Today’s feast honors Thomas the Apostle. In celebrating his life we honor our own roots as Christians. One of the so-called marks of the church is that it (we) are apostolic, that is we are sprung from the Twelve that were called by Jesus himself to be His special friends and companions. The Apostles provide a kind of spiritual home for all of us in the sense that we desire to let ourselves be formed by their wisdom and activity (especially after Jesus’ death and resurrection).
Indeed the first reading in today’s liturgy from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians the main image is of the church as a building, a home. Paul reminds the Christian community at Ephesus that they are part of the household of God. No longer are they strangers, but, because of the apostolic preaching of the Gospel, they are built into a physical structure whose foundation is the Apostles and Prophets, and the whole building has Jesus Christ himself as the capstone. We as individual Christians are the stones that make up the building we call the church. This is surely a traditional and thought-provoking way of thinking about ourselves as church.
Thomas the Apostle, the doubter, was instrumental in supplying stones - Christians from among the people of India in the process of building up the church. His apostolic ventures, once he was freed from his doubts, became one part in the incredibly rapid journey of the church from a movement among a small number who were set aflame by Jesus and His Spirit starting in Jerusalem and extending to a worldwide church.
Small beginnings yield sensational results. We see that truth played out in Thomas’ life which seems to be an enactment of the old saying, seeing is believing in the reading from St. John’s gospel today. Thomas was not present with the other disciples in the upper room that day of Jesus’ resurrection. Informed by the others that they had seen the Lord, Thomas balked, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands. . . I will not believe.”
So Jesus, ever attentive to his dear friends, when Thomas was present with the others on another occasion offered him the opportunity to prove to himself that it really was Jesus. Thomas’ response is the heavily faith-filled exclamation, “My Lord and My God.” Thomas went from doubter to a man of deep faith.
What are our doubts? Where do we balk in our relationship with Jesus? What obstacles do we put in the way of Jesus’ entrance into our lives? What is the peace that Jesus brings to us, that same peace he offered as his post-resurrection gift and blessing to the disciples, huddled in fear for their lives in the upper room. Can we, like them, open ourselves to receive it? Or, do we need proof like doubting Thomas?
The answer to each and all of these vexing questions is rooted in Jesus Himself and in the work of His Holy Spirit as we are continually formed into the building formed by the Apostles/Prophets with Jesus as the capstone. Let our prayer be that we allow that building project to happen; that we truly receive the wonderful gifts that the Lord, His Spirit and the Gracious God desire for us as his church.
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