Doubting Thomas and Me

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Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him; O you of little faith, why did you doubt? – Matthew 14:31

“Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came to them in the upper room. 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 said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

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Somehow Thomas is very familiar to us. The post-modern age we live in could be called the “Doubting Thomas Age.” In fact, today you could argue that it has become fashionable to doubt everything but one’s own inner urges. There are those in the scientific community that believe (ironically) that if something cannot be measured, or physically experienced in some tangible way, it is not real. There are psychologists that “believe” (again, ironically) that religious belief is a matter of delusion. There are even those relativists among us who argue with an absolute certitude that there is no such thing as “truth,” completely unaware of the irony of their own assertion. In saying that there is no such thing as truth, they are denying the “truth” of their own statement. They are caught up in a classic contradiction: something cannot both be, and not be, at the same time.

Certainly, truth is difficult, but that it exists is a matter of universal experience. When Aristotle was asked if there is such a thing as truth his response was in the affirmative. He argued that we all know that there is such a thing as truth, because we all know how to lie. When we say “is,” when we know “is not,” we are perverting the truth.

In the Gospel passage above, Thomas is not denying the truth, rather he is doubting it, simply because he was not there. To be fair to Thomas, the idea of someone rising from the dead would be far difficult for any human being to accept. We have no reason to be harsh on Thomas then. We understand his intellectual dilemma. If anything, we might be a little jealous of the fact that he was able to have his doubts disposed of through actually putting his fingers into the holes of Jesus’ hands and his hand into Jesus’ side. That’s what we would call “proof positive.” His faith in Jesus was no less strong than that of any of the other Apostles. He just happened to have had the bad luck not to be in the upper room when Jesus first appeared and astonished the others. The emotions that must have overwhelmed all of them who had been so close to Jesus, were no less real in Thomas than in the others.

The fact is that all of the Twelve had their faith in Jesus confirmed in and through the intimate, personal experiences of his appearances to them. We have not had such experiences, yet we believe. Our faith is confirmed in that very fact. That is why Jesus says, “blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Our faith is a pure gift from God. But it could not be so if we did not dispose ourselves to it. It is because we have humbly opened our hearts to Jesus that he fills them with his Holy Spirit. He is as present to us today in our souls, as he was to Thomas and the others in that upper room so long ago.

We are not free of doubts. But our doubts can be the source of the deepening of our faith too. We are human, after all. We do not possess the certainty of perfection. Our faith has its hills and its valleys, but we continue to believe, deep down, that we will never be abandoned.

More than this, our faith is not passive, nor can it be. A passive faith in God is no faith at all. Faith is not a noun, it is an active verb. “You see now that it is by doing something good, and not only by believing, that a man is justified. Faith without good deeds is dead.” (James 2:17) It is not that good deeds are a sign of our faith, but if our faith in Jesus is real, we cannot help but do good deeds in imitation of Jesus. Our faith causes us to act justly, without distinction of classes, because that is how Jesus acted.

Thomas was no less an Apostle, or a saint, than any of the others. He went out into the world baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and brought many to Christ. He died a martyr in a far away land, alone, but for the Spirit of God that went with him as it did with the others, and as it goes with us today. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet believe. Blessed? Yes, we truly are blessed. Thanks be to our loving God.

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