Today, the Catholic Church, together with the Malabar Church in India, celebrates the feast of St. Thomas, the doubter.
According to the Malabar Church, Thomas went to India and evangelized the people that formed into what are called Thomas Christians. When the Portuguese arrived in India, they were greeted by these Christians who trace their lineage to the first century.
An Indian woman I knew in Ames, Iowa, was once asked when her family became Christian. “From the time of the apostle St. Thomas.” Sadly western Christians often forget that the Church is universal and is not exclusively Western.
St. Thomas is known as “doubting Thomas,” because he missed the first apparition of the risen Jesus to the apostles and said he wouldn’t believe unless he touched the marks of the nails and put his hand in the wound in Jesus’s side.
There is an interesting reflection on this by Monsignor Ronald Knox, in a Vigils reading in Benedictine Daily Prayer:
Our Lord doesn’t complain. Our Lord wasn’t like us, he didn’t go about after his resurrection find fault and saying “I told you so”; he looked forward to the future….
And when Jesus spent time with Peter at the shore of the lake, he didn’t accuse him. Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him.
The Lord welcomes us, invites us. He can so easily accuse us, but his message – as is the message of Pope Francis – is to invite us to faith, to conversion.
What a different world this would be if we followed the example of Jesus – not accusing, but inviting.