St. Thomas, the Apostle
“Unless I see I will not believe.” These are words of the Apostle Thomas whom we celebrate today. These words have sadly clung to him in a negative way so that he is often called “Doubting Thomas.”
But calling him “Doubting Thomas” seems not only unfair, but inaccurate. Thomas was no wavering agnostic, sitting on the fence: “Perhaps I believe, I don’t know.” That’s not Thomas at all. He is quite open and downright: “I simply don’t believe it.” “I don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead, and that’s that.”
And I think we have to say that many people do find it very difficult to believe. It’s a great mystery why others who hear the Gospel are touched almost immediately and come to faith. They are blessed, says Jesus, who do not need such evidence as the exploring of wounds with a finger. “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.”
Yet Jesus had mercy on Thomas, was glad of his honesty: “Unless I see I will not believe.” See what? Does it mean I want proof? Surely not, because faith does not deal with proof. God longs for us to turn to him in penitence and faith. He is not going to prove anything to make us believe.
Thomas did not believe. He was honest, yet Jesus longed for him to believe, and so gave him his body to convince him.
It was seeing Jesus’ body, in all of its brokenness and woundedness, which brought Thomas to faith. But this is not a story of proof; it’s a story of love, seeing the body of his beloved Jesus again – who loved him so much that he died for him. It must have been an overwhelming moment for Thomas, perhaps falling to his knees as he cried out, “My Lord and my God.”
Jesus’ body, risen and glorified, and yet bearing the marks of crucifixion, is still present in the world. It is us, for we are the body of Christ. How do we, as Christ’s body, convince the world that Jesus is indeed risen from the dead, and is alive today? What do we say? How do we best evangelize?
In the story, Jesus, it seems, didn’t explain anything to Thomas. He didn’t try to prove anything. He simply shared with him his wounds. The parts of the body of Christ which convinced Thomas were those which bore the marks of crucifixion. Maybe the same is true for Christ’s body, the Church?
It seems to me that when the church has historically been at its most powerful and triumphant, it has been at its worst. But when it has been at its most fragile and humble, it’s been at its best. For then it bears the marks of our crucified God. I wonder what it might mean for you, to bear the marks of our crucified God?
For St. Paul, it was the source of his strength and hope. “For I have been crucified with Christ,” he tells the Galatians. “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”[i]It was only after Paul had died to his old self, and forever bore the marks of his death, that he could begin his ministry.
So today for us, perhaps the invitation is to stay with the story of Thomas beholding the wounded body of his Lord. To reflect on the wounds which we bear, which we often try to hide, but which may also well be the very place of our conversion. Pray before the body of Jesus, and maybe you will fall to your knees with Thomas and cry out, “My Lord and my God.”[ii] Amen.
[i] Galatians 2:20.
[ii] John 20:28.
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