Many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.
Let the children of Israel say:
'His love has no end.'
Let the children of Aaron say:
'His love has no end.'
Let those who fear the Lord say:
'His love has no end.' (R./)
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes.
This day was made by the Lord;
we rejoice and are glad. (R./)
O Lord, grant us salvation;
O Lord, grant success.
Blessed in the name of the Lord
is he who comes.
We bless you from the house of the Lord;
the Lord God is our light. (R./)
I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, "Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea." Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades. Now write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this.
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
When we join in the Sunday Mass we come not just to remember the historical Jesus but to meet the risen Christ in person. Joining in the Eucharist is an act of faith, both of personal faith and of shared faith. In praying together we also help each other to stay faithful; it strengthens our Christian community. It was because the members of the early Church in Jerusalem met so regularly in public that the number of people who came to believe in the Lord increased steadily.
Nobody else can do our believing for us. This is powerfully illustrated in the story of the disciples who had hidden in an attic in Jerusalem. After the execution of Jesus just two days before, they could not dare go out for fear of their lives. But Jesus suddenly came among them, and his greeting was Peace to you. Their response was utter joy. The gift of the Spirit was the breath of the Risen Christ. When the disciples inhaled that life-giving Spirit it took over their lives. Soon they left the Upper Room as changed characters, full of missionary purpose. They go out animated, fired and propelled by the Holy Spirit.
Thomas the Twin was missing that day and so did not share that experience. Though he was an apostle of Jesus, he was an independent individual, suspicious and skeptical. He could not believe just on the word of the others. For him, honesty was more important than groupthink or loyalty. So when the others said they have seen the Lord, Thomas demanded definite proof for himself. For this he was ever afterwards called 'Doubting Thomas'.
Eventually Thomas came to believe in the resurrection like the other disciples, when he saw the risen Jesus with his own eyes. The story ends with a message for all who have not seen the Lord, but who are called to believe in him just the same. We are among the later generations of believers to whom this message applies: 'Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.'
Our faith is a great gift from God. But it is not an inert gift that can we lock away like some precious jewel. It is a living gift that needs nurturing, to grow and mature. Like other life-forms, faith can wither from neglect. We need to pray about it, think about it, and express it in actions arising from love. This does not mean that we will never have any doubts. But if like Thomas we continue seeking, we too will come into the presence of Jesus and say "My Lord and my God!"
The apostles locked themselves in an attic for fear of Jewish reprisals. Even after Mary Magdalene came running from the empty tomb announcing that she had seen the Lord, the stayed locked in. They were afraid that what had been done to Jesus could be done to them. The turning point came when Jesus himself appeared right among them and helped them over their fear. He breathed the Holy Spirit into them, filling them new energy and hope, giving them a share in his mission. "As the Father sent me, so am I sending you." In the power of the Spirit they got their courage back and left their self-imposed prison, to bear witness to the life and message of Jesus. This is the picture of the disciples that Luke gives us in today's reading from Acts. He describes a community of believers, the church, witnessing to the resurrection both in word and by the quality of their living.
Perhaps we are sometimes like those disciples, locked within ourselves, inactive, unwilling to take any initiative. The "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" may have dampened our faith. Like the disciples after the death of Christ, we may have abandoned our faith journey, unable to see the way forward. The experience of past failures make us hesitate to try again. Even another Christian full of enthusiasm and hope, like a Mary Magdalene, can be kept at bay. "Let them get on with it," we say, while we hold back and stay safe. Today's gospel suggests a way out of such confinement. The Lord himself will find another way to draw us into freedom. No locked doors, nor even locked hearts, can keep him out.
At first, the apostles doubted that Mary Magdalene had met Jesus. Later on, Thomas refused to believe that the others had seen him either. He needed tangible proofs, definite and demonstrable. Unless he saw with his own eyes, he would not believe. Jesus gave him the proof he needed. "Put your finger here," he said, "and feel my wounds." He forgives our fears and doubts, and finds us right where we are. We need to say in our turn, "My Lord and my God."