Today, the first Sunday after Pascha, is known as Thomas Sunday, for we hear how Jesus Christ appeared to the Apostle Thomas and strengthened his faith.
Saint John tells us that Jesus Christ had appeared to the Apostles after the Resurrection, confirming their mission and breathing on them the Holy Spirit. However, Saint Thomas was not with them on this occasion, and insisted that he would not believe unless Christ appeared to him too. And eight days after the Resurrection Jesus Christ came to him. Overcome by faith, Thomas cried out: “My Lord and my God.”
Saint Thomas is sometimes referred to as “Doubting Thomas,” yet today’s Gospel shows us his deep faith which would lead him to proclaiming the Gospel in distant lands. However, he was not content to simply accept things on hearsay, or to assent to things simply to please others. He knew that faith had to be real, and he therefore had to go through a process which culminated in his meeting with the Risen Lord.
Like Saint Thomas, we may also go through times when we find it difficult to believe, or we may have difficulty accepting something simply because others say so. However, today’s Gospel shows us that we come to faith not simply through rational reasoning, nor through simply accepting the reports of others. Rather, we also need to encounter the Risen Christ in our lives, for it is in meeting Him that we too will be overcome by the reality of His presence. And we encounter Him in an ongoing life of prayer – in listening to the Gospel and participating in the sacramental life of the Church, in opening ourselves to Him so that He can become ever-more real to us.
It was not an accident that that particular disciple was not present. The divine mercy ordained that a doubting disciple should, by feeling in his Master the wounds of the flesh, heal in us the wounds of unbelief. The unbelief of Thomas is more profitable to our faith than the belief of the other disciples. For the touch by which he is brought to believe confirms our minds in belief, beyond all questions.
Saint Gregory Dialogos
The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 20:19-31:
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them: “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him: “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them: “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe.”
Eight days later, His disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said: “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to Him: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.