In Bleak House the author, Charles Dickens, has one of his characters, a Mr Chadband, say with great emphasis;
“What is peace? Is it war? – No.
Is it strife? – No
Is it lovely and gentle and beautiful and pleasant and serene and joyful? – Oh Yes!”
And what is it for us?
We have an uneasy peace when opponents watch each other over a gun barrel.
We have peace because the children are not making a noise.
We “need peace”, we say, when perhaps all we need is a little sleep.
But what did Christ give to His disciples when He said, “Shalom” – “Peace be with you”?
Twice He said it and then breathed on them the Holy Spirit.
An ordinary greeting suddenly becomes one of enormous significance.
The disciples were afraid; they had seen what the wrath and the power of the High Priest could do. What hope for them, if even He could not defend himself?
And so, they gathered in fear, behind closed doors.
Only when Jesus greeted them and showed them the wounds that He still bore did they allow the joy of recognition to surface.
But Thomas was not there.
One can imagine him in grief and disbelief and in doubt, refusing to take their words as truth. He had lost one of the most important people in his life, Jesus, and he was devastated.
Some of us here may well have lost loved ones, especially during this terrible time for our country and our world, and so perhaps we can sympathise with Thomas; our world just falls apart, and we often don’t think straight.
But, with palpable love, Christ offers Thomas the proof he needs; offers him evidence of His wounds, the certainty of His physical presence.
Then, speaking into the future, Christ’s words are to reach each one of us in our doubts and our questionings.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”
Another beatitude for His Church to take with it to the end of time.
And so, He breathed on them, the same word is used as when God breathed life into Adam.
Christ breathed life into His fledgling Church which now, certain in His resurrection, was ready to carry His peace into the world outside that room.
We touch Christ, too, whenever we help someone who is hurt or in need.
When we listen with patience, when we comfort a child, value the elderly or the infirm. When we take hold of each day of our lives and give to Him what we do.
Through such experiences, we receive Christ’s peace, His comforting presence.
Tradition says Thomas carried the Gospel message to India and beyond, and of course he is often called ‘Doubting Thomas’.
But the irony is that Thomas’s faith was never really in doubt, certainly not by Jesus.
Because it was the invitation of Christ, “do not doubt but believe” that called from Thomas the prayer of utter faith: “My Lord and my God!”