The Believing Thomas

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Most of what I write below are ideas culled from an inspiring homily by Fr. Stephen Placente, SDB tonight. I was simply amazed after reading today’s Office of Readings from St. Pope Gregory the Great and after hearing tonight’s homily that opened my horizons on St. Thomas the Apostle.

St. Thomas is often described as the doubting Thomas. As the Gospel account has it, after hearing proof of the Lord’s resurrection, he demanded a physical experience of the Lord’s resurrected body for him to believe the unbelievable. This view of St. Thomas has been used and misused for so long. It is too easy to miss the point that it was him who gave the highest profession of faith in Jesus Christ in the whole of the New Testament: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
This great apostle could not become the patron saint of unbelievers and doubters for how could such profession of faith emanate from so deep a doubt? It would be a too far a jump if there were no faith no matter how little to begin with. What is in St. Thomas the Apostle is a faith that sought to be reasonable. It is a faith that proved that the Resurrection is not just a spiritual event but a real one! The Lord really had risen! For if he simply believed what the other apostles had told him of the risen Christ, his own conviction about his faith would be shallow. He heard the news yet his own need for the experience got the better of him.
After all, things become more real for us the moment we experience them. It was so for St. Thomas. And according to Pope Gregory the Great, it was out of God’s providential plan that he was absent and his intellectual nature demanded a real experience of the risen Christ. In the same way that Israel believed in the power of Yahweh in their Exodus experience, St. Thomas professed his faith in his physical experience of the risen Christ.
And here we are, receiving only what was once oral tradition of the risen Christ now written in the Scriptures. Can we then demand to experience the risen Christ in order to believe? To us is addressed Jesus words, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29) For while we have not seen the risen Christ with our own eyes, we have been receiving his Body and Blood in the Eucharist and have been part of His Mystical Body, the Church. The Gospel account is not so much about proofs that lead to faith, but faith that is strengthened by reason and experience.
Above all is faith. St. Thomas’ faith was strengthened by that encounter which for him was indescribably real it gave him strength to witness to the faith with his life. By tradition, he was believed to be martyred after preaching the Gospel in the subcontinent of India. If that faith were not real because his experience of the risen Christ was not real, he couldn’t have shared the glory of the Cross. And so for us is the task of remembering our real experience of the risen Christ. It need not be through seeing and touching. It could be an interior experience that we cannot explain. It could be an experience of love, of communion, or of faith. But whatever real experience grace has given us, let it lead to real faith, a faith that allows us to give our lives for Christ and to exclaim “My Lord and my God!”


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