Jul 3 – Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle
Thomas (d. 72) was ready to die with Jesus when Christ went to Jerusalem, but he is best remembered for doubting the Resurrection until allowed to touch Christ’s wounds. He preached in Parthia, Persia and India, though he was so reluctant to start the mission that he had to be taken into slavery by a merchant headed that way.
He eventually gave in to God’s will, was freed, and planted the new Church over a wide area. He formed many parishes and built many churches along the way. An old tradition says that Thomas baptised the wise men from the Nativity into Christianity.
His symbol is the builder’s square. There are several stories that explain it:
– he built a palace for King Guduphara in India
– he built the first church in India with his own hands
– it is representative of building a strong spiritual foundation as he had complete faith in Christ (though initially less in the Resurrection)
– he offered to build a palace for an Indian king that would last forever; the king gave him money, which Thomas promptly gave away to the poor; he explained that the palace he was building was in heaven, not on earth.
– Patron Saint Index
You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.
Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:
‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’
You are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household.
What does it mean to be a part of God’s household? It means that we share in equal sonship and inheritance to God’s love. God gave His promise to the newly-baptised that, through Christ, all are one. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. (Eph 2:17-18)
This reality is important for all of us believers, no matter the length of time of confessing faith in Christ. Some Christians may boast of greater experience in biblical knowledge, or fellowship with a larger church, or denomination as evidence of being premium citizens in God’s house. However, the truth is clearly far from that. If anything, such pride has no place in God’s kingdom, and those who are now first may later find themselves the least and the last.
St Thomas was one of the first disciples, the inner circle of twelve who followed Christ closely and was party to his life in ministry. Despite this, we see that Thomas himself was not immune to moments of despair and unbelief in his beloved Master, when his faith was challenged, and sorrow obscured his vision.
You and I are probably not too far off too, when we find ourselves troubled in our life journey and relationships. How is it that we can fall from such great conversion experiences into the throes of doubt and questions? Perhaps this image is dramatic. Even so, for the most of us, the mildest of our unbelief can indeed manifest in cynicism and indifference. This may take the form of a blasé routinized life of weekly Mass and mindless mumbling of the Penitential Act and the Lord’s Prayer, etc… Ya-ya-ya… Yes, sometimes, that would be me. And sometimes, I would be jolted to sheepish attention by the deadest of such voices coming from the person next to or behind me in the pews.
The hope that springs from today’s biblical passages is that we are not all that different in our unbelief. Even though what causes us to drift and backslide from God may be uniquely difficult or painful, we certainly share in the ‘inheritance’ of doubt with the first apostles whom we now call saints!
Nevertheless, we can and will be able to re-encounter Christ if we desire to seek Him – to even own up to our doubt and say, “Unless I see this, so show me Lord.”
If God had not loved us so, he would not have sent us Jesus. He would have left us to the hellish perils of unbelief and despair – and that is a lonely geography.
Jesus reappearing to Thomas with the evidence he asked for is not for God’s vindication. It is most simply to save us from our flawed human nature that thrives on the senses. Touch me. Feel me. Hear me. See my works and miracles. Not for My sake, but yours.
God accepts our human nature, and therefore gifts us His Spirit to lift us out of our spiritual poverty. This grace and mercy is humbling and beautiful. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (John 15:15-16)
No matter our previous states of unbelief, we can now be a part of God’s household just like St Thomas.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: Lord, help me not to rely on my senses in order to trust and believe in You. Help me in my moments of doubt and weakness.
Thanksgiving: I thank you Jesus for sustaining me with your grace and hope.