The Church celebrates the feast day of St. Thomas on July 3. Most people today know this Apostle only for the doubt he expressed about the Resurrection of Jesus, and perhaps they relate this to a healthy, “modern” skepticism (John 20:24-29). Reading the Gospel of John, however, shows that the disciple nicknamed Didymus lived a life defined not by a single moment of disbelief but by admirable traits of faith.
Ready and Steady
Thomas first spoke the day before the raising of Lazarus. Jesus told his disciples that he was returning to Bethany to “awaken” Lazarus not from sleep but from death “for the glory of God” so “that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” The Apostles protested at first, afraid that Jesus would be stoned to death for going so close to Jerusalem (cf. John 11:1-15).
Thomas was the first of the Twelve to act decisively. With ready and steady determination to walk beside the Lord, he said simply: “Let us also go to die with him” (John 11:16).
Thomas next spoke during the Last Supper. Jesus promised the Apostles that “if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where (I) am going you know the way” (John 14:3-4).
Thomas immediately asked: “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” (John 14:5).
In his 2006 General Audience address, Pope Benedict XVI reflected that one could easily dismiss Thomas’ question as the misunderstandings of a dull mind. Faith, on the other hand, challenges us to appreciate that such a simple inquiry illustrates the bravery of a loving heart. For how Jesus replied to Thomas matters for all Christians. The Lord answered with clarity: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:3-6).
From Uncertainty to Certainty
Thomas last spoke after the Resurrection with his famous “doubt” about the other Apostles’ testimony to the Risen Christ: “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” (Jn 20:25).
Eight days after Easter, Jesus appeared among the Apostles in a locked room and directed Thomas to place his finger into the marks on the holy hands and side. Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus replied, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:26-29).
Thomas is an apostle of faith with whom we can all relate. Through ready and steady determination, bravery of a loving heart, even in the wake of demands to see in order to believe, the life of St. Thomas confirms that Christ can grant the highest graces to even the most doubtful soul. Thankfully, we can “see and touch” he who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life today in the Eucharist.
And once we do, like Thomas, we can move beyond all doubt and proclaim: “My Lord and my God!”
Jason Godin teaches United States history at Blinn College in Bryan, Texas. You can find him on Facebook here.