"Unless I see, unless I touch, unless I experience; I will NOT believe!"
Isn't this a maxim for the age in which we live? Unless it is verifiable by science, unless it has experiential data; we will not believe.
(On a side note, isn't God great that He gave us Thomas as an example for the Modern Age, even though he lived in the Classical Age?)
So, how are we to make sense of this? I think there are several possibilities:
1) Thomas is the spokesman, not only here, but throughout the Gospel of John, especially. (Think of Jesus going to Jerusalem for the raising of Lazarus, it is Thomas who says: "Let us also go to die with him.") Thomas gives voice, thought, to even what we experience, and should give us the courage to come before Our Lord to seek greater understanding, not out of doubt or dispair. (St. Anselm: Theology is Faith seeking understanding.) We investigate so that we may come to a deeper level of understanding, but we must always think with the Church.
2) In a time of crisis, we must turn to Christ. It is easy to forget that the world of the Apostles had just been violently turned upside down. As often as they heard Jesus talk about going to Jerusalem to give his life as a ransom for many, I have to think that down deep that expectation for the militaristic Messiah was still there. Heck, look at the request of James and John: Lord, can we sit at your right and at your left? Was this the heavenly kingdom about which they spoke, or an earthly? Thomas, in his confusion, was at a point where he couldn't take much more. One can easily see his thoughts: 'I spent THREE YEARS with this man, to have it come to this?!?!?!' Yet, Our Lord takes us where we are, and gently, or not so gently as the case may be, chides us back into relationship, into belief. 'Yes, Thomas, I tested you, so that I could refine you, purify you, cleanse you for the upcoming trials and difficulties that you will face.'
3) Thomas' response is the perfect utterance of faith: "My Lord and My God!" When it comes down to it, this is the trump card. This is how Thomas is brought back into the fold, laying his weakness before the Lord, that He may do with as He will. So often, men want to come to the seminary out of strength: 'Look at all that I have to offer! I have these gifts, these talents, these abilities; I've done this, this and this; I am perfect for this!' It doesn't work this way. God doesn't need our strengths, He needs us. And the only way He can use us/me, is if I offer Him my very self, coming through my weaknesses. St. Peter's initial response in the Gospel of Luke: 'Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.' The tax collector who gives half of his possessions to the poor. The poor widow who gives two small coins, for she offers all that she has. With Thomas, let us humbly offer our prayer of praise: "My Lord and My God!"
I think that about does it, thoughts?
I'm off to put my nose in the middle of a book all day, wedding tonight, family gathering over the enext two days, so unplugging till Monday, likely.