St. Thomas the Apostle (Feastday July 3)

June 28, 1998

Brother John Raymond

When we think of St. Thomas the Apostle invariably the words "doubting Thomas" and his meeting with the Resurrected Lord comes to mind. Thomas had said, "Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe" (John 20:25) Eight days later Jesus appeared and said to him, "Because you have seen Me, Thomas, you have believed; blessed are they that have not seen and have believed." (John 20:29) I think we should give poor Thomas a break. After all, he did offer to give his life for Jesus when He was going up to Jerusalem, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him." (John 11:16)

Before the Last Supper St. Thomas raised the objection: "Lord, we know not where You are going; how can we know the way?" (John 14:5) I probably would have asked the same question myself. It seems like a very logical question to ask.

Besides these few incidents there is little recorded of St. Thomas. But his name is the starting point of a considerable amount of apocryphal literature. Just because some written material is "apocryphal," that is, not considered by the Church to be inspired like the accepted writings of the Bible, parts of it may be true. Although many of the traditions about St. Thomas are of great unreliability concerning his missionary journeys, the most persistent tradition is that he preached the Gospel in India.

One of the apocryphal work "Acta Thomae," believed to have been written before 220 AD, gives us an account of the life of St. Thomas. We are told that when the apostles were deciding where each of them would go, St. Thomas by lot was given India. From here this work becomes a little hard to believe. But an Indian king mentioned in the account seems to have been a real historical figure. From inscriptions on ancient coins he reigned about the year 46 AD over a part of Asia south of the Himalayas. This work tells us that for converting the wife of one of the Indian kings, Thomas was condemned to death, led out of the city to a hill, and pierced through with spears by four soldiers. He was buried in the tomb of the ancient kings but his remains were afterwards removed to the West.

On the Malabar Coast of India, there is a large population of Christians who call themselves, "The Christians of St. Thomas." They trace their origins to this apostle and claim he founded seven churches in Malabar. St. Thomas then went eastward to the Coromandel Coast, where they say he was martyred, by spearing, on the "Big Hill" eight miles from Madras and was buried at Mylapore, now a suburb of that city.

Many people quote St. Thomas at Holy Mass. At the elevation of the Sacred Host they make his words their own, "My Lord and My God." And we have him to thank for the response from Jesus that assures us that we are more "blessed" because we have believed without seeing. For some modern-day people, trying to cast doubts that Jesus arose at all, we have the witness of St. Thomas who was invited by Jesus to touch the wounds of His "real" Resurrected Body.

I believe that St. Thomas is an important friend for us today. In a world that only accepts "the facts" and considers belief to be "unscientific" and therefore unacceptable, "doubting Thomas" can help us continue to profess our belief in the truths of our Catholic Faith. St. Thomas' famous doubt gives us certainty!