Tuesday, 3 July 2012

About St Thomas, Apostle

The apostle Thomas is famous for doubting the resurrection of Jesus when his fellow apostles told him about it; but if he is the sceptical apostle, he is also the believing apostle, for having seen and touched a risen man, he made the immediate leap of faith and so became the first apostle to call Jesus God.

Nothing is known about Thomas’s later career.  A well-known apocryphal document called the Acts of Thomas relates his missionary journeys to Persia and India.  Although the document as it stands is not historical evidence (it was written to provide evidence for certain heretical Gnostic teachings), it still bears witness to the likelihood of a tradition that Thomas did go to India.  If you are writing something that you intend to use to convince people of a controversial doctrine, you do not invent completely new facts: instead, you weave the existing facts and traditions into something that suits your purpose.  Thus the very fact that the heretics used a journey of St Thomas to support their case shows us that, in the third century at least, there would have seemed nothing implausible about such a journey.  The journey would have been easy enough – important trade routes lay that way – and if some of the apostles went west, to Rome, the centre of the world, there is no reason why some others should not have chosen to go east, to the edge of the known world.

My friend has two children, a boy and a girl.  If she tells the girl not to do something, the girl thinks “good, now I know one more thing about how to be grown-up” and doesn’t do it.  If she tells the boy not to do something, he thinks “I wonder: why not?” and goes and does it, to see.

When the Church, inspired by Christ and millennia of prayer and reflection, tries to teach us what to do and what not to do, we pay no attention.  We have to go and try it out for ourselves and later, made wise by experience, we discover that the teaching was right all along.  We are like my friend’s small son.  We are like St Thomas, who obstinately wouldn’t believe what he was told but had to see and touch for himself.  St Thomas the Apostle, if you can stop laughing for long enough, pray for us!

1. Extracted entirely from the website of Universalis – About Today on July 2, 2012

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