July 3

St. Thomas the Apostle

Thomas has been called "The Doubter." This title does a disservice to the character of Thomas in John's gospel. He was more than a doubter. He was a cynic. He did not doubt. His response to the claims of the Resurrection was that of disbelief.

Doubt has a place in the life of the Christian, for it can separate true faith from false assertion. But, cynicism steps over the line of doubt. The cynic not only separates faith from assertion, but narrows faith to the bare minimum, even further. He rejects what he cannot see or touch. He gives into prejudice against people he cannot (or will not try) to understand.

We celebrate the feast of St. Thomas because we reject cynicism. Like him, we fall to our knees and declare Jesus as "our Lord and God." And we accept others unlike us who are willing to do the same.

First Reading: Ephesians 2:19-22

19 So, then, you are no longer strangers or (foreign) wanderers, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having built upon the foundation of the apostles and the (Christian) prophets, CHRIST JESUS himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom, the entire building, being fitted together, grows into the holy temple in the LORD, 22 in whom, you also being built together into the dwelling of God's Spirit.

This long sentence was addressed to the Gentile Christians. Paul considered them co-equal to the Jewish Christians in the Church. Paul used the building analogy for the community (the household of God; 2:19b). The foundation was the witness of the apostles and the pronouncements of the community's prophets, but the cornerstone of the building was Christ himself (2:20). In 2:21-22, Paul shifted the image of the building slightly; Christ was not the cornerstone of the building, but the building itself. He alluded to one of his favorite sayings: "in Christ." Christ himself holds all the members together like the walls of a building (he is both the superstructure and the mortar that glues the bricks, the individual members, together). This building is holy and grows into God's Temple, for it is the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. 2:22 again addressed the Gentile Christians; as members of the Church, they, too, are holy and partake in the Spirit.

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Gospel: John 20:24-29

24 Thomas, one of the Twelve, the one called "Twin," was not there when Jesus came (on Easter Sunday). 25 The other disciples were saying to him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and thrust my finger into the mark of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe (you)." 26 After eight days, again the disciples were inside, and Thomas (was) with them. Jesus came (although) the doors had been locked, he stood in the middle (of them) and said, "Peace to you." 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Take your finger here and inspect my hands; take your hand and thrust (it) into my side. Do not become unbelieving but believing." 28 Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and My God!" 29 Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed. Happy (are) those not having seen and having believed."

Preachers have called Thomas the "Doubter." Few have touched upon his cynicism. Over and over, Thomas heard the witness of the followers. But, Thomas wanted more than proof positive. ("Inspect and touch," literally meant "to see and thrust.") He stepped beyond skepticism into cynicism. [20:24-25]

A week after Jesus appeared to his followers, Jesus again appeared with the greeting of "Shalom," peace. Turning to Thomas, Jesus answered the challenge of cynicism with the challenge of faith. Thomas responded with two titles for Jesus: Lord and God. Thomas acknowledged the rightful place of Jesus as Lord; he also saw God working through the Risen Christ. Thomas finally received Christ's gift of Shalom. [20:26-28]

In contrast to Thomas, Jesus blessed those who believed without seeing him raised from the dead. [20:29] Here John used the word "believe" in two senses: to trust ("believe in") and to hold onto the truth ("believe (something) about..."). Blessed were those who placed their personal trust in Christ (believe in); they do not need proof of his resurrection, for they know he is alive. But, even blessed are those who hold onto the truths of faith (believe...about), for, with an open heart, they will soon experience the risen Christ. Belief in these two sense stood against the cynicism found in Thomas.

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Thomas the Cynic turned in to Thomas the Believer. But, he needed the sight of the risen Christ to have faith. We, too, need to see in order to believe, but we don't necessarily need physical sight. We can see with our hearts. That sort of sight reaches beyond cynicism to the possible, even to the impossible. When we see the possibilities (impossibilities) God offers to us, how can we remain indifferent or obstinate?

How does the cynicism of the world affect you? How does faith keep you from cynicism?