Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Festival of St. Thomas, Apostle

John 20:19-31; Ephesians 1:3-6

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Thomas was no more a doubter than the other disciples, nor you or I. The difference between Thomas and us is that he was bold enough to voice his doubts before his peers and his Lord. Thomas said what he was thinking, and therefore his questions could be answered and his doubts could be assuaged. When you harbor your doubts and do not express them, not only do you not get answers and comfort from the Word of the LORD, but your Enemy the devil will use your doubts against you to lead you into unbelief and to destroy your faith.
Not so with Thomas. Thomas came right out with his questions and his doubts. When Jesus set Himself to go to Jerusalem to face His destiny there, it was Thomas who despaired vocally to the other disciples saying, “Let us go that we might die with Him!” And, when Jesus comforted His disciples, assuring them that He was going to His Father’s house to prepare a place for them that He might return and take them to be with Him, it was Thomas who expressed the confusion they all felt saying, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how can we know the way?” But, of course, Thomas is most infamously known for his bold expression of doubt concerning the Lord’s resurrection, blurting out before the others, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” For this statement alone, it seems, Thomas has received the moniker of “Doubting Thomas.”
Yet, because Thomas was bold enough to ask, He received precisely what He needed to answer his questions and to alleviate his doubts – and, undoubtedly, the doubts of others. Our resurrected Lord Jesus beckoned Thomas to come to Him, to see the marks of the nails and spear in His hands, feet, and side, to place his finger into His holy wounds, to place His hand into His opened side, with the exhortation, proclamation, and invitation, “Do not disbelieve, but believe.” The Evangelist does not record that Thomas actually touched Jesus’ wounds. It is my belief that he did not, for now, seeing with his own eyes, Thomas’ doubts were assuaged, his questions answered. Then Thomas was able to give a confession more bold and true than even St. Peter’s. For, Peter rightly confessed his Lord Jesus to be “the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” but Thomas now confessed of Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”
It is the Holy Gospel According to St. John that provides us much of what we know about St. Thomas from the Holy Scriptures. Seemingly, John used Thomas’s questions and doubts to reveal important truths about Jesus. In Thomas’ despairing, “Let us go that we may die with Him!” is revealed the reason that Jesus was going to Jerusalem and also the way of those who would be His disciples, that they must take up their own crosses and follow Him. Likewise, Thomas’ confused statement, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how can we know the way?” becomes an opportunity for Jesus to reveal that He is both the way to the Father and one with the Father saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This faith and confession is confirmed in Thomas, and in all believers, whether they have seen like Thomas or not, in His confession of Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus, bearing now and forever the marks of His crucifixion and death, is literally the living proof of our justification and reconciliation with God the Father. In the resurrection, Jesus’ wounds have become “glorious scars” and “dear tokens of His passion.”
After Jesus’ resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, there was no more doubting for Thomas or any of the Apostles. They were empowered by the Holy Spirit and faith to proclaim Christ crucified and risen to all the world, even before kings, emperors, and enemies. All of the Apostles became martyrs for their faith in the Lord. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs states that “Once Thomas left Jerusalem, there’s no evidence that he ever returned. He left his doubts behind. […] Thomas traveled north and east from Israel, passing through Babylon and Persia and making an impact for the Gospel as far as the southern regions of India.” The Christians of the southern region of India in particular claim St. Thomas as their patron saint. There is a large group of Christians in southern India that call themselves Thomistic Christians after St. Thomas the Apostle. Legend has it that Thomas “ran afoul of the Hindu priests who envied his success and rejected his message. Thomas was speared to death. The location of his tomb can still be visited in Mylapore, India.” Christian artistic images of St. Thomas often depict him holding a spear.
For myself, St. Thomas is at once encouraging and comforting and inspiring, for he was bold to express his doubts and to seek answers to strengthen his faith, and he was even bolder once the Lord had answered him and strengthened him. I can identify with Thomas, and I hope that you can to. Thomas did not give up, but he demanded the Lord to convince him. May we be so bold as St. Thomas to cling to Jesus in faith and not let go, even when we struggle to believe. I am reminded of the faithful confession of the father of a demon-possessed boy who pleaded with Jesus, “Lord, I believe. Help me with my unbelief.” Jesus answered that prayer immediately and cast out the demon and healed the boy. Ask for faith, and it will be given to you. Seek Jesus, and you will find Him. Knock upon the door of His Father’s house, even in weak and struggling faith, and it will be opened to you. As Jesus answered Thomas’ seeking faith: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” Let us all confess with St. Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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