“Too bad Thomas didn’t have Zoom…”
These days, that’s my initial reaction when I hear the gospel passage for the Second Sunday of Easter. (A familiar tale, yes? The story of Doubting Thomas who didn’t happen to be physically present when the Risen Christ makes one of his first appearances.)
I’ve gotten fairly adept at using Zoom in recent weeks – a “platform skill” necessitated by the pandemic. Just this morning, I learned about Virtual Backgrounds – when one of the guys in my (formerly in-person) faith-sharing group popped up on screen…with an “Earth Rise” image filling in the space behind him.
The image was, I must say, much more dramatic than the “family room” or “home office” décor that served as backdrop for the rest of us on the chat – each of us, at home, sheltering in place.
Still, it didn’t fool us for a minute. We all pretty much knew that Jeff was at home, too – not circling the globe and speaking to us from a command chair aboard the International Space Station.
As I reflect on that experience just a bit, I begin to wonder whether “doubting” St. Thomas would in fact have benefited from Zoom technology back in the day.
Had he logged in “on that evening of the first day of the week,” would he have been able to believe what he then saw on screen? Jesus – still bearing his mortal wounds – standing in the midst of the other guys…in a room where all the doors were locked, as a stay against their fear?
I suspect some part of Thomas would have doubted still. Just as some part of me is filled with wonder…when I consider the stories of the earliest disciples and their encounters with the Risen Lord. For instance: How could they not know him when they see him? How could Jesus just come and go, defying everything we know about physics, time and space?
So why then do I believe?
At least part of the answer has to do with the guys I saw this morning, on the screen. And not just them, but many many other members of the Body of Christ – spouse, children, family, friends, fellow parishioners, Kairos brothers – all of them witnesses to this same transformative reality: Jesus Christ has conquered the grave.
St. Peter alludes to this great Cloud of Witnesses in Sunday’s second reading:
Although you have not seen [Jesus], you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, [and] you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
On some level, Peter himself seems to be emboldened by the faith of those he’s evangelized. That’s not entirely surprising, given how shaky his faith often turned out to be. (See Mark 16: 13-15…even after the resurrection, Jesus is said to have rebuked Peter and the other apostles for their lack of faith.)
So this testimony, reaching back through the ages, is an amazing thing if you think about it – far more mind-boggling than Zoom (a technology which would have been inconceivable to most of those earlier generations). The followers teach the teachers about the Risen Lord. And vice versa…
Yes, we are witnesses to all of this, Lord Jesus.
And yes, Lord, help our unbelief.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.
Must be a grandchild, what a sweet picture.
Look up the Caravaggio painting of The Incredulity of Saint Thomas. The look on Thomas’s face is almost fear, yet it is Jesus hand guiding Thomas’s hand towards his side as the other apostles look on in amazement. Jesus didn’t chide Thomas on his question or need to see…He helped him see, he settled his doubt and fear.