July 3, 2020
by George Butterfield
Creighton University - retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Feast of Saint Thomas, Apostle
Lectionary: 593

Ephesians 2:19-22
Psalms 117:1bc, 2
John 20:24-29
Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Understanding the Mass

Today we celebrate the Feast of Saint Thomas, Apostle. It’s a red vestment day since he was martyred for his faith. Thomas has gotten a bad rap by some because of his incredulity at the testimony of the other apostles that they had seen the risen Christ. In fact, he has often been referred to as “Doubting Thomas.” However, this was a difficult time for all of the apostles and Matthew records that when Jesus was about to ascend to the Father that “[w]hen they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted” (Matt. 28:17). Thomas wasn’t the only apostle who had doubts. These doubts were lifted on Pentecost and the Acts of the Apostles tells us about the faith that carried the Church throughout the world. Tradition tells us that Thomas went to India and preached the gospel there.

The first reading beautifully describes the sacred temple that the Lord is building, a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. It’s not a temple built of wood or stone; it’s a temple made up of people. First, there is the cornerstone or capstone that holds the temple together. Christ Jesus is the capstone. Then there is a foundation to the temple. It is made up of apostles and prophets, including St. Thomas. As important as a cornerstone and a foundation are, that would be a pretty shabby temple, unless there was more to it. And that is exactly what God had in mind. We, the people of God, are being built together to make this temple. And the key word is “together.” When the church began, it was made up exclusively of Jewish Christians. And some thought it should remain that way. Not the Apostle Paul. The Gospel is for everyone. A gentile could attend the synagogue and the temple in Jerusalem but they were always outsiders, as St. Paul says, strangers and sojourners. Not anymore. Now they are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. All of us belong. All of us are important parts of God’s sacred temple but we are not lone ranger Christians. We are being built together to make this temple. How important this is in a world that divides people according to race, gender, or ethnicity. God’s sacred temple has no aliens, strangers, or sojourners.

The Gospel reading is the one that gets Thomas labeled as the doubter. He wasn’t present when Jesus first appeared to them so he didn’t believe the other apostles. Now he sees Jesus with his nail-scarred hands and gaping hole in his side and he believes. His faith is the faith of the Church: “my Lord and my God.” This is not the end of all of Thomas’ doubts. Faith and doubts are not incompatible. The story does not end here. Thomas believes in Jesus because of what he sees. There will be those coming after Thomas who will not be able to see the risen Jesus in the flesh but how blessed they will be, if they believe.

St. Thomas, doubter, believer, martyr, part of the foundation of the Lord’s sacred temple, pray for us.

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