Today, July 3rd is the feast day of St. Thomas the Apostle and as I reflect on his infamous title “Doubting Thomas”, I think about my witness to Jesus’ resurrection.
Have you ever wondered why the wounds of Jesus remained after his resurrection? Surely, in His glorious state, He could have removed the nail prints from His hands and the gash in His side. There must have been some significance in his preserving them. Of course the most obvious is that He wanted the apostles, filled with doubt and fear, to see His true identity. They needed to recognize something distinct in His resurrected state.
I also believe He wanted to show the apostles, and us, something deeper. He chose those wounds. He chose to suffer and do the Father’s will. He does not hide this woundedness from us, but as He speaks to Thomas, He speaks to us, and invites us in through His wounds. See the nails in my hands, push your hand through my side.
Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
How often do we doubt and question things about our faith, our beliefs? I remember being “that kid” in high school when I didn’t understand something, and would raise my hand. Those around me fit into two categories, they were thrilled that I was the one who dared to ask the stupid question or I was just the one to ask another stupid question. Either way, I’m that ‘need to prove it to me’ kind of person. Where do you fit into this scenario? Do you continue in your disbelief or do you cry out I love you Lord, as Thomas did, but I need you to work in me and stir something deeper inside me.”?
The Gospel doesn’t mention any of the other disciples chiming in in the upper room. Kind of like those other kids in high school that just sat there and let me look like the one who just never “gets it”. Do we just sit quietly and watch as others struggle with the truth of our faith? By staying silent, are we giving true testimony to our faith? We must be careful to proclaim what our faith has taught us; what Jesus suffered for. It is our responsibility to become living witnesses to the resurrection.
Thomas was absent when Jesus appeared to the disciples the first time. He heard about it and doubted. When Thomas finally saw Jesus appear, he took his doubt and asked for proof. Because Jesus is merciful, He granted Thomas’ request and said (paraphrasing) “See and touch if that will help you believe. Ask me what you need and I will help you.” And with that proof, he believed. To make any kind of spiritual progress, we must be willing to be open. We cannot hide in our locked rooms of looking silly or taking risks. We need to step outside our upper room and take a walk. (I’d love to take credit for that catchy little phrase, but I heard it somewhere once – props to whoever said it!). With that belief, Thomas exclaimed “My Lord, and My God”.
When I was growing up, at the time of the consecration at Mass, we were taught to strike our breast three times along with the three bells. I remember this being an act of devotion and realization that we are in the presence of a great mystery. Many, many years ago I was drawn to adding the words “My Lord, and My God, come into my heart” to this practice. It was my proclamation of faith and belief in the Holy Eucharist.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” This is a key doctrine of the faith and a teaching that sets Catholics apart from most other Christians. I believe I read that the latest statistic is that 50% of Catholics do not believe that the Eucharist is the real presence of Christ on the altar, but a symbol.
Challenge yourself – that if your heart is suspicious of the doctrine you are presented with, join in the prayer of the father in Mark 9:24 “Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” This prayer is saying I love you Lord, I believe in you, but I need help to deepen my faith.
“Thomas’ doubt healed the wounds of all of our doubts.” ~ Pope St. Gregory