St. Thomas

My Lord and my God! (John 20:28)

The apostle Thomas has an unfortunate reputation as the “Doubting Thomas.” For some of us, the first and only thing we remember about him is his statement: “Unless I see … I will not believe” (John 20:25). But earlier on, when Jesus told the Twelve that he was going back to a hostile Judea to help his friend Lazarus, Thomas rallied the other disciples to join him. “Let us also go to die with him” (11:16), he said. So maybe there’s more to Thomas than doubt. Maybe if we look at the witness of Thomas’ entire life, we will find new lessons for our own spiritual journey.

According to long and well-established traditions, Thomas was a rather active apostle. It seems that he pushed the boundaries of the church far beyond the Mediterranean Basin where Peter and Paul labored. He traveled to Parthia, in the northeastern section of modern-day Iran, where he preached and founded a church. From there he moved farther east, to India, where he must have laid a very deep foundation. Thomas’ work there was so powerful that even today, Christians in India still honor him as their patron and their father in the faith.

So it’s a little unfair that we tag Thomas only as one filled with doubt. He may have wavered, but the whole arc of his life reveals not a doubter but a faithful follower of Christ: an apostle, a missionary, an evangelist, and a martyr. Thomas was loving and loyal, and also quite stubborn in his pursuit of truth. Maybe that’s why he couldn’t just take the other apostles’ word for it that they had seen the risen Christ!

So today, thank the Holy Spirit for giving us Thomas. Not Doubting Thomas but Courageous Thomas. Loyal Thomas. Persistent Thomas. If you still identify better with Thomas in his doubt, remember that Jesus accepted him right where he was and took him deeper. He will meet you, too, wherever you are. He will be patient with you as you pursue the truth and grow in your faith.

“Jesus, thank you for the witness of St. Thomas! Help me to grow in love and faithfulness, in courage and understanding.”

Ephesians 2:19-22; Psalm 117:1-2