Should we be a little easier on Thomas? The last few days have been a whirlwind. On Thursday, a Passover celebration went horribly awry as Jesus was betrayed and taken into custody for unstated crimes. Less than 24 hours later, the simple arrest has turned into a death sentence to be carried out that very afternoon. Most of the disciples fled, including Thomas. He would have heard of the events of Good Friday secondhand, in shock over the death of his Lord and Master. Then Sunday morning arrives with joy from a few disciples-Jesus is risen! But there is no persistent sight of him, only Mary Magdalene’s quick moment in the garden and an empty tomb. Another day passes. The Apostles are gathered that Monday night, but Thomas is absent. He returns to a jubilant report of the risen Lord. Again, Thomas has seen nothing.
The experience must have been surreal. Did Jesus really appear raised from the dead? Did he really suffer and die? Has all of this been some strange hoax? Desperate for an answer, Thomas insists, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
After his resurrection, Jesus’ body–mangled and bloody from the crucifixion–is restored. Did it need the scars? A perfected body would have taught us one lesson: everything is renewed as it once was, the past erased. Jesus chooses another lesson, however. He retains his scars that we might know him. In the whirlwind of our lives, we make our own mistakes, our own betrayals and compromises. In the resurrected Jesus, we see a God who does not forget his own sorrow. We are invited to meet him–wound for wound–and place our hand on his own nail-scarred palm, the eternal sign of his everlasting mercy.
Copyright Liturgical Publications, Inc