Feast Day: July 3rd | Patronage: Twins, Architects, Craftsmen, Theologians, the Blind, India, Afghanistan | Iconography: Holding Staff (of missionary), Scroll or Book (of apostle), Spear (how he was martyred); two fingers together (recalling his recognizing Jesus as both God and man); touching Jesus’ side in upper room,
Often when St. Thomas the Apostle is mentioned the first thing we recall is his doubt upon hearing of Jesus’ resurrection and tremendous return to faith when Jesus invited him to touch the wounds of His crucifixion, crying out “My Lord, and My God!” We see him depicted reaching towards Jesus’ wounds, and rightly meditate on doing so ourselves. Why were Jesus’ wounds not healed away? Why does God carry scars? These are beautiful places to pray into, but I would like to propose an additional meditation for all of us this week. In 1945, awaiting execution in a Berlin jail cell for his resistance to the Nazi regime in Germany, the Jesuit priest Fr. Alfred Delp wrote this reflection:
There are hours when we can do only one thing: gather up all our woe and extreme plight into one imploring shout, one simple cry for mercy and help. And to cry it out or scream it or weep it or whimper it to the God who wants to save. To moan out all the woe within us into the sacred space where God touches our self and loves it and is good to it. Sooner or later all thinking and all attempts at flight must cease. Then we must lie very still so that the thorns of the thicket into which we have fallen won’t inflict new wounds. Lie very still and know our impotence and seek for God’s healing hand. There are the wounds of affliction, but then again there are the wonders of affliction. Even in our most extreme distress we must not give up trust. We should remember that the Lord God shares our life, that the Holy Spirit calls us into intimacy with God.… God’s creating and healing Spirit is present to every fiber of our being.[Alfred Delp, from his meditation on the Veni, Sancte Spiritus.]
Notice what this great priest realizes before his being murdered by the Gestapo: that our wounds are the places where Christ allows us to come closest to Him. Certainly Thomas encountered Jesus in a new way when he touched Jesus’ wounds, but Jesus also met Thomas in a new way when the doubting apostles allowed Jesus to touch his wounds!
Why was St. Thomas not in the upper room? A boy once conjectured to Fr. Alford that perhaps Thomas was out shopping, or at the barber, and perhaps St. Thomas was! I think that Thomas is just the kind of guy to have the guts to go out and do necessary things while all the other apostles were petrified in fear. Glancing back to an earlier passage in St. John’s Gospel, we see Thomas boldly challenging the other disciples to “go [to Bethany, where Lazarus had died], that we might die with him”, with Jesus (John 11:16). He does seem to have been given a greater gift of courage!
Similarly, on an earlier occasion in the upper room, on the evening of Holy Thursday, Jesus told the apostles: “Let not your hearts be troubled … I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” (John 14:3-4) Recall Thomas’s response: “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” It’s a good question! It again shows a man with the gumption to follow Jesus, come what may – but with an important caveat – as long as he knows the way.
I suspect all of us are willing to follow Christ when the road is flat, clear, and obvious, but what about when He just says “keep your eyes on me and keep walking”, and we can’t see a thing? When the storms are crashing around and He asks “Is it enough that I’m in the boat?” What about when I’m about to preach and still have nothing to say? When someone is sick, and nothing is helping? When the day’s duties feel heavy, or insignificant, or I feel incapable, or unloved? Are we willing, with Thomas, to step up to Jesus, to see His wounds, and let Him see ours?
– Fr. Dominic had a nagging thought keeping him up last night. This morning, I’m tired, a little grumpy, and don’t really want to talk to Jesus about it. Thankfully, He is persistent in asking me to do so.