23 April [Second Sunday of Easter]
Jn 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." 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 them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, 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 the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, 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. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." 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 have come to believe."
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

The year was about 90 A.D.  John's generation was disappearing; none of the younger Christians had known Jesus in the flesh, nor had they witnessed his appearances after the Resurrection.  John's gospel wants to include them.  "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." 

Thomas refused to believe what he had not seen; later he saw and believed.  What did he see?  Nothing that a sceptic couldn’t reasonably doubt.  "If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead" (Luke 16:30).  It takes more than eye-witnessing to make faith.  A faith that restricts itself to what is evident to the senses and reason is faith in reason, not faith in God or in Jesus….  Religious faith is not a balance of evidence but an opening of the mind and heart. 

Is our faith irrational then?  The traditional answer is no: it is not against reason, but beyond it, nevertheless overlapping in part.  There is a strong temptation to remain within that overlap, effectively reducing the faith to a kind of "philosophy for the millions."  If a person wanted to discredit the faith, the best way would be to argue weakly in its favour.  In rejecting the arguments, people would also reject the faith.  Sadly, this is just what we often do. 

An argument is like a lock; we talk about 'clinching' an argument.  It is always useful to ask yourself what you have won when you have won an argument.  What have you pinned down and enclosed, what do you now have in your grip?  It can often be a lonely thing to win an argument; you are left with a little patch that you have identified with yourself, and you have missed the wide world. 

The disciples had locked themselves in.  Fear was their motive, as it is the motive behind all locks.  Suddenly, "Jesus came and stood among them."  It does not say that he knocked on the door and asked to be admitted: they would not have believed him anyway.  It does not say he rattled keys in the lock: that would have frightened them even more.  Inexplicably, against all sense and reason, he stood among them; he stood within the tight circle of their fear.  Fear is a lock that can be opened only from the inside. 

Jesus still stands within the sealed and guarded heart, if we dare to let ourselves believe it. 


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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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