As I grow older, the beauty and simplicity of daily life becomes such a treasure. I write from Bothel, Washington, where we are spending time with our son, daughter in law and two of our six grandchildren.
We flew in yesterday and are still adjusting to the time zone difference.
Because of the effects of traveling I was not really aware of the Liturgical calendar so I awakened this morning for Morning Prayer and discovered it was the Feast of one of my favorite heroes of the faith, Thomas the Apostle.
His exclamation upon touching the very wounds of Jesus has become a part of my deepest encounters with the Lord, when I kneel at the Altar at the time of consecration.
Gazing at the Splendor of Jesus Christ being lifted before the assembly, in heaven and earth, at each Holy Mass, I pray those wonderful words of adoration he uttered, in exclamation and exaltation, “MY LORD AND MY GOD!”
The Feast of St Thomas the Apostle which we celebrate in the Roman Liturgical calendar gives me such hope for my own life. I can identify with Thomas. Living by faith is not easy. Yet, it is the very foundation for living as a disciple.
The Gospel for the Liturgy (John 20: 24- 29) recounts one of the Post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ to his disciples. The glorified Jesus appears to his disciples, coming through locked doors and says “Peace be with you.” He breathes upon them the Holy Spirit, creating them anew. He also communicates His authority to forgive sins to the Apostles who will continue His redemptive mission through the Church, which is His Body.
However, Thomas was not present for this encounter. The Beloved disciple John records this exchange between the Risen Lord and Thomas which follows:
“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.”
“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!”
Jesus Christ bore His Wounds, now glorified, in His Risen Body. Thomas touched those wounds – and so can we.
This encounter led to Thomas being called “Doubting Thomas” throughout the centuries, at least by some. Yet the Christian tradition tells us that this so called “doubting Thomas” died a martyr for his faith.
He became a messenger of the Gospel to India, a missionary who shed his own blood for the Master whom he encountered on that day. His insistence on touching the Holy Wounds presented the Disciple John another opportunity to explain for all of us the implications of the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Thomas´s response in his beautiful encounter with the Risen Lord, “MY LORD AND MY GOD” reveals the very heart and essence of Christian prayer. It also speaks to the deepest expression of living faith.
His proclamation is a call to adoration and a Doorway into living communion with God. His response has become the exclamation for millions, myself included, when faced with the Mystery of Mysteries, the Holy Eucharist at the elevation during every Mass.
I suggest that Thomas was not a doubter at all – rather he was a believer. And he is a model for all of us at every celebration of the Holy Eucharist which is always the Feast of Mercy. Pope St Gregory the Great, who occupied the Chair of Peter between 590 and 604, preached a marvelous homily on this encounter between Thomas and the Risen Lord. In it he asked:
“What conclusion, dear brethren, do you come to? Surely it was not by chance that this chosen disciple, was missing in the first place? Or that on his return he heard, that hearing he doubted, that doubting he touched, and that touching he believed? It was by divine dispensation and not by chance that things so fell out. God´s Mercy worked wonderfully, for when that doubting disciple touched his Master´s wounded flesh he cured the wound of our disbelief. So this doubting disciple, who actually touched, became a witness to the reality of the resurrection”
We are invited in our own day to become living witnesses in our own day to the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thomas touched the wounded side of beloved Savior to heal the wounds of our own disbelief.
We were invited to approach the throne of Mercy and cry out with St. Thomas: “My Lord and My God” (Jn 20:28). Those who do so can be forever changed. The examples of such chnage fill the pages of the Bible.
Peter became a messenger of mercy through his encounter with the Risen Lord. He was so filled with the Spirit of the Risen Lord that the Lord could continue His redemptive mission through him, accomplishing miraculous deeds.
In the Acts of the Apostles, the story of the early Church on mission, we read that even the shadow of Peter would effect merciful healing .(Acts 5 12-16) Those who encounter the Risen Jesus are changed, transformed by Mercy made manifest. They then become bearers of mercy for others.
The beloved Disciple John was imprisoned on the Island of Patmos. We can read of his encounter with the Lord in the Spirit in the last book of the Bible. (Rev. 1) He received a merciful vision from the Risen Lord which became the Book of Revelation.In this encounter with the Risen Lord He heard these words: “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld.”
And then there was Thomas. Jesus turned Thomas´s doubt into an event of Encounter for generations to come. Out of a true repentance born from seeing Mercy Incarnate, touching the wounds of His Divine love, came those wonderful words that have formed the most profound of personal prayers for millennia. “MY LORD AND MY GOD!”
Pope St Gregory was right, “Thomas´ doubt healed the wounds of all of our doubts”.
Thank God for ‘Doubting Thomas’. His doubts healed the wounds of our own disbelief. They also open up for all who look with the eyes of faith a deeper understanding of the redemptive effect of the wounds of Jesus – and the role our own wounds can have in our continuing call to conversion as we join them to His.
Thomas the doubter became the Thomas the model believer, an example for each one of us. He is a great beacon of light for all of us as we cry out with him, MY LORD AND MY GOD!
A contemporary Christian artist and convert to the Catholic Church named Audrey Assad, composed one of the most beautiful expressions of the message I have attempted to share with you about the deeper meaning of this encounter between Thomas and the Lord Jesus. It is on her extraordinary work of art, a CD entitled Fortunate Fall The song is entitled Help My Unbelief.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.