The Gospel readings of the Easter season are almost entirely taken from St John, and are often called the “most spiritual” of all the Gospels. Indeed, the season of Easter invites us all to understand the workings of the Spirit, Jesus’s gift to his Church, and to allow our ‘life in the Spirit’ to take root and grow. What is this life in the Spirit ? In a word, it is the continuous experience of peace and courage in the heart of the believer, the constant enjoyment of the charisms.
The appearance of the Risen Lord to Thomas is of a piece with the other appearances of Jesus to the Twelve: Jesus strengthens the weak faith of the apostle, and thereby draws from Thomas the most explicit expression of faith found in the Gospels.
The scene before us: Thomas has been absent on Easter Sunday when Jesus first appeared to the Twelve. His refusal to accept the testimony of the others is a sign of his own grief and confusion. For him the proof of Jesus alive is a test of the senses – seeing and touching.
Jesus appears under the same circumstances as before, that is, he is physically present in their midst, and shows them the marks of the wounds in his body. The Gospels emphasize this to show that the Risen Jesus is the same person as Jesus of Nazareth. There is a continuity here, there is an affirmation of his identity. Jesus invites Thomas to place his hand into his side. The resurrection is not the product of an individual or collective hallucination.
Thomas’s reply is the most complete act of faith found in the Gospels: “My Lord and my God!” To the Jews this phrase meant the very name of God, and reminds us of the first line of John’s Gospel: “the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Thomas’s cry becomes the Christian confession of faith for ages to come.
Jesus blesses Thomas, and his words are addressed not just to the little group present, but to believers of all times. As important as the resurrection appearances are for the witnessing of the early Church, still, it is the Word itself – or the proclamation of the Gospel – which reveals the power of God, and will always be the most adequate motive of faith. Miracles, historical evidence, even physical contact as in Thomas’s case, may assist the one who seeks to believe, but it is in the preaching of the Gospel that the grace of God is to be found, and it is in the acceptance of the Gospel that our own faith is expressed.