Lectio Divina: St. Thomas, Ap - Jn. 20,24-29
1) Opening prayer
You call your children
to walk in the light of Christ.
Free us from darkness
and keep us in the radiance of Your truth.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - John 20:24-29
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord." But Thomas said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." Then he 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!" Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."
• Today is the Feast of Saint Thomas, and the Gospel speaks to us about the encounter of Jesus with Thomas, the apostle who wanted to see in order to believe. For this reason many call him “Doubting Thomas.”
The message of the Gospel today is much more profound and timely than it might initially appear. Let us look deeper into it:
• John 20:24-25: The doubt of Thomas. Thomas, one of the twelve, was not present when Jesus appeared to the disciples the week before. He did not believe in the witness of the others who said, “We have seen the Lord.” He gives some conditions: “Unless I can see the holes that the nails made in His hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into His side, I refuse to believe.” Thomas is very demanding. In order to believe he wants to see! He does not want a miracle in order to believe. No! He wants to see the signs on the hands, on the feet and on the side! He does not believe in the glorious Jesus, separated from the human Jesus who suffered on the Cross. When John writes, at the end of the first century, there were some people who did not accept the coming of the Son of God in the flesh (2Jn 7; 1 Jn 4:2-3). They were the Gnostics, who despised matter and the body. John presents this concern of Thomas to criticize the Gnostics: “To see in order to believe.” Thomas’ doubt also makes us see the difficulty of believing in the Resurrection!
• John 20:26-27: Do not be unbelieving but believe. The text says “six days later.” That means that Thomas was capable of maintaining his opinion for a whole week against the witness of the other apostles. Stubborn! Thank God, for us! Thus, six days later, during the community meeting, they once again had the profound experience of the presence of the risen Lord in their midst. The closed doors could not prevent the presence of Jesus in the midst of those who believe in him. Today, it is also like this. When we are meeting, even when we are meeting with the doors closed, Jesus is in our midst. The first word of Jesus is, and will always be, “Peace be with you!” What impresses us is the kindness of Jesus. He does not criticize, nor does He judge the disbelief of Thomas, but He accepts the challenge and says, “Thomas, put your finger in the hole of My hands!” Jesus confirms the conviction of Thomas and of the communities, that the glorious Risen One is the tortured crucified One! The Jesus who is in the community is not a glorious Jesus who has nothing in common with our life. He is the same Jesus who lived on this earth and on His body He bears the signs of His Passion. The signs of the Passion are found today in the sufferings of people, in hunger, in the signs of torture and injustice. Jesus becomes present in our midst in the people who react, who struggle for life and who do not allow themselves to be disheartened. Thomas believes in this Christ and so do we!
• John 20:28-29: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. Together with Thomas we say: “My Lord and my God!” This gift of Thomas is the ideal attitude of faith. And Jesus concludes with a final message: “You believe because you can see Me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe!” With this phrase, Jesus declares blessed all of us who find ourselves in the same condition: without having seen, we believe that Jesus, who is in our midst, is the same One who died crucified!
The mandate: “As the Father sent Me so I am sending you!” From this Jesus, who was crucified and rose from the dead, we receive the mission, the same one which He has received from the Father (Jn 20:21). Here, in the second appearance, Jesus repeats, “Peace be with you!” This repetition stresses the importance of peace. Making peace is part of the mission. Peace means much more than the absence of war. It means to build a harmonious human life together in which people can be themselves, having everything necessary to live, living happily together in peace. This was the mission of Jesus and is also our own mission. Jesus breathed and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:22), and with the help of the Holy Spirit we will be able to fulfill the mission which He has entrusted to us. Then Jesus communicates the power to forgive sins: “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained!” The central point of the mission of peace is reconciliation, the effort of trying to overcome barriers which separate us. This power of reconciling and of forgiving is given to the community (Jn 20:23; Mt 18:18). In the Gospel of Matthew, this power is also given to Peter (Mt 16:19). Here we can see that a community without forgiveness and without reconciliation is not a Christian community. In one word, our mission is that of “forming community” according to the example of the community of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
4) Personal questions
• In society today, the divergence and the tensions of race, social class, religion, gender and culture are enormous and they continue to grow every day. How can the mission of reconciliation be carried out today?
• In your community and in your family is there some mustard seed, the sign of a reconciled society?
For further study
Saint Thomas traveled east to India and converted many in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu to Christianity in the first century. The history of the Church in India is very diverse, with many rifts. However, one of these communities of “Saint Thomas Christians” (Nasrani) is the Syro-Malabar Church, one of several Eastern Churches which are in full communion with Rome.
Take some time to look at the history of some of these Eastern Churches this week. In addition to the various Roman Rites, there are several other Rites used throughout these Churches. These historical traditions are preserved within the Vatican through the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
5) Concluding Prayer
Praise Yahweh, all nations,
extol Him, all peoples,
for His faithful love is strong
and His constancy never-ending. (Ps 117)