Tag Archives: Thomas the Apostle

Give Thomas a break

Preparing to preach today, I was struck by how narrow our vision is when we consider “doubting Thomas.” I said in my homily that we are too hard on him.

He wasn’t in the Upper Room (with its locked doors for fear of the authorities) when Jesus appeared. The apostles there were startled and terrified (as Luke 24:37 puts it).

Jesus shows them his wounds and they are filled with joy, at least in John’s Gospel (20:21). In Luke they are incredulous for joy and amazed (24:41) or, as the NRSV puts it, “in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.”

Eating with him, they seem to be convinced that it is really Jesus, risen, and not a phantasm.

When Thomas heard the news, I wondered if he thought the other apostles were suffering from an illusion, projecting their dreams to visualize a risen Jesus.

Perhaps Thomas was seeking a real encounter with Jesus and was suspicious of their stories. After all, these same disciples had been told of the risen Jesus by the women who had the courage to go to the tomb that Sunday morning. But they seem to have dismissed the women and doubted them. They were the doubting disciples – of course, the women had brought the message and, in a macho world, who listens to women?

But when Jesus comes to the disciples the next Sunday, he doesn’t chew him out. Rather, he invites Thomas to come and put his finger in the wounds. He invites intimate contact.

And how does Thomas respond? With one of the most profound affirmations of Jesus in the Gospels, “My Lord and my God.”

Thomas gets a bad rep – while the other disciples get excused for their doubts. But Thomas opened himself to intimacy, to touching the wounds of the Lord.

Do we long to touch the wounds of the Lord? Or do we want to keep Him at a distance?

The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas_by_Caravaggio


Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da, 1573-1610. The Incredulity of Saint Thomas.[retrieved April 8, 2018] Original source: Wikipedia Commons.

 

 

Inviting Thomas, not accusing him

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.