In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.
‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’
After saying this he breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’
Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:
‘You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’
There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.
The Easter gifts of Christ to his apostles and to the early church are threefold.
Christ repeatedly offers the gift of peace to a frightened band of disciples cowering behind closed doors. In line with his constant injunctions not to fear, Christ offers the peace he has won in the heat of his battle with suffering and death. We have been reconciled to God and can now be at peace with God. We can be at peace with others when we respect them, when we accept or offer the spirit of forgiveness, and we can be at peace with ourselves when we come to a faith which gives direction and meaning to the confusion and to the suffering of life. We can and ought to be at peace with ourselves, others, the environment and creation. This is a peace hard won, a peace the world does not give.
The spirit of forgiveness of sins holds the key to being at peace with God, with others and with self. This forgiveness has been hard won by Christ and does not come cheaply. We, like the apostles are sent out, commissioned by the call and by the responsibilities of our baptismal promises which we renewed at Easter. Each one is sent to witness to the spirit of forgiveness and the gift of peace by example and by integrity of life. Easter people are forgiven, peaceable people, Christ-like people.
To believe is difficult. Thomas the sceptic is transformed however into Thomas the ultimate believer. The one who refused to believe without physical evidence, now in the presence of the risen Christ acclaims Christ as his Lord, and as his God. No other statement says so much about Christ in so few words. The gift of faith is founded on Thomas’ healthy scepticism and in the process he wins for us a final beatitude to all of us who manage to believe, most of the time, without the benefit of seeing the risen Christ first-hand.
To believe or to come to belief is to be given the promise of life, through the name of Jesus. The life of the spirit which raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us when we believe and profess the Resurrection and this spirit wells up within us to overflow into eternal everlasting life.
Meantime we are sent out to love and serve Christ the Lord, our Lord and our God, the giver of Easter gifts of peace, of forgiveness, and of faith, so that believing we may have life, so that we may share in Christ’s Resurrection and eternal life by imitating him in life, in suffering and in death.