Today being the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, once again I am slightly annoyed about the moniker “Doubting Thomas”.
Maybe it was because for most of my life I was more than a “Doubting Jeffrey”, but a totally “Denying Jeffrey”.
So Thomas missed the meeting where Jesus reveals himself to the Apostles. I really wonder how that happened? What did he have on his calendar that day instead of what should have been commiserating with his fellow apostles? We just don’t know. Plus we also don’t know how long he was out of the loop until he heard the news. Other than that it was a week or less.
Now certainly there is a extent to where St. Thomas deservers his moniker. Most of the other Apostles did not exactly set themselves in glory ahead of Jesus’s return. They had not yet gotten the Paul Harvey – “The Rest of the Story”. I picture them moping around. The disciples on the road to Emmaus were not exactly filled with expectation of what was to come. The hints Jesus dropped on the Apostles fell on rocky ground for the most part.
Still when Mary Magdalene initially delivered the news to them, Peter and John rushed to the tomb. There was obviously an expectation that something was going on beyond their kin. That just maybe what Jesus had told them was truer than they surmised. So while they were probably confused in the aftermath – they didn’t get the “doubting” label.
Still I wonder how Thomas first received the news about Jesus’s resurrection? How much was Thomas to blame for not initially accepting the reports? Perhaps St. Peter had told him the good news? If so maybe that is understandable. Exuberant Peter who jumped at everything and was willing to pursue a booth building construction project just two weeks before. I could easily imagine being credulous at what good ole Peter might report to me.
What I do know is if I had received the moniker “doubting”, I would probably blame my twin brother if I was a twin like Thomas.
Still getting back to Thomas’ culpability. He does remind me of atheists that are challenged asking what level of proof they require to believe that God exists. He certainly detailed his empiricism with a set of tests he demanded.
- See the nail prints in his hand.
- Put his finger into those prints.
- Thrust his hand into Jesus’ side.
Somehow those experiments crumbled as Jesus challenged him to go ahead an make those very tests. I feel sorry for St. Thomas that after making such a brash statement worthy of St. Peter’s exuberance, that he sees Jesus. Not only sees Jesus but has the criteria of his experimental science echoed back to him. I bet St. Peter smiled for once not having stepped in it and having another Apostle do it instead.
I still think it is a bit unfair that Thomas got that sobriquet of “doubting”. Peter isn’t known as “Three Times Denying” Peter. That short period of time where Thomas doubted got him tagged with this despite the rest of his life and the likelihood that he died a martyr.
I think of St. Thomas more as “My Lord and My God” Thomas. The very phrase that comes to me and so many others at the consecration. Still it is a testament about what God can do with us. To go from doubt to faith not on our own power.
Also to St. Thomas’ credit he did not remain in his doubt. Seeing is not always believing. There have been plenty of people who have seen miraculous events that persisted in their doubt. Or had initially believed and then let it fade. The Israelites wandering in the wilderness saw plenty of miracles and yet acted as if God’s power was not manifested. The atheist that demands God shows himself to make him believe, obviously has not done a close reading of Biblical history or subsequent history. There were conversions after the miracle of the Sun at Fatima, but certainly not close to everyone who witnessed it.
Plus even among those of us who truly believe in what Jesus taught – can say they always act with faith.
I am totally in rapport with this verse:
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24