Today we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas, the apostle. Poor guy! As an apostle, Thomas was one of the first followers of Jesus, but most people know him better as “Doubting Thomas”. I contend that is because we relate more to his doubt than to his faith.
Don’t many of us walk the same road in our relationship with God? Early on, life with Jesus is sweet and easy. We’ll go wherever he leads. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)
Like Thomas, we follow Jesus to Jerusalem, knowing that it will be hard. But still, we can do it together. We welcome him with “Hosannas”, but when the full meaning of Jesus’ arrest bears down upon us, we succumb to fear and shun the trial. “I can do all things, Lord….but not that! Anything but _____!” Each of us fills in the blank with our own personal suffering.
We know nothing of what Thomas did during the time between Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. In fact, except for Peter’s denial and John’s witness, the gospels remain silent about what the apostles did during that time. Perhaps, like us, they hid from the reality in front of them.
Suffering is a solitary act. No one can suffer for us. Only we can bear our own suffering. Sometimes, we simply don’t know how we can bear it. Oftentimes, like the apostle we turn away from God because the pain is just too much to endure.
Thomas hears about Jesus’ resurrection from the other apostles. He doesn’t believe them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (Jn 20:25) Don’t we sometimes go there, too? God isn’t who he says he is and believing he is makes no sense.
It is not until a week later that, without opening the door, Jesus appears to Thomas and the other disciples in a locked room “…and said, ‘Peace be with you.’” Knowing Thomas’ pain, Jesus said to him, “’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.’” (Jn 20:26-27) Jesus told Thomas exactly what Thomas needed to hear in order to surrender to Jesus’ love.
Did Thomas actually put his finger in the wounds? We don’t know. What we do know is that Jesus allowed Thomas to suffer for a week so that Jesus’ revelation of himself would move Thomas to 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.’” (Jn 20:28-29)
We are those who have not seen but still believe. And we are blessed – not in spite of the suffering, but because of it. This Thomasian journey of faith brings us to the Petrine response, “Where else would we go, Lord? You have the words of everlasting life.” (Jn 6:68)
We adore you O Christ, and we bless you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world! Anne