The Catholic Defender: The Faith And Call Of The Apostle St. Thomas
Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "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."
Could you imagine this scene, St. Thomas resisted the report of his Brother Apostles and those whom he walked and lived with for three years. The recent events of Jesus Passion and death were just too much for St. Thomas to handle, because of this he will forever be known as the "Doubting Thomas".
Three years before the horrible execution of Jesus, St Thomas was a faithful practicing Jew of the times, he longed for the coming of the Messiah as the Jews felt the heavy hand of the Romans who had for several decades had conquered and governed Israel. Like St. Bartholomew, St. Thomas was a good friend of St. Philip who introduces St. Thomas to Jesus. St. Thomas made his living through the fishing industry there in Galilee and worked along side Philip.
St. Thomas was also called "Didymus" meaning "Twin" first met Jesus at Tarichea after Jesus, Peter, Andrew, James, and John made their way to the fishing-boat landing. St. Philip introduces St. Thomas to Jesus and the invitation to St. Thomas is very interesting to me. Tradition says Jesus said to Thomas, "Thomas, you lack faith; nevertheless, I receive you. Follow me."
True or not, we see St. Thomas mention along with the Apostles (Matthew 10: 3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15).
St. Thomas courage and faith was strong, but he was more pessimistic about things. The "Show Me" State of Missouri might be a good example of how St. Thomas lived his life.
Despite seeing all the miracles of Jesus, listening to the words of Jesus, St. Thomas sometimes had to be "shown" with his own eyes. That is a typical understanding of someone whose faith went with that "seeing is believing" perspective.
Tradition says that St. Thomas lead Jesus and the Apostles to his home there in Tarichea which is up in Galilee. But little is said of St. Thomas in the Gospels except St. John does give some incites. John 11:2-16 discusses the reports of Lazarus death, which Jesus was clear that he was going to go there. St. Thomas is quoted to say, "Let us also go, that we may die with him". Clearly, St. Thomas was frustrated that Jesus was going to Jerusalem because of the danger there.
Jesus gives this example teaching his apostles before questioning Pharisees: "A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' And he answered, 'I will not'; but afterward he repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." Like St. Thomas, sometimes we might voice what others are thinking, but we can't always go by feeling, faithfulness is not always gauged by emotions. We must strive to follow Jesus and be obedient to His Will and the teaching of the Church.
St. Thomas was present and witnessed the great signs and wonders of Jesus, he was enlightened by the teaching of Jesus.
St. Thomas like the other Apostles were filled with awe, and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?" (Mark 4:41)
Jesus at the "Last Supper" was telling His Apostles, "Let not your hearts be troubled" something I've heard Sean Hannity repeat many times to encourage his listeners, here Jesus is speaking to them about the Father and that He would go and prepare a place for them. St. Thomas asks Jesus, "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" That is perhaps a great question, but Jesus gives his most famous response, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." John 14:6
Did Jesus response satisfy St. Thomas concern? Maybe momentarily, but not for long, it was just a while longer, in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus would be betrayed by Judas Iscariot.
What ensues is Jesus is taken prisoner and the Apostles are scattered into hiding. Little is known of St. Thomas during this time, certainly he went into hiding.
At some point, St. Thomas left the Apostles perhaps to think about the past three years, the things he witnessed in Jesus, maybe he questioned himself, did he really believe?
Nothing is said where St. Thomas was the night Jesus appeared on that first Easter.
Mary Magdalene reported to the Apostles that Jesus was raised from the dead and instructed His Apostles that He would meet them in Galilee.
Did St. Thomas suffer great anguish and just could not be there with the other Apostles?
Maybe he was on an errand, but we do know what his reaction was when hearing the news of Jesus appearing to the Apostles.
St. John writes, "Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "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 20:24-25)."
Because of St. Thomas response, He will be forever be remembered as the Doubting Thomas.
Are we being too hard on poor St. Thomas? If so this was not for Long as Jesus again appears eight days later and this time St. Thomas was present.
St. John writes of this encounter, "Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe (John 20:26-29)."
This event would change St. Thomas forever, we might recall the nine Beatitudes found in Matthew (Matthew 5:1-11), some would say Jesus gives a tenth Beatitude saying, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe"!
St. Thomas is mentioned by St. john to be with the Apostles at the Sea of Tiberias fishing when Jesus again appears to them. This event is important because St. John gives the colorful picture of the Apostles hauling in 153 fish representing every nation, tribe, and people of the earth. The one net that did not bust represents the one faith without schism.
Jesus leads His Apostles towards Bethany when He gave them the "Great Commission" to go to all nations and baptize them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and to teach them everything He commanded them.
Jesus then Ascends into Heaven, this too, St. Thomas witnessed.
In 49 A.D., the Apostles were in Jerusalem for the first Council regarding questions of the Law of Moses and the Covenant of circumcision. Did a Gentile convert have to become a Jew under the Law of Moses before they were allowed to be a Christian. The Church ultimately said no, it is the law of grace that is the foundation of the new Covenant. The Sacrament!
Following the Council, according to a writing called, "The Passing of Mary", St. Thomas was given the grace to have witnessed the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Despite the Apostles being scattered everywhere to spread God's Word and bringing converts to the young Catholic Faith, they were all gathered by the Lord in miraculous fashion bringing them all to Jerusalem to be with Mary at her death. Just like how the Spirit of the Lord took St. Philip to the region of Azotus miraculously (Acts 8:38-40), the Apostles were brought to the side of Mary.
St. Thomas was transported to Jerusalem from India to witness the Assumption. In a reversal, it was the other Apostles who doubted St. Thomas word that Mary Assumed into Heaven and dropped her girdle. St. Thomas is often depicted in art with Mary's girdle.
It was about 52 A.D. that St. Thomas traveled to India establishing churches and bringing many conversions into the Catholic faith.
He was bringing the Light where people had been living in darkness.
Throughout the region St. Thomas ordained Priests, set up teachers and prepared the faithful converts for Baptism at Eastern season. About 72 A.D., there is a tradition that St. Thomas was killed in a hunting accident when when a hunter shot at a peacock and struck Thomas instead. Was this an accident? The incident happened near Madras when St. Thomas was killed with a spear as a martyr for the Lord. Often times in art, St. Thomas is depicted with spears, stones, and arrows.
Ephrem the Syrian (4th Century Deacon) states that the Apostle was martyred in India on July 3, 72 A.D.,and that his relics were taken then to Edessa. St. Thomas Feast day is July 3 and he is the Patron Saint of Architects because of his building the infant Catholic Faith.
Prayer to Saint Thomas the Apostle
Dear Saint Thomas,
You were once slow in believing that Christ had gloriously risen; but later, because you had seen him, you exclaimed: "My Lord and my God!"
According to an ancient story, you rendered most powerful assistance for constructing a church in a place where pagan priests opposed it.
Please bless architects, builds and carpenters that through them the Lord may be honored.