The disciples are gathered. In fact they are in hiding! Some of them have seen the empty tomb, some have seen the risen Jesus; others have not. Some believe, some doubt.
Then Jesus appears in their midst. They all see him, except Thomas. He is absent. Perhaps he is buying provisions. Perhaps he is off by himself trying to understand the stories he has heard about Jesus being raised from the dead.
Thomas returns. The others tell him, "we have seen the Lord!" Thomas has missed seeing Jesus. Thomas is late. Then he gets defensive. “Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands and put my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later, the Gospel of John tells us, Jesus again appears to the disciples, who are gathered behind locked doors. After greeting them with “Peace be with you”, Jesus turns to Thomas and invites him to do exactly what he said he needed to do to believe. “Put your finger here and see my hands, put your hand into my side. Be not faithless, but believe.”
Thomas’ answer is “My Lord and my God”. It has echoed down the centuries from the lips of those who, like Thomas, have seen the risen Christ. It is whispered in fervent intensity by Catholic believers when the consecrated bread and wine are presented for a moment of adoration during the Mass, as they affirm the Real Presence of the risen Christ in the Eucharist. Thomas saw Jesus in the flesh by sight. We see Jesus in the flesh by faith. We see him in his Body, the Church, and especially in the Eucharist.
Thomas was late to see the risen Christ. I don’t think it’s too much to say that Jesus appeared that second time to the disciples in order to answer Thomas’ prayer and challenge his faith. Jesus came and appeared to a late and unbelieving Thomas and brought him back into the community of the disciples. Jesus continues to come to the late and unbelieving through the Church and the Eucharist to grant them the opportunity to “not see and believe.”
If Jesus did that for Thomas, can we do any less?