The Second Sunday of Easter is often called “Low Sunday” in Western Christianity (this could be the result of a corruption of a Latin phrase once used on this day). It has other names, however. My favorite is “Thomas Sunday,” as the passage from the Gospel according to John about Thomas’ encounter with the risen Christ is always read on this Sunday.
The lessons from scripture for Thomas Sunday juxtapose the sheer gutsiness and intensity of the Early Church’s passionate witness to the Resurrection of Christ with St. Thomas’ hesitancy to believe in the central reality of the Christian faith. We can draw at least two things from this.
The first point is that the other disciples didn’t turn Thomas away because he was not there in the Upper Room at the right time. Neither did they shun him because he could not accept the Resurrection. This did not in any way diminish the fact of the Resurrection. It only meant that the disciples knew that it had to be experienced to be accepted, and only then through the gift and agency of the Holy Spirit could be it be acted upon. Thomas had neither of these.
The second point is that Thomas did come to believe through personal experience of the Risen Christ, and specifically through his viewing Christ’s wounds. This tells us much about what “proof” of the Resurrection looks like today. It will not be through rational arguments – indeed, it cannot be through these, because resurrection is entirely unnatural and anti-rational in a death-absorbed and death-centered world. What is needed is our own physical and spiritual witness to the Resurrection – those times and places in our life when we have been healed, renewed, raised from death into life. Then – and only then – do we show forth the Resurrected light of Christ, the New Life for which others thirst. No gimmicks, no techniques, no multi-media shenanigans. Just real life Resurrection. Perhaps this is why so much modern Western Christianity is so dormant and sterile: the Resurrection is more of an historical artifact than a living experience in the lives of Christians.
We in the Church must stop demanding those outside to believe in things we have neither personally experienced nor are willing to be at risk of experiencing.
We must come to the Upper Room ourselves in humility; with our doubts ready for encounter and our wounds ready for healing. That is a most potentially holy state, for it was only Thomas, the doubter with integrity enough to persevere, who was to say those radiant words that shine forth from the Gospel’s pages with searing conviction and understanding of what he had learned: “My Lord and my God.”