Acts 5:12-15; Rev. 1:9-13.17-19; John 20:19-31
In today’s liturgy of the word, Jesus invites us to draw close to him in faith and to reflectively look at the reality of his resurrection. We are invited to bring our doubts and questions to the Lord in our prayers.
In Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, he still bore the marks and scars of his passion and crucifixion. He had the wounds of his crucifixion on his glorified body. Why was this the case? I have a true story which might give a clue to what perhaps the Lord was trying to demonstrate: There was a middle-aged widow in my home town, she was a working mother. Within the period of six years, she saw her three sons shot dead by armed robbers and political thugs. The youngest of them died right in front of her door. These incidents have left a deep wound in her heart. She relived her grief anytime a young person got killed in the neighbourhood.
Yet, she fought against being trapped by fear and a sense of victimhood. She decided to be reaching out for others. She formed a voluntary group whose primary goal is the combating of crime. She became an advocate of gun control, grassroots development and youth empowerment in the community. She started a support group for mothers whose young children were brutally murdered, including widows. When she told her story, she said that her worst days were the days after the death of her last boy. She wished her children were never born at all. Having done a fantastic job, she said her views have slightly changed. She now accepts that although there are indescribable sorrow and pain at the loss of her sons, in ways more than one, there is some joy and some hope as well. She says ‘if I had not had my sons, I wouldn’t have been the kind of person that I am today’. They help me to be strong. They aid me not to be selfish.
The frame of her door still bears the mark of the bullets which killed her youngest son. Although she doesn’t always notice them, she knows that they are there. She wouldn’t repair or change the door, she says. She wants the holes and the crack to be there as a stark reminder that a Youngman had lost his life there. When you fix things, people tend to forget, she reasons. Maybe that is why Jesus left the mark of his wounds on his risen and glorified body. Those wounds helped the disciples to recognize him. The sacred and precious wounds of Jesus are sources of consolation, courage and hope for us. They help us to come to terms with our own wounds as well. By his wounds, we are healed.
There is a tendency in us to hide our wounds because of the obscene belief that displaying weakness does not create respect. Those who don’t disguise their struggles, who admit they are human and do in fact do stupid things sometimes, by their actions and lives encourage others. An understanding of their own pains helps them to convert their weakness into strength and to offer their own experience as a source of healing for others.
We can sympathize with the apostles. The crucifixion was such a devastating experience for them. They had given up their jobs and careers to follow Jesus. They had invested heavily on him. The value and meaning of everything they had known or hoped for, was threatened: their comradeship, their faith, their lives. In this maze, the incredible happened, Jesus is once more in their midst. It was too much for Thomas. Thomas made no attempts to hide his doubts. Doubt is often seen as a sign of weakness. But it can be a growing point, a stepping stone to a deeper understanding. Great philosophers of old, started with doubts. One man called Rene Descartes calls his own ‘Methodical doubts’. Constructive doubts lead to new and informed knowledge. John’s doubts lead him to give the most profound statement of faith made in the entire Gospel of John ‘My Lord and my God’. Thomas Merton said ‘The man of faith who has never experienced doubts is not a man of faith’.
Every community could do with a character such as Thomas. That is, every community need to have someone who has the courage to ask the questions that no one else dares ask. Some people are truthful and prophetic and they help to keep others truthful and focused always. They upset the believers by demonstrating the fragility of their faith. They upset sceptics by making them feel the torments of the void. Having overcome the crisis of his faith, Thomas went on to become one of the greatest missionaries of the early church. He brought the Gospel to Persia, Syria and India, where he was martyred. He was the first of the apostles to die for the faith.
We are all called to witness as Thomas did. The world is full of unbelievers and doubters. The only way to convert them is if they can see Jesus and touch him in the exemplary and holy lives of his followers. Let us show forth the wounds of love that people may see and touch Christ in us.