The past week has been a week of interesting meetings. I mean the gospel readings of the Octave of Easter. Last Monday, Mary Magdalene visited an empty tomb and met Jesus on the way as related by the gospel writer, Matthew. On Tuesday, the same meeting was described with more details by the John the evangelist. On Wednesday, Luke tells the beautiful story of Jesus appearing to two disciples while they were on their way to Emmaus. On Thursday, Jesus appeared to the group of disciples and showed them the wounds of his hands and feet (Luke). On Friday, the scene goes fast forward (John). The disciples had left Jerusalem and they were back in Galilee where Jesus appeared to them while they were fishing. Yesterday, the writer Mark summarized all the appearances. This brings us to this Sunday’s gospel where the scene goes back to Jerusalem and the drama of Jesus appearing to Thomas, the doubting apostle unfolded.
Action starter: Meet somebody dear to you with the same attitude of unconditional acceptance.
All these stories told by all the four gospels point to one event – Jesus is risen from the dead. Jesus appeared to his disciples and stayed with them for forty more days. He was the same yet something has changed. He walked, talked and ate with them. However, He would appear suddenly, out of nowhere, and vanish from their sight. He passed through closed doors, and it took awhile before He was recognized. The marks of the nails were on His hands and feet, yet His glorified body overcame the normal laws of nature.
The effect on the disciples were varied. They were “fearful but overjoyed,” “incredulous for joy,” “startled and terrified,” and in the case of Thomas, he was unbelieving, until Jesus personally appeared to him and showed His wounds to be touched. From unbelief, Thomas turned to belief as he affirmed, “My Lord, and my God” (John 20:28).
In all these appearances, I am particularly struck by the attitude of Peter. He went running to the tomb upon hearing it was empty (John 20:3). On the Sea of Tiberias, Peter jumped into the water and swam to Jesus on the shore. His attitude is like that of a child who gets excited at seeing his mother coming home. There is no hesitation or conditions. Only one thing matters – the beloved is here. Peter even forgot that he has denied Jesus three times. We can compare Peter’s attitude to that of Thomas. Thomas doubted and he presented conditions, “Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (Jn. 20:26).
These two apostles are sources of consolation for us contemporary disciples. The Lord accepts us unconditionally as he accepted Peter and Thomas. Despite his lack of courage at a critical time, Peter’s great love for the Lord was enough for him to be forgiven and accepted. On the other hand, Thomas’ doubting attitude was not ground for excluding him from the group of apostles. Jesus took the initiative to win back Thomas by showing him his wounds.
Indeed, the Lord Jesus is Lord of Pardon and Mercy. This Sunday is a celebration of the Feast of the Divine Mercy. We may be sinful and undeserving as Peter, or we may be doubtful as Thomas, discouraged like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, sad as Mary Magdalene but the Lord comes to meet us as we are and transforms our sadness, disappointments, and unworthiness into joy.
The Risen Lord greets us, “Peace be with you.” Let us accept His greeting with joy and meet Him no matter what we are or where we are.