Saint Thomas the Apostle is incorporated into the revelation of Jesus’ resurrection in a particularly relevant way. There was one, even among the Apostles, who didn’t seem to receive everything he needed to become fully convinced of the resurrection. If all the other Apostles received a visit from the risen Christ, why should he be expected to believe without that visit? We should try to understand the heart of Saint Thomas: if the Lord and Teacher he followed for years seems to have excluded him, there must be some degree of hurt or incomprehension. “I thought Jesus loved me, why did He appear to everyone else while I was away?”
Saint Thomas then got an extra special visit from Jesus. When Jesus appears this second time, it is only for Saint Thomas. Jesus shows Saint Thomas that he will receive everything he needs to believe in the resurrection from Him. The crucial lesson we can learn from Saint Thomas is that our act of faith in the resurrection should not be put on hold while we wait to have good evidence or proof. God will give us the grace to believe with our whole hearts and lives if we accept first to believe. We think we know what we need in order to believe, but Jesus wants us to rely on His grace only – not on any other kind of evidence. They are blessed who have believed without seeing because their faith rests on something much more solid than sensible material reality. It is a blessing when our hearts are liberated from the need for some external form of proof. Jesus proves the power of the resurrection directly to our hearts when we make an act of faith. If we consent to that powerful motion of grace by a cooperative act of faith our certitude of the resurrection will increase continually.
Jesus Christ and his teachings are the foundation for the apostles. The edifice built on this foundation consists in life and character and one’s conduct and discipline. The primary foundation is for life; the rest of the edifice is for its adornment and edification. The primary foundation, I say, is to believe in Christ, hope in him and trust in God. This foundation is the teaching of the apostles, which is also heard in the word of the prophets. Note the order of this distinction, first apostles and then prophets. The apostles beheld [God incarnate]; the prophets received the Spirit. These are the saints mentioned above: those who saw and those who were inhabited by the Spirit. Hence the teachings of the apostles and prophets are indeed the teachings of Christ, which proclaim the foundation of all eternal hope.1
“Thomas” is called Didymus, which means “Twin,” because he was a kind of twin in word, writing the divine things in two ways and copying Christ, who spoke to those outside of his circle in parables, but to his own disciples he spoke privately about everything. And it is not improper to say that Christ’s genuine disciples achieve this double equipment in word that Thomas perhaps had already but even more so afterward. But it may be said that the interpretation of this alone has been recorded because the Evangelist was concerned that Greeks coming into contact with the gospel should notice the peculiarity of the interpretation of the only name specially interpreted, so as to find the cause of his name being set forth also in Greek.2
GREGORY THE GREAT:
It was not an accident that that particular disciple was not present. The divine mercy ordained that a doubting disciple should, by feeling in his Master the wounds of the flesh, heal in us the wounds of unbelief. The unbelief of Thomas is more profitable to our faith than the belief of the other disciples. For the touch by which he is brought to believe confirms our minds in belief, beyond all question.3
Why does the hand of a faithful disciple in this fashion retrace those wounds that an unholy hand inflicted? Why does the hand of a dutiful follower strive to reopen the side that the lance of an unholy soldier pierced? Why does the harsh curiosity of a servant repeat the tortures imposed by the rage of persecutors? Why is a disciple so inquisitive about proving from his torments that he is the Lord, for his pains that he is God, and from his wounds that he is the heavenly Physician?…
Why Thomas, do you alone, a little too clever a sleuth for your own good, insist that only the wounds be brought forward in testimony to faith? What if these wounds had been made to disappear with the other things? What a peril to your faith would that curiosity have produced? Do you think that no signs of his devotion and no evidence of the Lord’s resurrection could be found unless you probed with your hands his inner organs that had been laid bare with such cruelty? Brothers, his devotion sought these things, his dedication demanded them so that in the future not even godlessness itself would doubt that the Lord had risen. But Thomas was curing not only the uncertainty of his own heart but also that of all human beings. And since he was going to preach this message to the Gentiles, this conscientious investigator was examining carefully how he might provide a foundation for the faith needed for such a mystery. … For the only reason the Lord had kept his wounds was to provide evidence of his resurrection.4
The love we bear for the blessed martyrs causes us—how, I do not know—to desire to see in the heavenly kingdom the marks that they received for the name of Christ. And possibly we shall see them. For this will not be a deformity but a mark of honor and will add luster to their appearance as well as a spiritual (if not a bodily) beauty.… For even though the blemishes of the body will not be found in any resurrected body, the evidences of virtue can hardly be called blemishes.5
For truly the boundary line of faith
Was circumscribed for me
By the hand of Thomas.
For when he touched Christ
He became like the pen
Of a rapid-writing scribe
That writes for the faithful.
Faith gushes forth from it.
The robber drank and became sober again from it.
The disciples watered their hearts from it.
Thomas drained the knowledge that he sought from it,
For he drank first and then offered a draught
To many who have a little doubt. He persuades them to say,
“You are our Lord and God.”6
GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS:
If, like a Thomas, you were left out when the disciples were assembled to whom Christ shows himself, when you do see him do not be faithless. And if you do not believe, then believe those who tell you. And if you cannot believe them either, then have confidence in the print of the nails.7
LEO THE GREAT:
It is the strength of great minds and the light of firmly faithful souls unhesitatingly to believe what is not seen with the bodily sight and to focus your affections where you cannot direct your gaze. And from where should this godliness spring up in our hearts or how should someone be justified by faith, if our salvation rested on those things only that lie beneath our eyes? And so, our Lord said to Thomas, who seemed to doubt Christ’s resurrection until he had tested by sight and touched the traces of his passion in his very flesh, “because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”8
JOHN OF CARPATHUS:
Blessed are those who, when grace is withdrawn, find no consolation in themselves but only continuing tribulation and thick darkness, and yet they do not despair. Rather, strengthened by faith, they endure courageously, convinced that they do indeed see him who is invisible.9
- EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS 1.2.20. Edwards, M. J. (Ed.). (1999). Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (p. 143). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- FRAGMENT 106 ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 366). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- FORTY GOSPEL HOMILIES 26. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 367). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SERMON 84.8. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (pp. 367–368). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- CITY OF GOD 22.19. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 371). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- KONTAKION ON DOUBTING THOMAS 46.1–3. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (pp. 371–372). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- ON HOLY EASTER, ORATION 45.24. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 372). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- SERMON 74.1. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (p. 374). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- TEXTS FOR THE MONKS IN INDIA 71. Elowsky, J. C. (Ed.). (2007). John 11–21 (pp. 374–375). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.