They devoted themselves to the apostles" teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Let the sons of Israel say:
'His love has no end.'
Let the sons of Aaron say:
'His love has no end.'
Let those who fear the Lord say:
'His love has no end.' (R./)
I was thrust, thrust down
and falling but the Lord was my helper.
The Lord is my strength and my song;
he was my saviour.
There are shouts of joy and victory
in the tents of the just. (R./)
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes.
This day was made by the Lord;
we rejoice and are glad. (R./)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith-being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then 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." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told 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 in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
The expression “Doubting Thomas” comes from this remarkable Easter story. The apostle Thomas, one of Jesus’s inner circle, was slow to believe in the resurection. He demanded concrete evidence before he could believe that the risen Jesus had appeared to his fellow apostles. His story offers some comfort to those of us who are always nagged by doubts. With the memory of our Lord’s crucifixion fresh in their hearts, the nervous disciples had locked the doors of their meeting room.
They had locked themselves for fear of Jewish reprisals. They were afraid that what was done to Jesus could be done to them. The turning point came when Jesus appeared among them and breathed the Holy Spirit into them, filling them with new purpose. “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.” In the power of the Spirit they left their self-imposed prison, to go out and spread the message of Jesus. In today’s reading from Acts St Luke shows them witnessing to the resurrection both in word and by the quality of their living.
Some people who cannot believe profess to envy those who do. They would like to experience the certainty of believers and share the faith of their parents. And indeed, most ordinary mortals have moments of doubt during our spiritual journey. Thomas’s recovery from his doubts offers a valuable insight into God’s mercy and kindness.
Are we sometimes like those disciples, indecisive, inactive, unwilling to promote the faith. The “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” have dented our confidence. Are we tempted to abandon our faith journey, unable to see a way forward? Our past failures make us hesitant to try again. Today’s gospel offers a solution. The Lord himself has power to revive our courage and our faith. No locked doors, nor even locked hearts, can keep him out.
At first, Thomas refused to believe that the others had seen him. He demanded definite and demonstrable, tangible proof. Jesus gave him the proof he needed. “Put your finger here,” he said, “and feel my wounds.” He forgives our fears and doubts too, and offers us a fresh start. We need to say in our turn, “My Lord and my God.
Here in our Sunday Mass we meet with the risen Christ, just as St Thomas did. Sharing in the Eucharist is our statement of loyalty, our act of personal and shared faith. In praying the Eucharist together we help each other’s faith and strengthen our Christian community. It was because the members of the early Church in Jerusalem met in public for prayer and seemed such a joyful little community, that so many others came to believe and the church grew steadily in those early days.
As we join in our Sunday Mass we are here to meet the risen Christ in person. Sharing in the Eucharist is a statement of loyalty, both of personal and shared faith. In praying together we also help each other to stay faithful; it strengthens our Christian community. It was because the members of the early Church in Jerusalem met so regularly in public that the number of people who came to believe in the Lord increased steadily.
No-one else can do our believing for us. This is powerfully illustrated in the story of the disciples who had hidden in an attic in Jerusalem. After the execution of Jesus just two days before, they could not dare go out for fear of their lives. But Jesus suddenly came among them, and his greeting was Peace to you. Their response was utter joy. The gift of the Spirit was the breath of the Risen Christ. When the disciples inhaled that life-giving Spirit it took over their lives. Soon they left the Upper Room as changed characters, full of missionary purpose. They go out animated, fired and propelled by the Holy Spirit.
Thomas the Twin was missing that day and so did not share that experience. Though he was an apostle of Jesus, he was an independent individual, suspicious and skeptical. He could not believe just on the word of the others. For him, honesty was more important than groupthink or loyalty. So when the others said they have seen the Lord, Thomas demanded definite proof for himself. For this he was ever afterwards called 'Doubting Thomas'. Eventually Thomas came to believe in the resurrection like the other disciples, when he saw the risen Jesus with his own eyes. The story ends with a message for all who have not seen the Lord, but who are called to believe in him just the same. We are among the later generations of believers to whom this message applies: 'Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.'
Our faith is a great gift from God. But it is not an inert gift that can we lock away like some precious jewel. It is a living gift that needs nurturing, to grow and mature. Like other life-forms, faith can wither from neglect. We need to pray about it, think about it, and express it in actions arising from love. This does not mean that we will never have any doubts. But if like Thomas we continue seeking, we too will come into the presence of Jesus and say "My Lord and my God!"