Thomas in the dock- Feast of St Thomas – John 20:24-29
If Peter had his confession, “you are the Christ the son of the living God”, then Thomas had his too, when he said, “My Lord and my God”. Unfortunately we never hear the confession of Thomas spoken with the same adulation as Peter. Thomas has been maligned unfairly for centuries from the pulpit for what seems to be a moment’s weakness of unbelief. He has forever been tarnished with the name ‘doubting Thomas’, when in reality he is like you and me, a ‘seeking Thomas’; seeking answers all his life with a thousand questions.
If we are to be fair to Thomas, let’s look at the rap sheet of some of the other apostles. Peter denied the Lord three times, but we don’t call him denier. Nathaniel scoffed when he said, “What good can come from Nazareth’’, but we don’t call him a scoffer. James and John were fighting for the right to sit at the Lord’s left and right seats, but we don’t call them opportunists. The rest abandoned the Lord at Gethsemane, but we don’t call them cowards. Poor Thomas, he got the worst end of the Christian preachers’ stick, and a name, ‘doubting Thomas’ which has stuck to him like feathers to tar.
We all have our moments, if not several episodes of ‘unbelief’ or ‘apistos’, in Greek. The English word ‘to doubt,’ is a poor translation of the word ‘apistos’. To doubt in Greek is ‘distazo’. In John’s Gospel, believing is more a statement of ‘abiding in Jesus’, a relationship shared with Him, not merely a belief in a doctrine. This is why Jesus, in John’s Gospel asks us to ‘abide in Him’. So the English translations, loosely translated, should really read, ‘do not be ‘unbelieving’ but believe in the relationship we have, which did not die on the cross’.
This relationship between Jesus and Thomas was repaired the moment Thomas opened his heart to renewing his faith when he said, “My Lord and My God”. These are loaded words. He uses the word MY, indicating a relationship, an expression of abiding. He did not say you are ‘the Lord and the God’. Jesus, for Thomas, is not only his Lord but also his God and the two are cemented by that three letter word AND. Thomas is not merely renewing a confession of faith; he is making a confession of a relationship.
We all live through our ‘thomistic’ moments of unbelief in our relationship with the Lord. How can Jesus die on me when I need Him the most? Where was He when I was clinging to the last straw of hope? Why did He not send someone to help me carry my cross? The Hows, Wheres and Whys plague our mind like it did with Thomas. Yet he becomes the model of ‘faith restored’ when he renews his relationship with the one who never abandoned him.
The words of Thomas, “My Lord and My God’ are meant to be whispered as words that give us strength in our moments of ‘unbelief’. It is in these words that we can find comfort, knowing that the Apostle of India shared in the same experience of unbelief that we go through. Thomas can no longer be in the dock. He has been acquitted by the Lord Himself, he is not guilty and no pulpit can try him again.
Fr Warner D’Souza