, to be, as St. Teresa of Avila said, Christ’s body to be his hands, his feet, his compassion on earth. By baptism we are part of an unbroken line of succession, going back to the earliest apostles who walked the earth with, and received the mission from Jesus himself, risen from the dead.
But Thomas wasn’t there that night and he wasn’t going to believe on the testimony of his fellow apostles alone. In fact, in words he may later have regretted, he declares that he will never believe without seeing and probing Jesus’ wounds for himself.
When I was younger and first heard this story, Thomas’ standing seemed to be portrayed as “less than” that of the disciples that were there: “blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” What we can never know, though, is how any of the other disciples might have reacted if they were the one absent that night. And what about us? Are we among the blessed because we have not seen yet have believed?
I have always identified with Thomas and his obstinate insistence on evidence. What I love about this gospel story though is another sign and wonder: Jesus already knew Thomas’ heart when he appeared again and invited him to probe his wounds. The Lord knew what Thomas needed to come to belief and in his love provided it. Thomas went on to evangelize, faithful to the mission given by Jesus Christ. India was where he ended up, and the community of Christians he founded there still exists today. It is concentrated in the Indian state of Kerala, boasting an impressive eight million members, according to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association*. Not too shabby for one who doubted, eh? So take heart if you struggle with doubt and ask the Lord to give you what you need to be faithful to the mission. He will, though you may not immediately “see” it.
* This information courtesy of catholicexchange.com