A Homily for St Thomas’ Day (Apostle and Martyr)
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
(Habakkuk 2:1-4; Psalm 117; Ephesians 2:19-22; John 20:24-29)
Thomas was one of the twelve close disciples of Jesus. We meet him in three well know scenes in the Gospel of John.
The first is found in John 11 and sees Thomas urging his fellow disciples to continue following Jesus even as the Messiah turns for Judea where the Jews intended to stone him. Thomas’ rallying message: ‘Let us go, that we may die with him’.
Thomas was a brave and committed disciple.
The second scene, found in John 14, sees Jesus encouraging his followers even in the face of his coming death: ‘You know the way to where I am going’. It is Thomas who interjects: ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ It creates the opportunity for Jesus famous reply: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’.
In Thomas there was an admirable and raw honesty – a frankness and truthfulness unwilling to settle for anything less than clarity.
And finally, the most famous scene occurs in John 21. Here the eleven approach Thomas with their claim: ‘We have seen the Lord’.
Thomas, of course, is no fool and responds to these assertions “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe’.
Eight days later upon his own encounter with Jesus Thomas’ response goes infinitely further than that of the eleven: ‘My Lord and my God’. In one bold assertion Thomas moves from critical doubt to exemplary faith.
Jesus uses the occasion to affirm the joy of those who believe without such unmediated evidence. It is the very purpose of John’s writing – and, indeed, the telling of turn-around Thomas’ story – that we may believe and ‘have life in his name’.
Interestingly, each of these Thomas-scenes deals, in their own way, with life and death. Thomas’ willingness to die with Jesus; the unknown path to life, and; the struggle to believe the miracle of the resurrection.
Perhaps it is not so surprising, then, that, as tradition suggests, Thomas worked the rest of his days as a missionary in Persia and later in India where he was martyred for his trust in the resurrected Jesus.