Sunday, April 23, 2006

In Defense of St. Thomas ...the doubter

Originally posted on this blog on April of 2002:

This Sunday which now is the Feast of Divine Mercy is also the Sunday where we hear the story of the so called doubting Apostle Thomas. The lone Apostle who is not locked in the Upper Room with the other surviving Apostles. It strikes me that he always gets a bad rap, undeservedly so, I would say.

Remember on the way to Jerusalem, one of the Apostles pointed out to Our Lord that a certain death awaited Him if He went to Jerusalem.

Jesus undeterred continues to journey toward Jerusalem.

It is then that John's Gospel records the Apostle Thomas as saying, "Let us also go, that we may die with him," (John 11:16). These are the words not of a doubter (in the mission of the Lord) but rather a proclamation of a believer, ready to take up his cross and to die with and for Jesus Christ.

As they journey along and Jesus says, "You know the way that I am going," and Thomas doesn't understand Jesus he says so, "Lord we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?" (John 14). Jesus replies, "I am the way."

So now we reach the moment after the crucifixion has passed when Scripture tells us, "On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews," (John 20:19). We find that Thomas is not with them.

Why not?

Remember that the Apostles were in the room for "fear" of the Jews, they were afraid that the same ones who had handed Jesus over to death might come after them next, but Thomas had said "let us go to die with him." He was not afraid, he was out and about his business, if they came after him...so be it!

Is it any wonder then that when he returns to enconter the disciples still locked in the room, that he does not believe them. Why should he? If the Lord were alive, why were they so filled with fear? If they really had experience the Resurrected Lord why weren't they proclaiming it with their lives? Why weren't they back out on the streets?

When Jesus appears to Thomas, he believes!

Our Lord tells him and us that "Blessed are those who have not seen and believe."

It is very easy to doubt that the Lord lives when we see modern day Apostles locked behind clerical doors for fear of the press, or scandal, or law suits, or the laity. It is easy to wonder if they really believe in the power of the risen Lord.

But what about us? Are we out in the streets ready to die with Him or are we too locked behind our own fears?

Saint Thomas, pray for us!

Lord have mercy on us!

3 comments:

  1. "It strikes me that he always gets a bad rap, undeservedly so, I would say."

    Sorry, Michael, but I think that he DOES deserve the rap. I think that, at best, you have flimsy evidence by which to try to "rehabilitate" Doubting Thomas. Otherwise, we wouldn't still be calling him that, almost 2,000 years later.

    You wrote: "Remember on the way to Jerusalem ... It is then that John's Gospel records the Apostle Thomas as saying, 'Let us also go, that we may die with him' (John 11:16). These are the words not of a doubter (in the mission of the Lord) but rather a proclamation of a believer, ready to take up his cross and to die with and for Jesus Christ."

    He is not known as Doubting Thomas for doubting in Jesus's mission (which he assumed to be as the Messiah), but for doubting that Jesus could rise from the dead.

    Thomas, when he was perfectly safe (on the road), and when he probably imagined that Jesus could prevent his own death from happening (since he had witnessed so many tremendous miracles), his bravado rings hollow ["Let us also go ..."]. He never really expected to be in trouble, but as soon as he was in peril (at Gethsemane), he fled like the rest.

    You also wrote: "So now we reach the moment ... when Scripture tells us, '... the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews." ... We find that Thomas is not with them. Why not? ... but Thomas had said "let us go to die with him." He was not afraid, he was out and about his business, if they came after him ... so be it!

    You are wrong, and you have a very fertile imagination! You forgot that Thomas fled from the Garden, instead of fighting back and being arrested. (He didn't have any guts until Pentecost, when he got plenty.) Why was he not there on Easter night? Probably not because he "was out and about his business," but more likely because he had not just run from the Garden, but all the way into the next town (away from Jerusalem for more than a week, until the coast might be clear)!

    Then you wrote:
    "Is it any wonder then that when he returns to enconter the disciples still locked in the room, that he does not believe them."

    Yes, it is a "wonder." He lacked faith.

    "Why should he [believe them]?"

    Because Jesus had raised others from the dead, and because Jesus had prophesied that he too would rise. BUT HE DOUBTED THIS!

    "If the Lord were alive, why were they so filled with fear? If they really had experienced the Resurrected Lord why weren't they proclaiming it with their lives? Why weren't they back out on the streets?"

    Because Jesus had given them no guarantees that, though risen, He would protect them.

    "When Jesus appears to Thomas, he believes!"

    Who wouldn't? This is no credit to him! After all, the other Apostles believed that Jesus was risen merely by seeing and hearing him -- without even having to touch His hands and side!

    I will always call him "Doubting Thomas." Yesterday, I heard a priest say that he was known as "Thomas Didymus" (the Twin), because each of us is his "twin" as a person who is weak, fearful, fleeing, and doubting at times -- but courageous enough to be a martyr (red or white) when called upon to be.

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  2. What we in fact call Thomas the Apostle is Saint, "doubting" is not an official title.

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  3. Sir, why did you mention that "'doubting' is not an official title" -- as though I had claimed that it was?

    I never said that it was "an ofifical title." I know that "doubting" is just a nickname, a way of reminding ourselves that he was weak (as we are) but later great (as we can be).

    I'm sorry that I hurt your feelings. I didn't realize that you were sensitive.

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