Love of Thomas the Late Comer
At the Easter Vigil, to our great joy, four catechumens were initiated into the Church. I baptised, Confirmed, and gave Holy Communion to Christina Kailahi, Prescila Mafi, Christopher Hayes, and Edwin Kong. Unlike most parishioners who are cradle Catholics, these neophytes cannot claim knowing Christ from very early in their life. Does that make them second class Catholics? None of you might have even dreamt of asking such a question. But in the early church such questions were real. Aren’t the first generation Christians who knew Jesus of Nazareth personally more blessed than the later additions to the Church? John the Evangelist addresses this question of the time by presenting Thomas and encounter with resurrected Jesus, in the Gospel.
The group of specially chosen disciples, minus Thomas, were privileged to meet Jesus on the day of his resurrection itself. They were over the moon, because they were the first ones to meet resurrected Jesus. Not only that; like the breath of God, as we read in Genesis, which created everything and gave life to his creation in the beginning, resurrected Jesus breathed on the disciples and made them a new creation. They were given the power to forgive or retain sins of others; thus made apostles of Jesus and his mission. Thomas, the late comer, missed out on all this. He therefore made a demand. To understand the demands of Thomas you need to know the language of John the evangelist. John’s Gospel uses symbolic language. When Thomas wanted to see the nail marks on the hands of Jesus he is asked for the blood that was shed from the wounds which, to John, represents the blood of Christ in the Eucharist. The wound made by the sphere on the side of Jesus body is where the water came out according to the Gospel. This water is symbolic of baptism. Thus, the expression ‘water and blood’ means the sacramental life of the Church, the living Body of Christ. The late comers get the experience of the resurrected Christ through the Sacramental presence of the Church. Thomas the late comer had the encounter with the risen Lord a week later than the others, but still on the first day of the week, the day the Church gathers to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord. Thomas, having met resurrected Christ, though later, was also overjoyed. His joy was so much that he made a profound proclamation of faith which none of the other disciples made at the first encounter. Thomas said, “My God, My Lord”. The response of Jesus was, “Blessed are those who believe although they have not seen” (John 20:29). What Jesus told Thomas was his message to all those who are not the first generation disciples.
All you Disciples of Christ are equally blessed as the first generation Christians like the apostles. John who said, God is love, gives a model of faith filled life in the person of Thomas who said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). It is the love of Thomas for his Lord that makes him an inspiring model of faith for everyone.