When we study the Gospel of John, we find that the writer carefully chooses his wording and draws parallels between an event or a time and the Spiritual meaning behind it. The writer had just written the account of the resurrection of Jesus and the interaction between him and Mary of Magdala. The account now turns to the disciples just after they discover the empty tomb and what Jesus told Mary to tell his disciples. In continuation with the message of the significance of days, the writer points out that this is the first day of the week. We must be clear at this point that there is no “hidden code” in the Gospel of John that if we discover we will attain enlightenment or even salvation at that matter. However, the writer points these things out to give Christ the praise and glory due to him. The significance at this point is that the writer is pointing out that it was “evening”, which would be a reference to Genesis 3:8 when God was walking in the garden in the evening of the day, which as we know was just before man was exposed as disobeying God and his refusal of repentance, thus beginning the stain of original sin. The writer is explaining in this imagery that at this point in the “evening” God comes among his people again, but not to find out their trespasses, but rather to continue the “first day of the week”: this is Christ’s recreation and regeneration of mankind. Where God saw man’s sin in the account of Genesis and expelled mankind from the garden, He once again comes among his people to draw them to himself and blessing them with “Peace be with you”!
So we see that the writer is proclaiming the saving work of God through Christ Jesus, but we also see the enabling of the disciples to take the Gospel of forgiveness of sins through the power of the Holy Spirit to the world. This is the “beginning”, if you will, the “first day” of a new dwelling of God among us.
However, Thomas wasn’t there. The Scriptures don’t go into why or where he was, but we can ask the question if where he was came about because of the “why”. Was he at the bar drowning his sorrow? We have no record nor is it that important, but what we can know is that when the other disciples said to him that they had seen the Lord, he did not believe them. Imagine, though, if we were in that place: the one that we had given up our livelihoods for, followed, and believed in is now dead by execution. The cause can go on just like the Israelites continued to remember and observe the deliverance and Law of God that came through Moses, or the prophecies that came through Elijah and others despite the fact that they were no longer with the people. So even though Thomas did not believe in the resurrection, this did not mean that he would not continue in faithfulness to the teachings the great Rabbi passed on. However, that is where it would stop. What fears or lack of understanding caused Thomas to come to this point? Sure, looking at it rationally, who has ever been resurrected? Jesus raised Lazurus, but one man was raised by another. Now, the one who did the raising was dead, could he raise himself? But aside from these questions, there lies another: if Thomas accepted the message that was being told by the other disciples, how would that change his life?
What about us? We proclaim that we believe in the resurrection of the Son of God and indeed it brings about a change overall in our lives because we are willing to embrace the message of the Gospel. However, are there areas that we have allowed a “fear” or a “lack of understanding” hinder us from fully embracing Christ’s resurrection, which leads us to look forward to our own? For example, it may appear to be a small matter, but the unintended implications are on a much larger scale: how many times do we come to Mass with a burden of sin on our hearts and for some reason were not able to confess it, so we rightfully do not receive the Eucharist, but because of our consciousness of our separation from our brothers and sisters at this time we remain in our seats. We allow our condition to further the division. Please understand I am not minimalizing the agony that so many face in this situation. Or in another situation, we would normally Cross ourselves when we pray, but in public we do not. Or we may be at school or work or in a time of recreation and may be approached about our faith, but are not very open. These would be areas of our lives that may not be totally surrendered to the fullness of belief in the Resurrection of Christ.
But there is this hope: Thomas wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus appeared to them “in the evening on the first day of the week” so it would appear that he missed out. But what is recorded next is the continuation of the Hope of the Gospel and the whole point of the renewal of Easter. The writer goes on to proclaim the account of Jesus then appearing to Thomas, but notice the wording of this section: “a week later”. A week later would put the situation in the evening of the first day of the week again! Christ didn’t say that since Thomas didn’t believe, he was thrown into exile and he didn’t even reprimand him. But what did he do? He gave Thomas a chance at renewal! In this day, Jesus said to come “put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe!” Jesus drew Thomas to him! And in this experience, Thomas proclaims “My Lord and my God!” In this time he realized that God was still with him!
This is Divine Mercy Sunday, which many may know was established by John Paul II who will be canonized on this day. And this Mercy is the message of these proclamations! It was Christ’s Divine Mercy that drew Thomas to himself despite his disbelief. And it is Christ’s Divine Mercy that likewise, when we find ourselves separated from our brothers and sisters, that has the Church saying “you are separated, but come and receive a blessing from Christ!” It is that Divine Mercy that enables us, despite our fears of what others will think or even if we may not have all the answers, to boldly hold to the rich blessings of who we are in Christ by our Catholic faith marked with the Sign of the Cross: the sign of Easter! And it is by this Divine Mercy that we do not have to say that unless we touch Christ’s wounds we won’t believe, but rather can trust in the great graces offered to us through the passing on of the Holy Spirit, which Christ imparted on the “evening of the first day of the week” to his disciples to guide his people.
The writer stated there were many other signs Jesus did which were not recorded, but what was written was done so that we may truly believe and proclaim that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that we may have life in his name!