ST. THOMAS THE APOSTLE
Feast Day: December 21
Collect: Everliving God, you strengthened your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in your Son’s resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in your sight; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (2019 Book of Common Prayer)
While St. Thomas isn’t the patron Saint of refugees, addicts, doubters or anything like that, he’s our name sake because of the Gospel narrative. St. Thomas needed to see – and touch – the risen Lord to believe. We seek to bring the good news of the risen Lord to the people of Mathews County, people hurt by the Church, hurt by their addictions, their struggles, and their doubts… some of which can be great.
These folks need to be given the opportunity to encounter the risen Lord, to be enveloped by his grace as found in the baptismal waters, and to mysteriously touch Christ through the blessed Eucharist. As they believe, they will see him working in and through their lives; they will encounter Jesus week in and week out as they engage in the life of his Church. Many of the life trials that we seek refuge from are also things that can cause us to doubt.
St. Thomas gets a bad rap – Doubting Thomas – because he wanted to experience Christ and not just take passed along information. The truth is we each need to encounter Christ – via the Sacraments – in the midst of our doubts. For it’s in that moment we are truly changed.
St. Thomas’ example shows us it’s okay to approach Christ and the good news with trepidation, because he loves us and will meet us where we are at… all we need to do is take the first step.
Fr. Marc Vranes, an Eastern Orthodox priest in Connecticut, captures the reasoning behind our choice of name perfectly. He says,
Thomas the Apostle has often been considered and looked up with scorn and derision. He is, as some might suggest, the dumb apostle. This would be inaccurate, dangerous and very wrong.
When Christ appeared behind closed doors on the Eighth Day, in yet another Post-Resurrection appearance, Thomas looked upon the Lord with wonder and amazement. His reaction is noteworthy. He did not simply affirm Christ’s Resurrection by offering something casual, for example, “It is true. The other disciples who were present last week were correct; you are Risen.” Thomas’ discovery was much more jolting.
No, Thomas became the first apostle to confirm the Divinity of Christ when he exclaimed, “(My Lord and) My God” (John 20:28).
The wounds which Christ invited Thomas to touch nine days after the Crucifixion were different. On the Eighth Day they were clean, full of light, and it would be correct to add, even very beautiful. These are the wounds which Thomas touched and learned that Christ is God.
Similarly, our path to an encounter with Christ and God is often through touching the wounds of others: the sick, the poor, the needed, the hungry; those who are imprisoned, humiliated, and treated as at best, marginalized; worst, as complete outcasts.
As our spiritual lives continue to develop, God can often seem far away, as if he is hiding his face from us. The Prophet Job experienced this distancing from God, too. “I look to the east, and he is not there. I look to the West, and I do not find him” (Job 23:8).
In order to activate the Holy Spirit within us, we must perform corporal and spiritual acts of mercy; that includes that touching the wounds of others is required to enter into that deep and beautiful relationship with the Son and the Father.
Thomas touched the wounds of Christ, and discovered God. Whose wounds are we touching, so that we can come to the same revelation as Thomas? And be able to exclaim with joy and certainty, “My God.”