03Jul 03 July, 2020. (Fri.) Saint Thomas, Apostle

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.”

Graced by a skeptic

What was the matter with Thomas the twin? Why was he such a doubter? On Easter Day, the other disciples had experienced the risen Jesus, vividly. He appeared among them “mysteriously” even though the doors were shut. To prove that he was no mere ghostly apparition, but the same Jesus who had been crucified, he showed them his hands and his side. They all recognised him as the very one they knew and loved, for he spoke with the same kindness and with the same authority as before. There was recognisable continuity, as well as something mysterious and new. He wished them peace, breathed new heart into them, gave them their mission and shared his spirit with them. But Thomas was not there to share their experience, so his first instinct was to dismiss it as an illusion. Thomas was a born skeptic, unwilling or unable to believe in good news.

About Thomas’ innate pessimism we get some earlier hints in John’s Gospel. When Jesus, 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).

We have reason to be grateful to Thomas for arguing the way he did, for being slow to believe, a doubter by temperament like so many of us, and then being able to help us renew our faith, to vicariously 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. Ultimately, he needed a personal encounter with the risen Lord.

How might the Congregation for Doctrine and the Faith have treated a person like Thomas, who publicly voiced his doubts? Would the have silenced and sidelined him from being an apostle, by a process both secretive and authoritarian? In responding with such understanding to Thomas’ skepticism, Jesus was considerate of us all. No Gospel scene about the Resurrection is more tangible than this one. For all his doubting, Thomas became a channel of faith for us. He responded with the loveliest prayer of all;  more than an act of faith, an act of commitment and surrender: “My Lord and my God!”

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