Feast of Saint Thomas, Apostle

Lectionary: 593


But Thomas said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nail marks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”


Doubting Thomas is remembered for his unwillingness to accept the testimony of the Church. He wanted to see for himself.
But the Gospel of Saint John is a work of genius on many levels; and every story can bear several readings and many interpretations. Today I notice that Thomas demanded what the Spirit is willing to give us, a tangible demonstration of the Lord’s resurrection.

Our Catholic religion is especially demonstrative. Every time I visit a new patient in the hospital, I want to give him the Sacrament of the Sick. I could just chat with the fellow. I could give him a rosary. I might create a “spontaneous prayer” with a blessing, what my mother would have called “a lick and a promise.” All of these are signs of God’s mercy.

But I want to read Sacred Scripture to him, and lay my hand on his head, and dab his forehead and hands with the Oleum Infirmorium – the Oil of the Sick which the Archbishop consecrated during Holy Week. These are clear demonstrations of God’s particular concern; and they are powerful signs of the Church’s claim of this person. He may be in a government-run, secular hospital, but we have not forgotten about him.

Saint John the Evangelist was well aware of the power and importance of the sacraments. He especially favored Baptism and Eucharist. Nicodemus was stunned when Jesus told him you must be born again. He wasn't talking about taking on a new attitude; he was talking about Baptism. 

Saint John uses equally graphic language to insist we must eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus. He had no notion of what people today might call "spiritual communion."

When my Dad's foremen retired, Dad was promoted to that position. His boss asked, "What do you need?" and Dad said, "I want his keys."
At supper that night Dad told the story and I, the young seminarian, interjected, "By that you mean, you wanted his authority and his access to all the buildings."
"No, Son, I wanted his keys."

In the Catholic imagination, it is not so easy to separate matter from meaning, flesh from spirit. The symbol and the substance are the same. Saint John's spirit was incarnate (fleshed) in Jesus. 

The Evangelist knew the smell of sweat and the press of flesh from the crowds that gathered to celebrate Baptism and Eucharist. You could not leave a Christian gathering without a strong sense of belonging body and soul, mind and spirit to a living, breathing, eating, drinking Church which is the Body of Christ. 

If Saint Thomas wanted to touch the Risen Lord he was not alone. He was hungry for the touch of the Sacraments, like you and me each time we gather for the Mass. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.