Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle

Today is the feast of St. Thomas, Apostle. As the following online article from americancatholic.org observes, St. Thomas' famous line in touching the risen Body of Christ is "My Lord and my God". These are the same words that the Church recommends that each of us should whisper when the priest elevates both the host and the cup during the Consecration at Mass.

Poor Thomas! He made one remark and has been branded as “Doubting Thomas” ever since. But if he doubted, he also believed. He made what is certainly the most explicit statement of faith in the New Testament: “My Lord and My God!” (see John 20:24-28) and, in so expressing his faith, gave Christians a prayer that will be said till the end of time. He also occasioned a compliment from Jesus to all later Christians: “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29).

Thomas should be equally well known for his courage. Perhaps what he said was impetuous—since he ran, like the rest, at the showdown—but he can scarcely have been insincere when he expressed his willingness to die with Jesus. The occasion was when Jesus proposed to go to Bethany after Lazarus had died. Since Bethany was near Jerusalem, this meant walking into the very midst of his enemies and to almost certain death. Realizing this, Thomas said to the other apostles, “Let us also go to die with him” (John 11:16b).

Thomas shares the lot of Peter the impetuous, James and John, the “sons of thunder,” Philip and his foolish request to see the Father—indeed all the apostles in their weakness and lack of understanding. We must not exaggerate these facts, however, for Christ did not pick worthless men. But their human weakness again points up the fact that holiness is a gift of God, not a human creation; it is given to ordinary men and women with weaknesses; it is God who gradually transforms the weaknesses into the image of Christ, the courageous, trusting and loving one.

“...[P]rompted by the Holy Spirit, the Church must walk the same road which Christ walked: a road of poverty and obedience, of service and self-sacrifice to the death.... For thus did all the apostles walk in hope. On behalf of Christ's Body, which is the Church, they supplied what was wanting in the sufferings of Christ by their own trials and sufferings (see Colossians 1:24)” (Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, 5).


At 9:53 AM, Anonymous Mae W. said...

I have never been able to figure out why the telling of Thomas' story and the resulting mention of the Apostles' weaknesses always reminds me of the gospel passage about tending to the plank in one's own eye before pointing out your brother's splinter. Perhaps it is simply the fact that I am reminded that the Apostles were weak, fallible human beings as are the rest of us.

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On another note, I think praying for someone you don't know, who is suffering is very cool!

I am going to find someone like that and pray for him/her.

At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always the thought the story of Thomas was a hopeful one. Thomas thought part of himself died on the cross with Jesus. He probably thought his hopes and dreams had been completely dashed, but then Christ appears. He wasn't shunned b/c he didn't initially believe, but was given what he needed to move forward with a renewed faith and energy. I think we could all probably own up to the same kinds of experiences.

At 2:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think doubting is the same as judging? Maybe...
I know we are asked to see the best in people and being kind is a sacred kind of duty, but does that mean we must always believe them too? I can follow a command to look at myself before I judge others (most of the time), but trusting in the words of others is much more challenging.

At 7:18 PM, Anonymous Marion (Mael Muire) said...

Anon 2:31 p.m. wrote, "I can follow a command to look at myself before I judge others (most of the time), but trusting in the words of others is much more challenging."

There was a great line from a TV show once. It was one of those action-adventure moments, and two of the characters were discussing a plan to rescue their companions from danger.

At one point, one man said to the other, "You don't trust me, do you?"

The other replied, "As a matter of fact, I do. But only up to a certain point."

I always remembered that exchange, and have since reflected that a part of leading a successful life is knowing whom we can trust and how far . . .

Judging vs. trusting. I have come to believe that to judge another is to give up on them and to write them off. An extreme example may be that of a woman whose husband drinks too much and beats her and the children. Maybe it comes to a point where she has to take the children and go to stay with relatives and sign out a restraining order for her own protection. Yet, she continues to love and pray for that man. She thinks of him as redeemed by God; she doesn't gossip about him, and she teaches her children to "ask God to make Daddy get well." She asks her in-laws, "please let me know how he is doing. I pray for the day that he will be well enough for us to start counseling together."

This wife accepts the reality that her husband has harmed her and the children, and will continue to do so as long as he continues using alcohol. She realized that for the immediate future, even in spite of his pleas and promises, she can no longer trust her own safety or that of the children to him. So she takes steps to protect all of them. But she doesn't write him off entirely, instead, hoping and believing that, if he turns his life around, there can be hope for the relationship, or at least, hope for his salvation.

When I judge someone who has shown himself untrustworthy, I take it upon myself to say by my words or by my actions, "that individual is irredeemably worthless, and is of no use to me or anyone else . . . ever." This, I believe, is the great sin of judging.

To realize that another has failed to prove himself worthy of trust is quite a different thing, I think. To say to someone, "Look, I like you; I think you have many fine qualities, and a good future. The fact that you took my kid brother out on a school night without my parents' permission in a stolen vehicle, however, makes me feel that I have one or two reservations about the level of trustworthiness I associate with you in my own mind. I hope, over time, you will decide to make this thing right with my family. I would be glad to see that day."

That to me is not trusting someone, but not judging them, either.


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