Thursday July 3, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier St. Thomas the Apostle
Reading (Ephesians 2:19-22) Gospel (St. John 20:24-29)
In the first reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, he tells us that we are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God. And that household, he tells us, is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. Now that means we are built on the foundation of all of the apostles. So we have the faith of someone like Saint John, for instance, who was the beloved disciple of the Lord and willing to stand at the foot of the Cross and willing to be killed with Christ if that is what it required. We are founded on Saint Peter, whose faith waffled every once in a while and who did some impetuous things; yet when push came to shove he was going to be faithful to the Lord.
We are also, of course, built on the foundation of Saint Thomas, whose faith and example has inspired perhaps more people than most of the other apostles because Thomas is perhaps the one we are most often like, that is, we doubt, we question, we wonder. We cannot really accept this because we cannot see it. “Unless I put my hands into the nailmarks, unless I put my finger into his hands, I will not believe.” We look at the Blessed Sacrament and we do not see Jesus there. We do not feel Him; we do not taste Him. And so we wonder and we doubt and we question. And the Lord in so many ways proves over and over again to us His true presence in the Blessed Sacrament. He proves to us the reality of His presence in His Church, because the Church is Jesus Christ. But because it is difficult for us to see, we do not believe. And even though we have 2,000 years’ of saints who have all told us pretty much the same thing, we still look at it and say, “But I haven’t seen it personally. I haven’t personally experienced these things so I can’t believe.”
So we test the Lord; we doubt; we question; we wonder. And the Lord in His mercy, age after age and generation after generation, continues in His kindness to demonstrate the reality of the things that He taught and the Person Who He is. He is God. Even though He has hidden Himself in such a sublime way in the Blessed Sacrament, even though He seems to have pulled way back away from us – and especially when we look around the world today and we see evil nearing its completion and we wonder how, if God really exists, He could allow something as hideous as all the things going on in the world today –we wonder and we doubt. We are no different than Saint Thomas.
But remember, in Saint John’s Gospel there are only two apostles that he explains to us who they are: Saint John, whom he calls “the Beloved Disciple”; and Saint Thomas, whom he calls “Didymus” or “the Twin”. The reason Saint John makes those distinctions is because you are the beloved disciple but you are also the twin. Just like Saint Thomas, you are going to question and wonder and doubt at times, and you will find yourself in the personality of Saint Thomas. But Saint John also goes out of his way to give us the great hope that we also are the beloved disciple, the one whom Jesus loves, and the one whom He favors in so many ways.
One could look and wonder why Saint Thomas was not present or why Jesus did not appear when all of the disciples were present in the Upper Room. But all of us need to be so grateful that Saint Thomas was not there because I think all of us would have to admit that his questions and doubts and finally his faith and the comment of Jesus – “Blessed are those who have not seen and believed” – has probably inspired countless billions of Christians over the years, over the centuries, so that they would be able to believe without seeing, experiencing the love of Jesus in many ways but yet not having absolute proof because there never will be absolute proof in this life. It is a question of faith, and we need to be able to look with Saint Thomas, not with the eyes of the body but with the eyes of the soul, and see Jesus Christ truly present in His Church, in the Blessed Sacrament, and be able to acknowledge with Saint Thomas Who He is as we cry out with hearts filled with faith, “My Lord and My God!”
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.