Have you ever heard the saying; “seeing is believing?” ‘Seeing is believing’ is an idiom that was first recorded in 1639 that means “only physical or concrete evidence is convincing.’
For one thing, this expression has a lot to do with the faith community of Jesus’ disciples after his resurrection. And it also has a lot to do with the gospel of this second Sunday of Easter (John 20: 19-31). According to this gospel, the disciples have been hiding and are scared of the Jews even after Jesus’ resurrection. In the midst of their fear, their terror and uncertainty, Jesus appeared to them with words of encouragement. He said to them; ‘Peace be with you!!!’ He also breathed on them the Holy Spirit and sent them on the mission to extend God’s love to the world. The Spirit of mission and ministry.
The gift of the Holy Spirit from Christ to them is their empowerment. And it is the Spirit that will give them the energy, the inspiration and the power to undertake this new mission. The spirit would now be their authority. Also, part of this great mission is also to forgive sins, including the sins of those who crucified Jesus. But all these commissioning and appearance of Jesus happened in Thomas’ back. He was not around when Jesus appeared to the disciples.
Interestingly, Thomas is not going to accept these fantastic stories as factual without seeing the evidence for himself. I imagine that the clear intent of this gospel story is set to invite us to identify with Thomas who is really tough-minded about this resurrection thing. Now Jesus appeared again a week later to the disciples including Thomas. His tone in addressing Thomas has no note of judgment or condemnation, but is rather a tone of understanding and compassion. Jesus said to Thomas: “Put your fingers here. See my side; see my hands; reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe (John 20: 27).” Jesus’ response in this story is one of love, care and empathy.
Today, we live in a secular world that gives little or no importance to faith, religion and God. Like Jesus, our task is not to cast spells on others. Like the disciples, our task is to extend the love of God even to those who criticize our faith. Our task is not to be the chief judge. Our mission is to build understanding as the bedrock for compassion in our daily encounter with people. I imagine that the lesson of this story teaches us to allow our faith to move from our heads down to our hearts. Our faith cannot remain in our head if we actually want to impact our world through a selfless heart that accommodates. Does your heart accommodate, accept and forgive? What lessons does this story present before you? Does Jesus’ loving response to Thomas challenge and confront you? What is your relationship to our brothers and sister in our society here that does not believe in God?
Remember Thomas was a bit different from the disciples by his actions in the story. There will always be that different person out there. How do you relate with him or her?