Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Feast Day of St Thomas the Apostle.

 I'm reluctant to admit that this is going to happen every once in a while, but it will: My program in Guelph will get busier, and I'll have less time for these entries. This means that I may start skipping some of the days on the liturgical calendar. I skipped Tuesday which was rather quiet -it mentioned a a Saint Bernardino Realino ( That's his Realino name, I same swear!), a Jesuit saint who is remembered as a beloved College rector. But Wednesday, we celebrated St Thomas the apostle, so I figured I'd concentrate my attention on him instead.

St. Thomas

Feast Day:July 3
Died:72 in India
Patron of:against doubt, architects, blind people, builders, East Indies, geometricians, India, masons, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, surveyors, theologians

Little is recorded of St.Thomas the Apostle, nevertheless thanks to The Gospel of John,  his personality is clearer to us than that of some others of the Twelve: He is known as the one who after Jesus proposed to go to Jerusalem to visit Lazarus, said to his fellow disciples (in John 11:16)  "Let us also go, that we may die with him". Very noble. As we all know, in the less noble column, he's also the one who doubted Jesus' resurrection, and stated that he would only believe it if he could " see  in his (Jesus')   hands the print of the nails, and put (his own)  finger into the place of the nails, and..into his side" (John 20:25); but eight days later he made his act of faith ( my emphasis! Love this phrase!), drawing down the rebuke of Jesus: "Because you see me, you have  believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed" (John 20:29). For the sake of brevity, that's about all I'll reveal about him in this entry, but boy is are there a lot of fun stories to read about him, most of which seem a little far fetched, but one can dream!

  We have a tendency in our Church to view our Saints as being almost perfect. And some of them do scare us with their pious intensity.  But NONE OF THEM, are perfect.  And no Christian is called to perfection either.  Pope Francis nails it with his homily yesterday, when he spoke of our (every Christian's) call to be courageous in our weakness.  This is precisely what we see in St Thomas today. He came before Christ as a doubting man, and he was converted in that moment of touching his wounds.  

What's more interesting is how we usually  see this weakness of Thomas as an invitation to teach Christians about the virtues of faith, as opposed to what Thomas experiences -i.e. his doubt-. But Fr Eric Jensen of the Loyola retreat house in Guelph took it one step further: Religious  people have two major types of experiences:  Belief, and Faith. Belief, is how many people see religion. You commit your mind to something that you can't prove, see or fully understand because others have told you it was right. It's how children practice religion. Unfortunately, many adults never really grow up from that perspective.  The believe because they're told to, or because it's what they've always done. It's a blind act.
  Faith, on the other hand, is an experience of the divine.  A very real and personal one that often leads to conversion. In today's Gospel, Thomas has a very real experience of Faith. He believed Jesus was important, but he didn't know how important. He doubted because his understanding of the world told him that Christ coming back from the dead was impossible. Once he places his finger in Jesus's wound, that's his experience of conversion...he now knows Who Christ really is. Pope Francis, being the wonderful 'man of the people' that he is, goes even further. He states that like St Thomas, "our own lives will be changed  when we touch Christ's wounds present in the poor, sick and needy'.
 Both Fr Eric and the Pope speak of the weakness of St Thomas, that became a strength. Through it, he's allowed to have a complete conversion experience that opens the door for his  life of ministry! Imagine how different the story would have been if the other guys told Thomas ' Hey man, we saw Jesus, he's resurrected'  and Thomas just went 'Whoa..that's completely what I knew he'd do. I don't  even need to see it to believe it!! Yay Jesus!".  He may not have had the same kind of strength to bring the faith all the way to  India. His doubts and weakness were the foundation of his much stronger faith as they "allowed him to understand something greater". (Pope Francis's words again!)

Ephesians 2: 19 - 22

19So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
21in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;
22in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit

Psalms 117: 1 - 2

1Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!
2For great is his steadfast love toward us; and the faithfulness of the LORD endures for ever. Praise the LORD!
John 20: 24 - 29

24Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe."
26Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, "Peace be with you."
27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing."
28Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"
29Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.

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