Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Apostle Who Saw & Believed

The feast of St. Thomas, Apostle sticks out like a sore thumb in the midst of this season of watching and waiting. We're all used to hearing about Thomas on "Low Sunday", the Sunday after Easter. But notice Jesus' question to Thomas in today's Gospel (John 20:24-29): "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." Quite a fitting question for all of us to ponder during the waning days of Advent, in which we've heard a lot about glad tidings of things to come, but without mention of anything tangible to see. The Christmas mystery suggests the need for a mature, living faith. How is that effected in us? There are no easy answers. When finally, in four days, we kneel before the One born in Bethlehem the Church will say, in effect, "Here is The One you've been waiting for, the one designated by all the titles we've used in the O Antiphons. Here is the Eternal One, clothed in the human nature which you share."

We celebrate Thomas' feast today on the anniversary of his relics being translated in the 3rd century to Edessa. in northern Mesopotamia. He is said to have missionized India and to have died in Madras, and buried originally in Mailapur. There is obviously little known about his life, other than the few references in the Christian Scriptures. St. Gregory the Great, in one of the Office lessons, attests to Thomas' significance: "Thomas' unbelief has benefited our faith more than the belief of the other disciples; it is because he attained faith through physical touch that we are confirmed in the faith...Indeed, the Lord permitted the apostle to doubt after the resurrection; but he did not abandon him in doubt. By his doubt and by his touching the sacred wounds the apostle became a witness to the truth of the resurrection...Now if Thomas saw and touched the Savior, why did Jesus say: 'Because you have seen me, Thomas, you have believed'? Because he saw something other than what he believed. For no mortal man can see divinity. Thomas saw the Man Christ and acknowledged his divinity with the words: 'My Lord and my God!' Faith, therefore, followed upon seeing."

According to the account given in the Church's Martyrology, Thomas was martyred in India at the king's command. Today he's considered the patron saint of India.

The example of St. Thomas might help us to reflect on the weakness we experience sometimes in approaching faith in our own lives. Is it possible that God uses our "little faith" for greater purposes which we may never understand? Just realizing our inadequacy in this regard is of value in growing in faith. Perhaps all we can do is to continually proclaim the simple acknowlegement of setting our hearts on Jesus the Christ: "My Lord and my God!"

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