Monday, July 03, 2006

St. Thomas' Day

Happy St. Thomas' Day!

It is the feast day for St. Thomas the Apostle today which got me thinking. St. Thomas is a popular saint these days. Not only do we have the (false) Gospels of Thomas, but we have a long tradition of preachers and lay people to whom the story of St. Thomas is both appealing and comforting. He is, if you like, the patron saint of doubting and seeking, as well as that of architects and blindness.

Now, I grant you that this role of St. Thomas is appropriate in many ways. Certainly, two out of the three times in the Gospel of John (John, 14,5 and John, 20,24-29)in which Thomas plays a part, Thomas is probing at Jesus (in the second case, quite literally) because Jesus is promising some pretty incredible things. In the first instance, Jesus is promising to prepare a place with God in Heaven which is, after all, quite a promise to make. In the second instance, He is alleged to have been resurrected which, to sympathize with poor Thomas, is rather a big claim. Sure, it had been promised, but no one had actually done it yet.

You can really sympathize with the poor guy. What is more, by his very empirical mind, by his persistent questioning, he seems to mimic a very modern show-me, prove-it-to-me mindset. Yet, we would do ourselves a dis-service if we stopped reading at Thomas' doubtful speech. Jesus doesn't leave Thomas in doubt. Sure, He lets Thomas test Him, but He also makes it clear that faith is always preferable to doubt. He tells Thomas not to doubt, but believe, but, more importantly, He commends those who have not seen and yet believed; not those who juggle the balls of doubt and skepticism in the most elegant manner possible. This encounter is one which is designed to enhance faith, not leave us in doubt as happens too often when we stop at Thomas' doubts.

I am a convert and I really do get the need the question and to doubt, especially as we feel our way to faith. I did (and still do, to some degree) my fair share of that questioning. Yet, I think it is all too easy to get hung up on our intellectual doubts and reasonings and not remember that faith is merely the trust that what God has told us will happen, even if it doesn't look like it will. Really, it is the faith which Thomas discovered that day and it is that faith which sent him out, according to tradition, to India to found a church thousands of miles from his Judaean home. That faith is what inspires me and which makes St. Thomas so compelling a saint for me.


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