Fr. Charles Irvin
Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31
All of us have had our doubts, doubts about many things, doubts about whether or not we are really loved, and doubts about events. By God’s good graces we have a “patron saint’ of doubts, and not only a saint but one of Christ’s very own apostles. He, like us, thirsted for a knowledge that would remove all his doubts about Jesus Christ. St. Thomas the Apostle was not able to rely on the reports of the women who went to the tomb. Nor could he bring himself to rely on the reports of his fellow apostles. What he really wanted was a direct experience of Christ risen from the dead.
We hear in today’s Gospel account:
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 he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
There was an earlier doubting on the part of Thomas. It is reported by St. Matthew:
He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.” But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.” So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.” Matthew 11:11-16
Thomas was the sort of man who would not allow himself to be a fool. He turned himself into a rock, vulnerable to no one. He chose to be a courageous pessimist. In my own life I have met many like St. Thomas. They experience life’s hardness and it’s sometime absurdities. All we can do, they say, is endure it and then die. They bring the mind and attitude of Thomas into our midst, into our days.
You and I live in an age of immense suffering and death. Men and women have conditioned themselves to see only one reality – death, misery, and the terrifying treatment of others, particularly those who are most vulnerable. Human life is valued cheaply. The result is that many fear being open to hope because their hopes have been crushed so often. It seems that for many, hope is only an illusion, and belief in others seems foolish. Resurrection? New life? Faith? Many sing a new anthem: “I am a rock.” Nothing can touch me. That which is real is only what I can touch, taste, and see… As for life after death? Well, maybe. But only maybe.”
Thomas the Apostle likely had the same feelings inside him, feelings of which God was aware and wanted to change. Being a good Jew, Thomas was looking for a messiah who would free the Jewish people from their oppressors. He wanted a political and military messiah. The Romans treated the Jews brutally; the soldiers of the Roman legions were particularly brutal and cruel with them. Thomas had been disappointed so often. His expectations of Jesus were severely tested. Yet he followed Jesus. That was a sign of immense love and respect that lay hidden within the heart and soul of Thomas. Earlier I quoted Thomas’ response to the statement of Jesus that he was going to raise up Lazarus. Thomas said: “Let us also go to die with him.” On the surface that statement of Thomas seems oddly out of place. Perhaps now you can see it wasn’t so odd. It was telling us of Thomas’ inner attitude and struggles.
Today’s gospel account can now be seen it all of its power. Having said he wouldn’t believe, Jesus had Thomas touch the gash in His side and put his finger into Christ’s wounded hands, all of which brings forth from Thomas the most beautiful and convincing act of faith found in the bible. Jesus yielded to Thomas as He yielded to no one else. Because Thomas yielded over his heart and surrendered in such great humility, God stooped down to Thomas down in infinite humility.
God sees you and God sees me in St. Thomas. He loved Thomas immensely. God loves you and He loves me with the same generosity and immensity of heart. He knows our disappointments, our unhappiness, our frustrations, and our fears and insecurities. He wants to love them out of our hearts and souls… if only we will yield to Him as Thomas the Apostle did.
From out of the heart of Thomas comes forth a humility and a purgation that touches us 2,000 years later. Thomas the hard-as-nails cynic becomes the only one of the apostles to cry out, “My Lord, and my God!” From this poor, pessimistic Thomas, so firm in his reluctance to believe, Jesus drew the statement of belief that He had spent His entire life to receive from His followers.
From Thomas’ heart came the fulfillment of Christ’s birth among us at Christmas and the response God wants from each one of us. From the dregs of human suffering, doubt, disillusionment, discouragement, depression, defeat, and despair comes the cry of a man ravished and conquered by God’s love, a love in which God became a part of all that we are, and who we are, in order that we might encounter Him.
God offers, and being the tremendous lover that He is, He awaits our response, a response pattered on the journey and acceptance Thomas experienced. Nothing so influenced God as the thoughts and festering sores in the heart of Thomas… and within you and me.
All that remains is our surrender… our willingness to restore faith and trust within our hearts, our willingness to believe, our acceptance of the risen Lord bearing His wounds, and our communion of love with Him.
All that remains is for us to receive His Body and Blood and hear our hearts give Jesus what He died to give us, whispering to Him: “My Lord, and my God.”