Today is the feast day for Saint Thomas the Apostle. I chose Thomas (or maybe he chose me) for my patron saint for my baptism/confirmation a few years ago. I have an affinity for Thomas, partly because it took me nearly forty years of doubt and skepticism to finally accept the gift of faith.
Thomas, as most people know, gets a kind of bad rap for doubting. Perhaps it is warranted. Perhaps not. It is interesting to note that of the four Gospels, it is in the Book of John where Thomas is mentioned the most.
At the Last Supper, it is Thomas who asked the question leading to Jesus’ deep Christological statement:
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”
(John 14:5-6 RSV)
In today’s reading from John 20:24-29 NAB:
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But Thomas said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
I suppose this is the scene that gives Thomas his nickname. But if we read just a few verses of above this in 19 & 20:
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
It seems to me that Thomas was just asking for the same experience as the other Apostles. He did not want to be left out.
I wonder where Thomas was on that first evening? Why was he not with the others when Jesus first appeared?
As my spiritual director pointed out, Thomas received what he asked for but realized it was more than he needed. The text does not say that he actually touched Jesus. He knew when he saw him. And John credits Thomas with a new declaration of who Jesus was, “My Lord and my God!”
During Mass near the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist when the priest first holds up the bread/Body, and then again when he first holds up the chalice of wine/Blood, there is supposed to be a long tradition (although my catechesis did not include it) of saying to ones self, “My Lord and my God.” The congregation is kneeling at this point, and although Scripture does not say it, I imagine Thomas kneeling too in front of Jesus and the others saying the same declaration of belief. Such a humble statement needs an outward sign as concrete as a physical gesture to represent the inner experience.
Thank you Thomas. Blessed are those who witnessed. Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.