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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Who Has Not Doubted?: On the Feastday of St. Thomas

Caravaggio, The Incredulity of St. Thomas, PD-US, PD-ART

Today is my patronal feastday.  It is the Feastday of Saint Thomas, patron saint of the blind, craftsman, theologians, and...doubters.

Thomas is my patron saint because I think too much.

It was Thomas who, at the Lord's supper, was tormented by uncertainty.  When Jesus told them, "I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, ...and whither I go ye know, and the way ye know",  Thomas had to express his inner hesitation.  He said to Jesus, "Lord, we know not whither thou goest, and how can we know the way?".  It was Jesus' empathy for Thomas state of tortured uncertainty that graced us with the gift of a great teaching: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me". (John 14, KJV)

Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them after the resurrection, as recorded in John 20.  When they later told Thomas about the appearance, Thomas doubted.  True to his nature, he stated that unless he could place his fingers in the crucifixion wounds of our Lord, he would not believe.

Peter Paul Rubens, Martyrdom of St. Thomas PD-US, PD-ART
A week later, Jesus again appeared to them, and invited Thomas to do just that.  Thomas placed his fingers in the nail marks in the body of Our Lord, and in the wound in his side, stating, "My Lord and my God".

This is no small statement.  It is the word of well weighed faith.

I like Thomas because, it seems to me, he tells it like it is.  He doesn’t pretend knowledge where he lacks it, and he doesn’t pretend belief when it does not yet exist.  Yet, he is resigned to loyalty to the well considered commitments he has made, once he has made them.  

Earlier in Jesus' ministry, after Lazarus has died, the disciples are reticent to return to Judea, where the Jews are eager to do Jesus harm.  Thomas states bravely, "Let us go that we may die with him".  He forms his allegiances carefully, but then he stands firmly by them.

Thomas strikes me as an "it is what it is" sort of person.  He just wants to make sure that "it is" first.  
Which of us has not doubted?  Pope Gregory was right, "Thomas' doubt healed the wounds of all our doubts".

As for the end of the story...
Tradition tells us that Thomas was perhaps the only apostle to take the gospel outside of the Roman Empire.  He is also credited with crossing the largest area, having taken the gospel to farflung locations including Parthia and India.  He is believed to have sailed to India in 52 A.D. to share the gospel with the Jewish diaspora in India at that time.

Perhaps a modification of the statement of Forrest Gump's mother: "Stupid is as stupid does", is appropriate here.  Perhaps "belief is as belief does", because, in the end, despite his reputation as a "doubter", the apostle Thomas died, steadfastly, for his faith.

Pax Christi, Dear Ones,
May All Your Doubts be Healed in Christ,

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  1. What an encouraging reflection on Thomas' journey of faith...Thank you, Michelle :) Linked up behind you at Jennifer's...Blessings :)

    In Him,

  2. It is so easy to Judge Thomas, then we wonder how often we also doubt and wonder what is truth?

  3. Hi! I am coming to you from Women Living Well. I, too, have a greater respect for Thomas after having read a reflection about him this week. I ignorantly had passed him off as the Apostle whose faith was week. Who among us doesn't doubt though? I never knew how much he went on to accomplish for the kingdom. Great post!


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