Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Thomas. He is known by many as “Doubting Thomas,” because when the apostles tell him that they had seen the resurrected Jesus, he responded, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hand and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
In hindsight it is easy to make fun of “Doubting Thomas.” But I suspect most of us in that situation would have behaved exactly as he did. “Yeah, sure you saw Jesus. Stop pulling my leg. Tell you what. I’ll believe if…”
But apart from the fact that his reaction was not all that difficult to understand, focusing on that line ignores what else we know about Thomas.
When Jesus hears about the illness of his friend Lazarus and tells his disciples they must go back to Judea. most of them are pretty upset with the plan. “You don’t really want to go back to where they were just planning to stone you, do you?” It is Thomas who is steadfast: “Let us also go to die with him.”
And when Jesus does appear to Thomas after his resurrection, Thomas has no need to put his fingers in the nailmarks or his hand in his side. “My Lord and my God,” says Thomas to the risen Christ.
Call him what you want, Thomas was a man of great faith.
On this feast day of his, we pray (from the Prayer after Communion for today), “that we may recognize [Jesus] with the Apostle Thomas by faith as our Lord and our God and proclaim him by our deed and by our life.”