Gospel Reflection Apr 24 – Sr. Teresa
Sunday, April 24
Second Sunday of Easter
Sunday of Divine Mercy
John 20: 19-31
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “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.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
You probably don’t know who I am? However, you do know my brother, but you probably don’t realize that I am his sister. You know Thomas, the one in today’s Gospel passage. They call him Didymus , which means “twin.” Biblical scholars have never entertained the idea that the twin might just have a twin sister!!! That’s who I am. My name is Tamara, and I am Thomas’ twin sister. Well, Thomas wrote to me shortly after Jesus appeared in the Upper Room. After that people labeled him “Doubting Thomas.” Anyway, I thought I would share that letter with you.
From Thomas, one of the Twelve, to my dearest twin, Tamara, peace and blessings be with you and all who dwell in our family home of Capernaum.
I had to write to tell you the news from Jerusalem. With so many visitors from home I felt that news would get to you, but I wanted you to hear it from me, so you would understand.
It is very late and still the sound of Roman soldiers combing the city can be heard. The others in our group are sleeping. When the women came to tell us that the tomb was empty no one really believed them. Tamara, I can hear your reaction to that even up here in Jerusalem. No, it wasn’t just because they were women! We wanted so much for his death not to be true but to believe he had risen from the grave!! Who could believe such a thing? Peter and John rushed to the tomb and eventually they came to believe what the women knew to be true because he appeared to them.
But there was something in me that was afraid to believe. The reality of his death had so broken my heart, I was afraid to believe. I was afraid to hope. Have you ever felt that way, Tamara? Have you ever felt so deeply hurt that you were afraid to embrace the one thing that would heal you? I was afraid to believe, afraid to hope.
It wasn’t that I had not believed him before. I did. You know I did. Remember the day when Jesus got word about his friend, Lazarus? He was determined to get to him even though going to Bethany would bring him very close to Jerusalem. We all knew the dangers that faced him in that city, and it would not take long for the news of his presence to reach the ears of those who wanted to see him dead. I couldn’t let him go alone and wasn’t it me who said, “Let’s go that we might die with him.” I said it, and I meant it. The more I was with him, the more I realized that I didn’t really understand and asked him where it was that he was going. How often his words echo in my heart. “I am the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE.”
I was out the first night he appeared to the others. There were so many of the other believers who needed to grieve his death. They had questions about the resurrection rumors that they had heard. They felt lost and abandoned. They were in that in-between place of knowing and not knowing. They were between hope and despair. It was important that someone from the Twelve be with them, not to provide answers but to provide comfort.
That is so much like my brother. He was always eager to calm people’s fears even when he was so afraid himself.
When I got back, and the others told me that Jesus had been there, I yelled at them and told them Jesus was dead and that they had to come to grips with it. I told them it was wrong to hold out false hope for people. I felt they were hysterical with their own grief, but we had responsibilities. We were the Twelve, and people were depending on us. I believed it would be better if we would grieve with the people. It would be better if we would sit down and make a plan of how we are going to carry out his message even though he was dead. I didn’t have all the answers. I didn’t even have all the questions, but I knew in my heart that I did not want what Jesus had taught to die with him.
Yes, I doubted. I couldn’t let myself believe he was alive. I couldn’t risk losing him again. I went too far, Tamara, I know that. In yelling I did say that I would have to touch the places where the nails had pierced him through and put my hand in the wound made by the soldier’s spear. But you know sometimes you need to touch the places of pain in others if you are going to be able to let the sorrow and grief they know come into your heart.
After that night people kept referring to my brother as “Doubting Thomas,” just like you still do today. It used to make me so mad, especially when Peter said it. In fact, I pointed out to Peter that he was no different than Thomas. He didn’t believe the women. He and John ran to the tomb and saw for themselves that what the women had told them was true. The tomb was empty but still they didn’t believe Jesus had risen until he appeared to them. Peter and I could really get into it sometimes.
Thomas told me to hold my tongue and show Peter some respect.
Anyway, with a little age and a little more wisdom, Thomas and I came to realize that calling him “Doubting Thomas” could be a help to people … people like you in St. Brigid of Kildare Parish, for instance.
Have you ever experienced doubts? Have you ever been so afraid that you were even afraid to hope? Have you ever felt so hurt or downtrodden by life that all the hope had been drained out of you?
You know doubt is not the enemy of faith or the absence of hope. Sometimes doubt is the call of the Spirit to come deeper into the mystery of who God is. Sometimes doubt is the first step to wondering. Sometimes doubt is the first murmuring within us that will eventually bring about social change.
Don’t beat yourself up when you doubt. It is not a sin to doubt. You don’t have all the answers, and you will never have all the answers. Truth be known, you don’t even have all the questions. Faith is a journey, not a destination, and on the journey you sometimes doubt. Sometimes you ask why?
Doubting is not a weakness in faith. It takes a person of strong faith to doubt. It takes a person of strong faith to risk living the questions. Life is a journey and sometimes you don’t know where the journey is taking you. There are times when your faith needs the reinforcement of tangible reality. Isn’t that part of the reason you come together to pray as a faith community … to praise God and to be strengthened by each others’ faith? How many times over the years I have found myself, praying my brother’s prayer: “God, I believe, help my unbelief.”
Oh, sorry, for the digression, I must get back to the letter …
Tamara, never fear the doubting, only fear the unwillingness to admit that sometimes you doubt. Our doubting may not always lead to answers, but I believe doubting always has the power to draw us closer to Jesus. Usually, when we think we know all the answers, that is when we stop growing and deepening our relationship with God. We think we know it all.
The dawn is breaking, and there is much to be done today. You probably will not hear from me for a while because at daybreak, II will head toward the East as far away as India. I will be taking the message of Jesus there, but I will remain forever your loving twin brother, “Doubting Thomas.”
Sister Teresa Tuite, OP