An Apostle for Skeptics

Duccio, The Incredulity of St. Thomas (The Maesta altarpiece, 1308-1311)

Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle

John gave us the fullest portrait of Thomas in the Gospels, however brief and sketchy, in three instances. 

First, when he accompanied Jesus and the disciples from the river Jordan to Bethany in response to the urgent message of Martha and Mary that their brother Lazarus was ill. Jesus had just barely escaped being stoned to death in Judea, and now proposed returning to the area again, a risky move in the view of the disciples. If Lazarus is “asleep,” he will recover, they reasoned. Then Jesus told them clearly, “Lazarus has died,” prompting Thomas’ gloomy response: “Let us also go to die with him” (John 11:16).

Second, at the table of the Last Supper, Thomas gave voice to the uncomprehending hearts of all the disciples as they listened to Jesus’ discourse about the “many dwelling places” in his “Father’s house.” 

“Where I am going you know the way,” Jesus concluded. Thomas was not afraid to admit his ignorance: “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” His question was rewarded with the immortal words: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

Third, Thomas showed up a week after the Resurrection full of skepticism, having heard from the other ten disciples that Jesus was alive and came to them through locked doors on the evening of the third day after his crucifixion. The whole group claimed to have seen the Lord’s hands and pierced side—a mass delusion in all probability. After all, grief can lead to wishful thinking. 

But Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

As if playing with Thomas, Jesus repeated his miraculous entry through closed doors with the same words of greeting as on the previous Sunday.

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “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.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Thomas spoke for all who wrestle with doubt and need sensible proof so as not to sink into unbelief. Eucharistic miracles, visions of Christ, Marian apparitions, and the numerous prodigies that have been approved by the Church in the last two millennia answered the Thomas in all of us. Yet after Pentecost, we have a more powerful witness than all sensible proof—the Spirit of truth, our Advocate, without whom no one can say, “Jesus is Lord!” (1 Corinthians 12:3)

Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Jesus assured all those whom Thomas would later preach to, that their faith was no less authentic without the aid of sight. Faith may be “blind” to the physical eye, but full of light to the spiritual eye (Ephesians 1:18; Matthew 6:22).

Follow Thomas in this video for the fifth Sunday of Lent on the raising of Lazarus. His witness gives us the freedom to doubt, question, and make an honest appraisal of Jesus Christ.

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