Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Homily on St. Thomas the Apostle

This painting by Caravaggio is called "The Incredulity of Saint Thomas".

St. Thomas was one of the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus to follow him and preach the Kingdom of God. He is called “Doubting Thomas” because he refused to believe the other ten remaining apostles who had seen Jesus risen from the dead. He said "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe." (John 20, 25)

Jesus appeared to his apostles, including Thomas, the next week. He asked him to place his fingers in his hands and not to persist in his unbelief. St. Thomas responded could fall down before Christ and worship Him, saying, “My Lord and my God.”

Pope St. Gregory the Great said of St. Thomas “The disbelief of Thomas has done more for our faith than the faith of the other disciples. As he touches Christ and is won over to belief, every doubt is cast aside and our faith is strengthened. So the disciple who doubted, then felt Christ's wounds, becomes a witness to the reality of the resurrection.”

At the Last Supper, Jesus tells the apostles that he is going to prepare a place for them in heaven. They know where he is going and they know the way. Thomas reveals his inquisitive nature again, speaking for the other disciples he asks for a deeper explanation saying "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" (John 14, 5) Jesus begins his response with the words “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14, 6)

We can imagine how the apostles must have been filled with joy at seeing the Lord raised from the dead, but the resurrection of Jesus is more than a historical event that we believe and then pass over. The resurrection of Jesus Christ applies to us in our life now. It is an ongoing and ever-present reality.

The resurrection gives us hope today as we struggle in our fight against evil and temptation. The resurrection brings hope even to our darkest moments sickness or the loss of a loved one. Mother Teresa once said “Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the Christ risen.”

Despair is a sin contrary to the virtue of hope. In a sense, it is a practical atheism. When we’re tempted with feelings of despair we’re like fools who gaze into the empty tomb wondering where Jesus is. He is risen from the dead! When we live in the light of the resurrection, we will not become despondent.

Because of Christ’s resurrection we have hope of eternal life. Because of Christ’s resurrection we are also strengthened for our duties on this earth. The resurrection of Christ gives us hope that we can overcome a culture of death and build a culture of life.

Jesus said to Thomas, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." This applies to us if we believe in the resurrection and draw strength from it.

After witnessing Jesus risen from the dead, St. Thomas preached the Gospel in Parthia, Persia and India before being martyred in India by being stabbed by a spear around the year 72 A.D. Like St. Thomas the Apostle, we are called to overcome our doubts, believe in the resurrection and put the Gospel into practice in our lives.