St. Thomas is best known for his cynicism when informed of Jesus’s Resurrection. Indeed, as Thomas finally meets the risen Christ, he falls to his knees, confessing, “My Lord and my God!”
Known to us as Doubting Thomas, thanks to the gospel of John, the apostle afterward travels to the very ends of the ancient world preaching Christianity. He first teaches in Babylon, then travels to Persia, and finally sails south to Malabar on the west coast of India. He travels all the way to India’s east coast relentlessly preaching the Word. St. Thomas is killed near present-day Madras in 72 A.D., reportedly thrown into a pit and pierced with a Brahmin’s spear.
Even today, St. Thomas Christians, or Mar Thoma Nazranis, are found in India. Doubting Thomas’s relics are held in the Church of St. Thomas the Apostle in Ortona, Italy.
Long dead, Doubting Thomas still teaches Catholics important lessons. He was open about his own fears and doubts, admitting his cynicism and disbelief when the other disciples told him of the risen Jesus. Still, he would be a knowledgeable witness speaking knowingly to each of us who suffer in hopelessness and despair. He would movingly tell the story of how Jesus placed his hand in His wounded side and urged him to believe.
The tale of Doubting Thomas teaches us, as Jesus said, to believe even what we have not seen. In the aftermath, Thomas urges us to trust God and know that Jesus saved us with his torture, death and Resurrection. Ultimately, Thomas wants us to know that Jesus prevails even in the deepest darkness.
Just recently I read about the suicide of a Corona del Mar teenager who had everything to live for but only felt pain. A standout athlete and excellent student, he nevertheless felt great pressure to be better than everyone else on his teams and at his high school. He left behind letters telling his family and friends to fight the unrelenting stress to be ‘better than’. He wanted his loved ones to know that as individuals they have intrinsic value as human beings.
Would that this young man had met Doubting Thomas!
Thomas the Apostle would know immediately that the teen suffered from the same kind of cynicism, the same downtrodden feelings, the same utter lack of hope. Thomas would have witnessed to the young man, describing Jesus’s gentle words of kindness and His lesson of faith in deepest darkness.
Doubting Thomas would share the ways in which following Christ taught him about God’s endless love for His people. He would have taught the teen to believe in the power of Jesus’s rising and the redemption it gives all of us Christians. In tender touching the young man and warmly embracing him, St. Thomas may have inspired the youngster to keep living, to keep giving, to keep his hope alive.
My daydream isn’t real. Yet the long-ago tale of a doubting, troubled young man resonates today with us as mothers of children of all ages who face a cold, uncaring world armed only with optimism for the future and faith in God.
Intercession to St. Thomas the Apostle, then, seems most appropriate for us parents today. We and our children live in a pessimistic, distrustful world. Faced with scathing criticism for our naiveté in believing in what we cannot see, we must not fight with disbelievers but disarm ourselves and stand humbly before our risen Christ. We must hold on to a faith in the impossible made flesh.
Like Thomas, we must pray for a heaven where we can live forever with Jesus free from contempt and full of life, love and hope.