03Jul 03 July. St Thomas, Apostle (Feast)

1st Reading: Ephesians (2:19-21)

The church is built on the foundation of the Apostles

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.

Resp. Psalm (Ps 117)

R./: Go out to all the world and tell the Good News

Praise the Lord, all you nations;
glorify him, all you peoples! (R./)

For steadfast is his kindness for us,
and the fidelity of the Lord endures forever. (R./)

Gospel: John (20:24-29)

Thomas comes to faith, on seeing the risen Jesus

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.”


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 20:2

One Response

  1. Brian Fahy

    Thomas the Apostle

    My uncle Tommy sat at the end of the room staring quietly at the open coffin of my father. It was the morning of my father’s funeral. Tommy was dad’s oldest brother. He seemed quite stunned as I looked at him. He was then 77 years of age and the death of his younger brother must have caused him to consider the approach of his own dying day. He was a gentle character, Tommy, and on this feast of Saint Thomas, the Apostle, it is the face and features of my uncle that come to mind.

    Thomas the Apostle speaks for all of us when he refuses to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, for he knows only too well how fierce and final death is. He says it boldly. Cruel nails made cruel marks and cruel wounds killed Christ. Death is impressive and tolerates no contradiction. The spirit departs and all we are left with are ‘remains’. There is no coming back from that. So Thomas names the ways of death. Nails and holes in hands and side. Unless I can touch those wounded parts I will never accept your stories of resurrection.

    We, too, feel the same way. Death is all around us every day and the signs of death, the wounds it makes, convince us of death’s victory. We live our fitful lives until that final day may come and take us, hopefully by surprise and suddenly. We have no strength to resist the power of death that visits us in illness and disease, in road accidents and violent rages, in war and human hatred.

    My father saw death in all these forms during his life, and especially as a soldier of World War Two. He came home determined to live every day of his life in a happy and peaceful way. For despite the terror and the evil, life quietly insists on being lived.

    The people of the world have every reason for not believing. Life, like Calvary itself, is just too cruel, and Thomas’ words give true valuation to life’s torment, and Jesus knows this. Here, Thomas, are my hands and my side. Yes, in truth, death did its worst in me, and yet I say, ‘Peace be with you.’

    The Lord speaks to us today and says how blessed we are to believe even though we do not see. Doubt no longer. In our darkened world where death strides loudly everywhere, let faith shine the light that death cannot quench. Let peace fall on troubled hearts and stay with us forever. Like my uncle Tommy, sitting quietly at the end of the room, may we be calm in the face of this world’s troubles and may the Lord bless us in believing.

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