Then Jesus said to 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.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God” (Jn 20:27-28)!
Thomas’ acclamation “My Lord and my God!” came from his touching the wounds of Jesus. Jesus, who had risen from the dead, had conquered death, and yet still bore the wounds of his Passion. This is a profound message to the Apostles, those Jesus sent to proclaim his Gospel, and for us who have been called to follow him today.
The Body of Christ is still wounded by the sin and division of our fallen nature that put him on the Cross. This reality is a reason that many doubt and do not believe today. Many decry, how can a loving God allow such suffering and pain, especially of the innocent? Blaming and scapegoating, or putting blinders on and keeping the messiness of life at arm’s length is not the answer. The path of a disciple, an apostle, is to first say yes to Jesus’ invitation to, “Come and follow me”, and then to allow ourselves to be led by Jesus into our own woundedness, while at the same time, enter into the pain and suffering of others. Immersed in the chaos of life, like Thomas and the other Apostles, we come to touch the wounded side of Jesus, where healing can begin.
Though the temptation is strong to deny, rationalize, or flee from the conflict, challenges, hurt, and pain that we and others are experiencing, we must resist. If we don’t embrace our or other’s trials we will not come to the root cause of them. We touch the wounded Body of Christ, as Thomas did today, when we are willing to touch one another, to be present and accompany those who bear his wounds, those who are vulnerable: the unborn, widows, orphans, those with chronic illness, the dying, refugees, immigrants, hungry, homeless, and those without access to clean water; those who suffer from addiction, poverty, depression, disease, oppression, prejudice, discrimination, dehumanization, racism, sexism, misogyny, unjust immigration policies, incarceration, those on death row, unemployment, underemployment, wage theft, human trafficking, domestic violence, slavery, violence, war, terrorism, and natural disasters. For what we do to the least among us, we do it to Jesus.
We can be easily overwhelmed with the suffering in our country, our world, or the personal challenges before us. Denial or indifference is not the answer. There is an act of balancing that Jesus calls us to participate in as we learn to love God, love others, and love our neighbors as ourselves. The answer is found when we are willing to encounter Jesus and follow his lead. This begins when we are willing to begin or continue to develop a relationship with him and one another.
We do not know where Thomas was when the Apostles first encountered Jesus after the Resurrection, but we do know he was not with Jesus. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing, yet with Jesus, the one who conquered death, all things are possible! When we feel overwhelmed, helpless, or indecisive, we need to return to Jesus and acclaim with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus is present in our midst, just as he was with Thomas and the other Apostles. He invites us to be engaged in our unique way today to make our corner of the world a little better. We can reach out, even in our present state of social distancing and engage person to person, to share a smile – even with our eyes, we can provide a listening ear, make a call, send a text, FaceTime or ZOOM, and/or send a letter. (I received a wonderful card from a parishioner who saw my homily this past Saturday online and reached out.) Being willing to enter into the chaos of another’s life, to hear their story, their experience, and be willing to listen and be present is a good way to begin and sustain a relationship. This is a step that will help us to move in a more reconciliatory direction in our present time.
St. Thomas, on your feast day, pray for us!
Painting: The Incredulity of St Thomas by Caravaggio, 1601-1602