03Jul July 03. Tuesday. St Thomas, Apostle

Eph 2:19-21. Built into a holy dwelling-place for God

John 20:24-29. Jesus revives the faith of Thomas the doubter

Holy Skepticism?

What in God’s name was wrong with Thomas the twin?, we maywonder. On Easter Day, Jesus made a most convincing appearance to his disciples. He was suddenly there in the midst of them – in his gloriously risen body – even though the doors were shut. To dispel any doubt that he was only a ghost, or that his body wasn’t the one that had been crucified, he showed them his hands and his side. In various ways they could recognise the old Jesus they knew and loved, for he showed them the kindness he had always shown and spoke with the same authority. There was continuity here, as well as something mysterious and new. He wished them peace, breathed new life into them, gave them their mission. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:22).

Furthermore, the evidence for Jesus’s real appearance wasn’t confined to one person, for a number of his disciples were there. What had happened in that upper room was a multiple experience. Each of them was witness to it from his or her own perspective. Nor is it likely that they were all asleep and all had the same dream. They knew they were fully awake and that the Risen Lord was among them.

Now if you knew a group of people over three years, so that between you there was a bond of trust, and if they told you what happened the previous Sunday and what Jesus had said and done in their presence, would you believe them? Or would you refuse outright to believe it was possible? Thomas did! He was a born pessimist, unwilling or unable to believe in good news.

About Thomas’s contrary nature we get some earlier hints in John’s Gospel. When Our Lord, against the wishes of his disciples, decided to go up to Jerusalem, it was Thomas who took a gloomy view of the idea: “Yes, let us also go to die with him” (Jn 11:16). Characteristically, he expected the worst. “When, on another occasion Jesus assured his disciples that by dying he’d be returning to the Father, Thomas objected: “We do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?” (Jn 14:4, 5). It’s not so surprising then, when the others were telling him of the Resurrection, that Thomas ran true to form: “Unless I can see the holes that the nails made in his hands. . . and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe” (Jn 20:25).

Many in the church are grateful to Thomas for arguing the way he did, for being such a skeptic , a doubter by temperament like so many of us — and then being a position to reinforce our faith, enabling us vicariously to put our fingers into the holes and our hand into the Lord’s side. He needed the visual and the tactile; he wanted solid proof, and there’s a side of us that needs it too.

One wonders how the Congregation for Doctrine and the Faith would have treated St. Thomas. Would he have been silenced and sidelined from his position as an apostle, by a process both secretive and threatening? In responding so kindly to Thomas’s skepticism, the Lord was considerate of us all. No Gospel scene about the Resurrection is more tangible than the one between Thomas and Jesus. For all his doubting, Thomas did us a great favour. And then he came up with the loveliest prayer of all – more than an act of faith, an act of commitment and surrender: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).

First Reading: Ephesians 2:19-21.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

Gospel: John 20:24-29.

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”