Thomas Experiences Joy

Fresco of Doubting Saint Thomas at wayside shrine in Austria - Johann Jaritz under CC BY-SA 4.0

This post is based on Week Eight of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure and inspired by John 20:24–29.

I’d gone out for provisions. They were afraid to go. On my return the room was lighter, jubilant even. Rather than moping in solitary soul-searching, people were now chatting eagerly in small groups.

“We’ve seen the Lord!” they said.

Something’s definitely wrong, I thought. Was this mass delusion, or had someone dressed up and tricked them? Jesus was dead, guys. “You need to get out and get some sunshine,” I said.

All week they tried to convince me, but I resisted. People call me doubting, but actually it’s stubbornness. I wanted to believe that Jesus rose, but my rational side refused to ignore the Crucifixion. It was strange that I couldn’t believe without seeing, because I saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead.

When Jesus decided to return to Judea even though Lazarus was dead, we knew the risk. At that time, I said, “Let’s also go, to die with him” (John 11:16). Ha!

I ran from the Garden of Olives in fear. When death threatens, romantic notions of how we’ll react evaporate. At least they did for me that night.

What a fool I was. I struggled all week. If Jesus were alive, why would he want me after I’d abandoned him? I stubbornly distrusted my brothers when I should have had faith.

And then it happened. Jesus returned in the flesh. The brothers were right. Jesus stood before me.

At last I felt joy too, but I cried tears of relief first as I fell at his feet. Oh, my God! People say that casually, but I felt it powerfully, seeing Jesus right in front of me. He smelled faintly of frankincense.

Elation mixed with awe. His loving look freed me from self-absorption. Jesus smiled and invited me to touch him. All my reservations melted away. When I took both his outstretched hands, he pulled me up. When I touched his scarred side, the mark wasn’t tender at all.

Jesus stayed for a while and allowed us to ask a thousand questions. We all laughed at some of them. And he ate with us again. This was better than Lazarus, until he bid us farewell and left us alone once more in that upper room. My God-given gift of strong determination returned. I’ve always needed concrete evidence. Well, now I had it. Jesus was alive, and regardless of the trials ahead, I could spread the Gospel.

Overcome with joy, I noticed colorful refracted sunbeams pouring in the windows. The room was different, and so was I.

We stayed in that upper room discussing options. What should we do next? Knowing Jesus was resurrected was thrilling. We all had a new outlook. The passion I felt on the road to Lazarus enkindled again.

We had failed, but we were not failures. Joy deep within could get us through any trial. Jesus would labor alongside of us. It wasn’t going to be easy, but with the plan Jesus had for us, it was going to be great.

Image: Fresco of Doubting Saint Thomas at the wayside shrine on Görtschitztal Straße, at the branch of St. Thomaser Straße, market town Magdalensberg, district Klagenfurt Land, Carinthia, Austria. Photo by Johann Jaritz under CC BY-SA 4.0.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you, Loretta, for bringing me in to the room where they gathered, where they, and later you, encountered the Risen Lord. Be healthy, in God’s grace, my friend.

  2. “We had failed but we were not failures.” I love that sentence, and this whole reflection. I feel like I was there in the room, too. You brought the story of “Doubting Thomas” to life. Thank you.

  3. I’m always appreciative for Thomas’ beautiful words, “My Lord and my God!” as he recovered from his doubt about Jesus rising from the dead. Thanks to being taught this by the Sisters when I was in grammar school, every time a priest raises the consecrated Host at Mass I say that brief, powerful act of faith. This coming Sunday we celebrate the Divine Mercy, perfectly illustrated by Jesus’ mercy and embrace for Thomas.
    By the way, Thomas means “the twin.” Ever wonder what happened with his twin brother or sister?

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