In the Gospel of Divine Mercy Sunday we hear the story of doubting Thomas. I always feel a little sorry for Thomas that he got stuck with that label, for in the end, his faith triumphs due to God's great mercy.
It was the evening of the first day of the week, and the disciples were huddled behind locked doors. They had been hearing strange stories and seeing strange sights. Jesus' tomb was empty. Peter and John had seen that for themselves. Mary Magdalene had encountered the Lord and came back filled with joy. The two disciples who had struck out toward Emmanus also returned, all excited, with news that they had seen Jesus and recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.
The disciples knew all of this, and they were at least beginning to believe that just maybe it could be true, but they were afraid. The Jews might accuse them of stealing Jesus' body. Then what would happen? They didn't even want to think about it.
Then, without even opening the locked door, Jesus stood in their midst. He poured out His peace upon them. He showed them His hands and His side. He breathed on them, giving them the Holy Spirit and the power to forgive sins. Their joy was unspeakable. The Lord had truly risen! They had seen Him with their own eyes, and it was the most wonderful sight ever.
Thomas didn't return until after Jesus left. Why was he apart from the others to begin with? Was he out purchasing provisions or scouting out the situation with the Jews? He was certainly courageous enough to do so. When Jesus had set out into hostile territory to raise Lazarus from the dead, Thomas bravely told the others, “Let's go and die with Him!”
When Thomas finally did get back to the disciples, he found them in an uproar. “We have seen the Lord,” they exclaimed. But Thomas didn't believe them. He just couldn't fathom it. Jesus was dead, wasn't He? Sure, there were stories. There were claims. But perhaps everyone was just exhausted and overwrought. Jesus couldn't possible be alive, could He? Thomas solemnly announced, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
Then God's mercy met Thomas right where he was. Jesus didn't leave him in his unbelief. Even though He didn't have to return, a week later, Jesus appeared to the disciples again. This time Thomas was present, and he was shocked and probably a little scared. After all, he had refused to believe that Jesus had risen. But Jesus didn't chastise him. Instead, He called Thomas to Him and invited him to place his fingers in the nailmarks in His hands and his hand into His side. “Do not be unbelieving,” Jesus told Thomas, “but believe.”
And Thomas believed. Perhaps he dropped to his knees before Jesus as he said, “My Lord and my God!” With these words, Thomas did more than proclaim that Jesus was risen. Thomas proclaimed that Jesus was God. He was the first disciple to do so. God's mercy had entered Thomas' heart and revealed a great truth that the former doubting Thomas didn't hesitate to profess.