Here we read, appropriately, one of the post-Resurrection appearances
of Christ. This is the story from the Fourth Gospel of how doubting
Thomas believed - but only after he could actually feel the
scars and the wounds in Our Lord's body.
In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week,
the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said
to them, 'Peace be with you,' and showed them his hands and
his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the
Lord, and he said to them again, 'Peace be with you.
'As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.'
After saying this he breathed on them and said: 'Receive the
Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.'
Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not
with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, 'We have
seen the Lord', he answered, 'Unless I see the holes that the
nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes
they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse
to believe.' Eight days later the disciples were in the house
again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus
came in and stood among them. 'Peace be with you' he said. Then
he spoke to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; look, here are my
hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer
but believe.' Thomas replied, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus said
to him: 'You believe because you can see me. Happy are those
who have not seen and yet believe.'
There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples
saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded
so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of
God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
Pope John Paul II
As I write, late on Saturday morning, we await an update on
the Pope's final days in what has been an extraordinary Pontificate.
Many words battle for inclusion if we try to describe the man
who came on the world scene at such a critical time and is now
preparing to return to his God whom he has served so faithfully.
From the day he was born until the end faith, courage, compassion,
suffering, joy and love of people mingled.
He was 58 years old when he became the first non-Italian Pope
in many centuries. As a child in Poland he lost his mother Emilia
when he was only 9 years old. His sister Olga died at birth
and his only surviving brother Edmund, a medical doctor, died
of scarlet fever at the age of 25. His father, an army captain,
raised the child on his own. Together they attended 7 a.m. Mass
each morning before school began at 8. Together they prayed
the Rosary at night.
Karol, our then future Pope, was a keen sportsman, was brought
up in Communist Poland. He worked in a stone quarry, and studied
for the priesthood in an underground seminary. In time he was
to become Archbishop of Krakow, a Cardinal and ultimately assume
the role of Supreme Pontiff.
Much has been and is written about him in these critical days.
Men and women of all nationalities and faiths or of none pay
tribute to him. His motto for the papacy is "Totus Tuus",
translated into English means "I am all yours". He
consecrated his papacy completely to the Mother Of God. His
role in the overthrow of Communism, first in his own country,
and then in so many parts of the world will never be fully known.
One thing is certain; he is a man of extraordinary faith, courage
and compassion. Even those who so often criticise him are amazed
at the way he has coped with great suffering right through his
life and the serenity with which he now faces the meeting with
the God he has so faithfully served. All our lives are enriched
by his example. He has given so many much food for thought.
Didn't Thomas do us all a favour! We belong to those that the
Lord called 'blessed'; we have not seen and yet believe. We
have been through an exhausting time - the long Gospels, the
Holy Week ceremonies culminating in the Easter Vigil and the
joy of Easter Morning. And yet, as somebody suffering from a
debilitating illness said to me recently, what a pale shadow
is our discomfort or weariness in comparison with what the God-Man
suffered so that we should have the joy of Life Eternal.
Peter makes it very clear that the reality of the Resurrection
of Jesus is at the very core of our belief. Even Thomas who
had been with the Lord Himself for three years could not believe
that the crucified, dead and buried Jesus had risen again. No
matter what the others said he was not convinced; unless he
had solid physical proof. To convince not only Thomas but all
who would come after him Jesus granted his request. Amazed and
confounded Thomas cried out for all of us "my Lord and
What a change the reality of the resurrection made in all the
Apostles, once the extraordinary truth dawned on them. They
went out, as Jesus commanded them, preaching this great news
to the whole world and gave their lives in witness.
If we like Thomas are convinced that God has lived and died
and rose on this earth for us, should not the power of the Resurrection
be manifested in our lives - as individuals and as a community.
We should wish to see this power healing the wounds of our brothers
and sisters, undoing oppression, bringing back from the dead
those still engulfed in sin. Maybe begin by praying for them.