On this second Sunday of the Easter season and Divine Mercy Sunday, we always hear the same set of readings that include the Gospel about Jesus’ encounter with “doubting Thomas.” Before going further, we can observe a few, key things. First of all, St. Thomas does have doubts and questions, of course “unless I see … unless I touch,” but this is not the same as putting God to the test. Notice too that he doubts not Jesus, but the witness of the disciples; an important difference! Perhaps, most significantly, our readings really lead us to focus not so much upon Thomas and his doubts in particular, but rather upon two realities: coming to a deep faith and belief in the risen Christ, and the role of the Christian community in our journey of faith and in our call to be witnesses of God’s love and mercy.

In the section before our First Reading (Acts 2:42-47), St. Peter, on the day of Pentecost has preached about the risen Christ, but now, in our reading, we are given a picture of the early Church, as a witness to and a fruit of belief in that resurrection. It is characterized above all by “communion;” both of material goods, but also in prayer and in the breaking of bread. As parishes, we might say, we are indeed called to be a community, but we are even more called to be a communion.

Our Second Reading (1 Peter 1:3-9) begins with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving (echoing many Jewish prayer elements) and then has words of encouragement to profess and live the faith in the resurrection, even in times of trial. Incidentally, once again (as last week), we use our “Easter psalm” of joy and thanksgiving (Psalm 118: 2-4, 13-15, 22-24) with its image of Jesus as the stone rejected by the builders that has become the cornerstone.
The Gospel (John 20:19-31) is packed with many fundamental Easter elements and images. Jesus appears to the disciples and immediately says,

“Peace be with you.” He does not say, “Hello, it is I, Jesus,” or “Yes, I have risen.” No! Significantly his first Easter words are “peace.” This gift of peace is such a great Easter gift and one we hanker after. Even more so for the disciples, who, we can imagine, are frightened and weak; hunkered down in the room and hardly at peace. Then, Jesus gives them that powerful gift of the Holy Spirit and their transformation is complete. No longer weak and frightened, they will become bold witnesses to the risen Lord strengthened with that inner tranquility of spirit. May we be the same!

Jesus also shows them his wounds. Why? Perhaps, above all, to show that he is not a ghost or a mirage, or some spirit. No, it is the risen and glorious Jesus who still bears the wounds he bore for us in his risen body. This, of course, reminds us of our faith in the “resurrection of the body” (not just of the spirit) as we profess in the Apostles’ Creed.

Only now do we meet Saint Thomas and our two themes of faith/belief and of community come together. Thomas has been alone; apart from the community of the other apostles. Such isolation is not good at all. We can imagine him isolated and afraid, perhaps even angry, or at least bewildered. Thomas was away from the community and, noticeably, the risen Jesus did not appear to him. As he joins the apostles, he hears their amazing claim after their encounter with the risen Lord. Perhaps he detects some change in them, but he is not going to go along with their unbelievable story that “we have seen the Lord.” He doubts them.

Jesus enters and repeats that Easter greeting of peace and then he repeats Thomas’ own earlier challenge or words of doubt to the disciples. Jesus does not invite, but uses the imperative, for Thomas to touch his wounds. Notice the reality of Jesus’ words. Use your fingers for the smaller wounds of the nails, but your whole hand for the larger wound in my side. We do not know whether Thomas actually touched the wounds or not. What we do know is that, instead, Jesus touched Thomas’ wounded heart and Thomas makes that great profession of faith: “my Lord and my God.” This is indeed divine mercy at work. Thomas went on to be a great missionary of the Church community, as far as India.

May we not be an isolated or a lone ranger Christian, for being a true disciple can be tough or scary at times. May we allow the Lord to touch our sometimes wounded heart and to help us in our struggles with faith. Then we can help others. May he give us his gift of peace, for, in Jesus we trust!