St Thomes the Apostle (Doubting Thomas)
To doubt is the first step to belief in God the Father. St Thomas proves the truth of this statement in his personal conduct for the benefit of all believers.
1. The Setting
The properly educated Catholics know this story: Christ as risen from the dead had appeared to his Apostles and Mary His Mother, but Thomas his Apostle was not present in the room. Clearly, the Apostles who had seen and heard the risen Jesus following his Resurrection in this room, conveyed this news to St Thomas the Apostle who exclaimed;
“I will not believe Jesus Christ has risen from the dead until I put my fingers in the wounds caused by His crucifixion.”
Shortly after, Saint Thomas with the other remaining Apostles was in the upper room when Christ appeared again to them. Jesus knows the secrets of all hearts then and now, and He said to Thomas;
“Come forward and put your fingers in the holes in my hands made by the nails, and the hole in my right chest made by the spear.”
St Thomas duly complied and responded with his great act of faith and allegiance in His Saviour:
“My Lord and my God”
as he proclaimed it. Jesus responded with the eternal truth;
“Blessed are those who do not see, but believe.”
2. The Moral of this Interaction between Christ and Thomas his Apostle to be Sanctified.
That it is greater to believe in Christ even though you do not have visible and touching proof, as Christ told Thomas and the other Apostles on this occasion. Thomas nevertheless demonstrated his true honesty and sincerity by admitting his initial doubt to his fellow Apostles. They could not persuade him that Christ, in His risen bodily shape, had appeared to them. He would not take the facts from his own trusted and beloved Apostles. He would only believe if Christ gave him touching and physical proof. Thomas was sticking his neck out – the other Apostles could have alienated him for his impudence in refusing to accept the truth from them, Christ’s chosen followers. He ran the risk of being accused of a denial of our Holy Redeemer and thus being shunned by those Apostles. Neither Thomas nor the other Apostles could be sure Christ would ever reappear to give satisfaction to Thomas. The stakes were high as Thomas had driven them up. He was highly demanding and it could be said you don’t treat Christ like that and effectively tell him what to do. St Thomas the Apostle must have been a very determined and single minded man. He would settle for nothing less than feeling Christ’s wounds. He could be said to have over shot the mark and gone too far.
3. The Attitude of Christ.
Thomas finally knew his terrible corrosive sin of doubt, and thus acknowledged this sin of refusal to believe in His Lord and Master. Christ without doubt forgave him for his courageous and sincere doubting conduct and his final submission to Himself. Christ will never turn anyone away whether they arrogantly put themselves first as Thomas did, or they weakly express their doubts. Christ was rightly praising Thomas the Apostle for his openness and forthright approach to belief in Him. That must always be the proper Christian route to faith in God. Christ was commending Thomas to us, yet we will not see and touch Jesus as he did. Forgiveness is at the heart of this interaction between Christ and Thomas. Thomas the Apostle teaches bravery and outspokenness, even at personal risk to this safety of ours and contact with our circle of friends and family.
4. Doubting Thomas
It has been said to me by Catholics in years gone by Priests will have crises or doubts before they finally believe in God and are ordained. This is well known amongst trainee priests and seminarians and their teachers. When these doubts have been confessed they will be overcome, and the sure foundation of faith will be built never to be dismantled. St Thomas the Apostle proved this process once and for all in Biblical times. Thanks to his example we have the comfort of knowing we are not alone in our fallibility.
Woe betide those who are not honest with themselves, and do not admit their doubts. If you do not believe in Christ you must say so whether you be ordained or not, and however old you may be. It is nothing shameful to be in a state of doubting – we cannot see the risen Christ as St Thomas insisted he should. The task we have of believing is greater than the challenge St Thomas had when he saw and touched Christ. Let us take comfort in Christ’s words of consolation to us who cannot see Him, and yet we believe. We have been shown the better path and Christ is holding out a great reward for following Him that way. Christ knows what He expects of us and He speaks truly and with clarity. Thomas the Apostle has won this prize for us – to believe and yet not to see. His confession is so bold to our Holy Redeemer and his unrelenting and unflinching demeanour; to the moment of his realisation convince me he was the Apostle with perhaps the greatest personal faith in the Son of God. Our debt to this Thomas can never be repaid – he is beyond price and value, spiritual or Heavenly.