Poor Thomas. His name has become part of our language – ‘doubting Thomas.’ But Thomas wasn’t any worse than the rest of Jesus’ apostles. They all ran away when Jesus was arrested. They all let Jesus down. And, even after Jesus has risen from the dead, we find the apostles locked in a room together, out of fear. It took time for them to understand the truth of Jesus’ Resurrection. Probably they felt guilty for having failed him. Perhaps they feared that, when they saw Jesus again, he would be angry with them.
That’s the first transformation that happens in this Gospel story. Jesus greets his disciples, not with anger, but with the words, ‘Peace be with you.’ He brings them healing for the trauma they have suffered in watching him die, and forgiveness for their betrayal. He brings them peace.
Another transformation happens eight days later, when Thomas sees the risen Jesus for himself, and Jesus invites him to see and touch the wounds of his crucifixion. Thomas is led from doubt to faith. His doubt makes him an important witness for us. All four Gospels make it clear that Jesus was really dead – really crucified – and truly risen. The disciples didn’t experience a vision, or believe that Jesus was somehow ‘with them in spirit.’ The risen Jesus is the crucified Jesus. He has been raised up and glorified by God the Father, but he still bears the wounds of his crucifixion.
The disciples are transformed by their encounter with the risen Christ. He leads them from fear to peace, and from doubt to faith; faith that brings them the fullness of life. And Jesus gives the disciples power, by the Holy Spirit, to forgive sins in his name. The ones who needed forgiveness become the ministers of forgiveness to others. Through the witness of the first disciples, we, who have not seen him, can believe in him. Today we are called to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and to have life in his name.