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 rose from the dead, had conquered death, and yet he 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 continues to be wounded by the sin and division of our fallen nature that put Jesus on the Cross in the first place. Many people doubt and do not believe today in God because they question, “How can a loving God allow such suffering and pain, especially of the innocent?” A valid question. And one for which there is no sufficient answer because we can only see from our limited point of view. The most recent example of the collapse of the Surfside condo, where there have been twenty-two confirmed dead so far and many still unaccounted for can cause us to question again, “Why?”
Regarding this specific tragedy, there will continue to be an investigation to find out what caused the collapse, but even so, that will not bring back those who have died. Knowing why will not necessarily ease the pain of loss although holding those accountable will bring some sense of justice. Yet the question can remain, “Why God? Where were you and do you care?”
God is present, God cares, though again we are limited in what we can see and understand. Also, death does not have the final answer. That is what Jesus showed Thomas in bringing him close to touch his wounded side. Jesus rose from the dead and conquered it, but the scarring of his wounds remained. Jesus calls us to draw close and to touch his wounds so we can embrace our own, those we can and cannot see. As we experience his healing, Jesus will send us, as he did Thomas and the others, to touch his wounded Body again this time by entering into the pain and suffering of others where God can happen and 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 draw close, 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 the unique way he calls us to serve 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 message from a past student on social media and a kind letter at the end of the school year.) Being willing to enter into the chaos of another’s life, to hear their story, their experience, and be willing to 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 from Caravaggio again: Incredulity of St Thomas, 1601-1602