13th Friday in Ordinary Time
Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle
St John’s Gospel pays more attention to St Thomas than the other Gospels do. It records that when Jesus insisted on going to Judea, to visit his friends at Bethany, Thomas came right out and said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him”. At the Last Supper, he interrupted our Lord’s discourse with the question, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” And in today’s Gospel, after the resurrection, Thomas would not accept the account of the other apostles and the holy women, until Jesus appeared before him, showing him his hands and his side. This drew from Thomas the first explicit acknowledgment of Christ’s Godhead, “My Lord and my God!”
Thomas appears to have been a thoughtful man, and inclined to skepticism; but he was a staunch friend when his loyalty was once given. The expression “doubting Thomas”, which has become established in English usage, is not entirely fair to Thomas. He didn’t really refuse to believe, or he wouldn’t have bothered to show up with the other disciples eight days later. He was actually open to believing, but just needed more evidence than was available to him at the time. And because of his good will, Jesus gave him a sign, although Jesus had refused a sign to the Pharisees. Our Lord’s pointed remark was well-deserved: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. The sign did not create faith; it merely released the faith which was in Thomas already.
Thomas’ honest questioning and doubt, and Jesus’ reassuring response to him, have given many modern Christians the courage to persist in faith, even when they are still doubting and questioning. Faith, in fact, is the definition of a Christian. All through the New Testament, it dominates the picture, including our first reading, where the whole structure is said to be held together through him, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone of our faith.
Faith is not something that fills in the gaps when science cannot explain something. Christians speak of faith as a gift, which fortifies us in holding fast to a belief which we know to be true, when we are tempted to lose sight of it. Our minds are not computers; they are human instruments, with the weaknesses of humanity. Whenever evidence comes to us by hearsay, whenever we have to go by somebody else’s word, however good reason we may have for trusting him, then it is always possible to hold back, to say, like Thomas, I will not believe. But our Lord blesses those who have not seen and have believed.
At this Eucharist, we will see with our eyes, and touch with our hands, what looks like bread, but is the bread of life. Blessed are we who recognize the Lord at the breaking of the bread.