Was “Doubting” Thomas So Unique?

Every year on the Sunday after Easter we read the Gospel account of “Doubting” Thomas. And every year I can’t help but think that Thomas gets a bad rap. After all, what did Thomas do that was so different from what the other Apostles did? Yes, Thomas refused to believe the others when they told him that Jesus had appeared to them in the locked upper room. And yes, Thomas told the others tht he wouldn’t believe until he touched the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side. But Thomas’ unbelief was not very different than the unbelief of the others.

The Gospel accounts of the Resurrection vary but they all, to one extent or another, show that even the closest followers of Jesus, those He had confided in most intimately, failed to accept the Risen Lord until He showed Himself to them. Even Mary Magdalene, who encountered Jesus near the tomb, failed to recognize Him. When she asked Jesus – who she thought was gardener – where the body of Jesus had been taken she was thinking in terms of Him being dead and not resurrected. It wasn’t until Jesus spoke to her that she recognized Him. While Thomas’ demand to put his hand in Jesus’ side may have been a bit more extreme, his failure to believe that Jesus was risen from the dead wasn’t much different than that of the other Apostles and Disciples. The Gospels demonstrate that Thomas was fairly quick to make somewhat cynical comments – see John 11:16 and John 14:6.

His failure to accept that Jesus was risen from the dead was not inconsistent with how the others also responded. And it wasn’t all that different frrom how many of us who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ respond today. If we believe that Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Word of God, if we believe Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, if we believe that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist under the form of bread and wine, then how can we justify our unbelief in anything that the Catholic Church teaches to be true? Thomas may not have believed that Jesus was alive until he saw – and touched – for himself. Yet once he believed, Thomas went out and proclaimed the Good News to the world and, tradition tells us, he was martyred for his belief in Christ. If we can’t bring ourselves to stand up for human rights, to work for justice and care for the neediest in society even if this means disagreeing with whoever sits in the White House or espousing beliefs that are contrary to whatever political party controls Congress then we have no room to judge the Apostle Thomas. Our faith in Jesus Christ requires – no, demands – that we follow His commands. If we don’t then we will find ourselves in the position of hearing Jesus say to us what He said the the Apostles after calming the storm at sea: “Oh ye of little faith.”

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