I am Thomas: What it means to encounter Christ in the flesh, as He intended, today and always.

The Apostles are hiding away in the Upper Room shuddering in fear behind closed doors. I can just imagine them all sitting around each other, silently clutching their knees to their chest while praying to God and recalling Jesus’ final moments with them before enduring His passion. I can imagine the disciples listening to the voices of people on the street and extending themselves to hear if they’re talking about Jesus. They were questioning. They were confused. They were already starting to go back to their former way of life. Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John are proclaiming His resurrection; but I can also imagine just as vividly that they didn’t know where to begin.

Then, Jesus appeared. He reminded them that He has never left them. The Gospel says that He stood in their midst and spoke words of reassurance and grace, “Peace be with You.” He showed them the wounds in His hands and side.

The Apostles rejoiced at the sight of our risen Lord who fulfilled God’s promise to us. Then said, “the Father has sent me, and I also send you.” He reminded them that their divine mission on this earth is to go out to serve all of creation in the name of Jesus Christ- and He reminds us all of the exact same thing. Jesus breathed on them, similar to how God breathed on all of creation when creating it. This time, Jesus was creating something new, too. The Apostles received the Holy Spirit in order to serve Him and be His witnesses to the ends of the Earth- but you might be asking yourself, “How does this relate to me? I don’t encounter Christ in the flesh. I don’t touch His wounds. I don’t know Him like that.

Yes. You. Do.

If you’re like me, then you’re a lot like Saint Thomas. Why? Because we’re human. We question. We doubt. We need proof, we want the facts, and we want to encounter what is true and good in our lives. Thomas displays a very human response to his fellow Apostles when they proclaim that they’ve seen the risen Christ. Meanwhile, Thomas was (probably) out fishing during this and naturally he doubts their witness.

Thomas needed to see if for himself, and soon enough Jesus came to him giving him exactly what he requested. He invited him to touch his side and put his fingers in his wounds so that Thomas can know that He is truly present.

I think in a lot of ways we also seek to encounter Christ in the flesh, and let me give you a hint: at every Mass, that proof is directly in front of you in the Eucharist. If we believe in His word, and that Christ is the Word Made Flesh, when the Word Made Flesh says, “I am the bread of life,” why do some Christians reject Him? John 6 Jesus says, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in Him.” This is not some sort of metaphor- this is true encounter with Christ in the Eucharist. Father Mike Schmitz said it beautifully, “If you don’t want the Eucharist, you don’t want Jesus.” It is the most intimate gift given by Him.

Love desires union. Love is more than just a feeling. Love desires encounter. Catholics believe in Christ’s pure word spoken in John 6 and celebrate His encounter with us at every single Mass. Why? Not only has God given us His Son in the flesh, but to fulfill the mission of unity that He’s always intended to have with us, He gives us all of His very self. This is what we’ve been waiting for. Not just some lofty idea about who God is, but a real encounter with Him. Jesus said it Himself multiple times, “I will be with you till the end of the age.” The Son of God is capable of fulfilling all that He proclaims.

Why do we doubt His word? Just like Thomas, all of our wounds are healed when we are in communion with Christ. I pray that when we receive Him at Mass we may have the same reaction that Thomas did when he encountered Christ saying, “My Lord and my God!”

The Catholic Church believes that we shouldn’t be confined to Christ’s healing strength only on Sundays- instead, everyday, if we so choose, at Daily Mass! God desires our daily conversion back to Him. just like Thomas, we have no need to doubt. He is truly present. We can touch Him. In the Eucharist God’s grace is poured out in order to deepen that relationship. This is the source and summit of our faith. This is true testimony of belief. We truly encounter Him in the same way that Thomas did: in His true flesh. When we receive Him we are letting our wounds be healed in His. 

Why do we ask, “Where is He?” Jesus Christ is still fully present right here for you and for me. I encourage you to mediate more deeply on this beautiful mystery. Read John 6. Pray about this true encounter. Understand God’s word. Every Mass we are truly becoming one with Christ in His fullness- as He intended for us. When is the last time that you truly encountered Him in the flesh? He has not left us alone. Let us imitate Thomas and come to believe in His glory each time we receive Him. Let us respond as the Gospel instructs: “These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.”

May the Holy Spirit be with all of you! It’s still Easter! Alleluia!


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