We like to think of the world of second chances, but that is not what forgiveness nor conversion is. First, Thomas challenges us to unequate the two and think not as we would think but as God thinks.
Next he challenges us to question what it means to be a best friend. Obviously Peter was one of Jesus' best friends and yet he denied him vehemently. Jesus tests Peter three times after the Resurrection: "Peter do you love me?" (John 21:15-17) But is it really a 'test' as we often present it or is it Jesus removing the veil of sin, the self-loathing and fear of failure? He is really moving past the sin to the reason he chose Peter in the first place: Jesus desires that Peter"Feed my sheep."
In this story Jesus asks Peter with the word "agape" and Peter answers with the word "philo". Eventually Jesus shifts to "philo" with Peter but a very strong form of the word. Jesus realizes and acknowledges the place where Peter is, but he warns him in the next passage as to the difference between the two words.
Such must have been the case between Thomas and King Henry. But how different the reaction and the outcome! When Thomas seems to suddenly get religion, Henry reacts exactly the opposite of the true king, Jesus. He refuses to accept Thomas as he is, where he is and though the outcome is the same, Henry fails to forgive and accept that opposite reaction. Thomas dies at the off-handed remark of Henry who refuses the level of 'love' that Thomas can give him.
Certainly, like Peter, Thomas was no saint in his life. As David Knowles observes in his biography, while many of his contemporaries admired Thomas, no one but the king whose words killed him claimed to have loved him. Still while no saints in life both Peter and Thomas certainly were in their death. Jesus makes saints out of sinners, and that is our hope!
Thomas pray that first we may be true to the Truth and second that we may love Christ as best we can.
"It is useless to threaten me. If all the swords of England were over my head, your threats would not shift me from God’s justice and obedience to the pope. I will dispute every inch of ground with you in the Lord's fight. I left England long ago in fear; I have now returned to my church at the pope's behest; I will not again abandon her. If I may hold my office in peace, well and good; if not, may God’s will be done.” An uproar followed, and the knights left the room calling on those present to defy the traitor and prevent his escape. The archbishop started up and followed them to the door, where he heard them telling his servants that the king released them from fealty to the archbishop. “What do you say?” he exclaimed. "Speak! speak! I shall not fly. I shall be here. Here you will find me." And he raised his hand to his head. He then turned calmly back and sat down once more. John of Salisbury, as always the candid friend, made complaint. "You have always been like that. You always act and speak entirely on your own, without taking advice.” The archbishop took him up good-humouredly. “What would you then, master John?’ ‘You should have summoned your council. You must realize that those knights simply want an excuse for killing you.’ ‘We must all die, master John', replied Thomas, ‘and we must not let the fear of death make us swerve from justice. I am ready to accept death for the sake of God and of justice and the Church's freedom—far more ready to accept death than they are to kill me.’"
-- From Archbishop Thomas Becket: A Character Study By David Knowles