2nd Sunday of Easter
Shalom was the first word of Jesus after he had suffered. Shalom is also more than a greeting of peace for it is a word that signifies that the person has no reason to fear the one to whom it is addressed and holds nothing against that person.
By saying “Shalom”, Jesus renewed his relationship with those who were present. He had come into the room, despite its locked doors, where they were hiding and blessed them with peace and revealed the love that gives forgiveness for their fear, denial by word or distance, confusion, and hesitancy to believe in the Resurrection by the women who first proclaimed it to them. The amazing thing about true forgiveness is that it transforms the effects of the past, freeing a person to re-form what had been behavior that had been destructive before.
But, one person was missing, Thomas, who said, “Let us also go to die with him” earlier in John’s Gospel when Jesus decided to go to Bethany to see Martha and Mary whose brother had died. Thomas had a long week ahead of him, listening to their excited chatter as they tried to convince him of the Lord’s being alive. Thomas responded to their babble as anyone who is asked to accept something that has never happened before: he needs proof; and so, he declared: “Unless I see the marks 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.” His courage before is forgotten; he’s now forever known as doubting Thomas.
In reality, the other disciples hadn’t fully caught on to the meaning of the Resurrection of Jesus either. A week later, Jesus returned and, once again, said, “Shalom”. Turning to Thomas, he invited him to put his finger to touch his hands and bring his hand and put into his side. I am not a ghost. I bear the scars of my crucifixion, my rejection and abandonment. And then, at that moment, Thomas realized something that the others didn’t as he looked at the scarred hands and wounded side. Thomas understood the mysterious and scandalizing truth that Jesus reveals that God is NOT exempt from suffering. He said, “My Lord AND MY GOD!”
The Resurrection would be incomplete without Thomas. He needed proof that the evil done to Jesus was not all powerful. His faith did not come easily. As a result, his faith became firm and steadfast.
Thomas teaches us that God suffered, and still suffers when there is unjust violence and war and victims who are tossed away and forgotten. And most importantly, he teaches that doubt can lead to a deeper faith. Do not be afraid to question or doubt. Just call on Thomas to guide you.