Sunday 19th April 2020 – 2nd Sunday of Easter
This Sunday’s Reflection is from Rev’d Arani Sen
John 20: 19 -31
In 1987, Terry Waite, serving as a hostage negotiator, on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, travelled to Lebanon to negotiate the release of hostages. While in Beirut, he himself was taken hostage, and spent almost five years in captivity, four of which were in solitary confinement. During his time in prison, he was blindfolded, beaten, and subjected to mock executions. For much of the time, he remained chained to a wall in a room without daylight.
Terry Waite may have spent much time in doubt – doubt that he could ever be free, doubt that he would ever see his children again, doubt that he would remain alive. Yet, through faith, prayer and the prayers of others, his doubt turned to joy, as he was finally released in 1991. In the power of the crucified and risen Christ, he pronounced a very profound on forgiveness:
“You can forgive, of course, and I do forgive – of course I do. That doesn’t mean to say you agree with what was done. That’s a different matter altogether.”
In the gospel today, we focus on Thomas, known as doubting Thomas. We should not belittle or demean Thomas, after all, he had witnessed the most brutal and cruel execution of his Lord. The disciples are fearful, doubting the future. They are locked in an upper room, afraid to go out, afraid of being taken captive themselves.
Thomas has heard from Mary Magdalene, “I have seen my Lord” but probably writes this off as a dream-like fantasy. But now, Jesus returns to his disciples, when they need him the most, when they are at their most vulnerable, and he offers them his peace. The last time they had seen this body and this face, they witnessed torture, deformity, and bloodshed. But now this resurrected body is wholeness itself; after his greeting, Jesus shows them his scars; they see the miracle of the resurrection.
Thomas still cannot believe this is Jesus: “Unless I see and touch the scars in his hands and plunge my own hand in that hole on his side, I will not believe it.” We cannot dismiss Thomas, in our rational thought processes. We, like Thomas, demand proof, the proof through three of our senses: seeing, touching, hearing. For us, the miracle is sensing, sensing the breath of the risen Christ through the gentle outpouring of the Spirit, bringing us reassurance, peace, and God’s presence.
The resurrected Christ, ever mindful of those he has chosen and loved, reveals himself completely to Thomas a week later. The disciples are all together again, Thomas among them, when Jesus appears again, this time to call them to his mission. He has come towards Thomas, turning to him immediately. “Bring your finger here and see my hands; bring your hand and plunge it in my side.”
Thomas, without needing to touch, cries out the one declaration of belief that matters: “My Lord and my God.” “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Jesus comes to us in our doubts and in our darkness, in our sufferings and our pains, and through the power of prayer, we encounter the resurrected Jesus who breathes the gentle gift of his Spirit on those who love him. That breath gives us life, gives us hope, gives us strength, to face every moment of this life on earth.