The Rev. Deacon Igor Kalinski OPI
Dominican Hermitage & Oratory of St’s Sebastian and Peregrine in Gevgelija, Macedonia
The Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle reminds us that the faith of Christians is born and nourished only in the encounter with Jesus
Dear brothers and sisters!
Today’s feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, which we celebrate with this solemn Eucharistic celebration, is the feast of the heavenly patron of the Diocese of Pula and the city of Pula. He was chosen as his heavenly protector by the faithful of this diocese in ancient times with the desire that the example of this holy witness of Christ inspires, guides, encourages and encourages them on the path of Jesus’ followers and witnesses. In this imitation of Jesus, St. Thomas inspires the faithful of this diocese, but also all Christians, in a special way in moments of human and religious insecurity and in the hours when they seek sure answers to open questions, which are imposed on them at a given moment. Therefore, the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, apart from the remembrance of the great figure of one of the first direct disciples of Jesus, is for all of us primarily a feast of faith. Faith, which is born only in the encounter with Jesus. Who lives only in a way of a permanent state of encounter with Christ. Which only that encounter feeds and maintains. For us believers, this takes on a special meaning in this Eucharistic celebration, which is always a reunion with Jesus. With our God and Lord, who in the Body and Blood, under the Eucharistic occasions of bread and wine, comes among his faithful.
The initial faith of the apostles was born in an encounter with Jesus while he was still living in this world. She grew in them in fellowship with Jesus, that is, in their living with Him, which was nothing but a daily and all-day encounter. On the contrary, that faith in them waned at the moment when, after Jesus’ death, His parting with them occurred. True, this was due to the fact that, after Jesus’ condemnation and crucifixion, the apostles were overwhelmed with disappointment and fear of persecution. But much more than fear, their faith was threatened by parting with Jesus. That is, the cessation of the encounter with Jesus was the main reason for their discouragement. This is best proved by the fact that the faith of the apostles was strengthened again after Jesus appeared to them. Their sure faith appeared and came to life again in the encounter with Jesus. That is, they believed after “seeing.” After the risen Jesus came among them. In an encounter with Jesus. But Tom was not present at the event. Thomas did not “see” Jesus with the other apostles. He did not experience that encounter with Jesus. He will experience it a week later, and faith will be revived in that encounter as well. In other words, there is no significant difference between Thomas’ reaction and the reaction of the other apostles, because everyone actually believed only after they “saw”. The only difference is that they “saw” at different times. Therefore, it is more a matter of a different time, in which their faith is born, than of a difference of content and manner.
It is precisely this birth and strengthening of the apostle’s faith, that Jesus was indeed resurrected, that is reported in the passage from the Gospel of John, which we have just heard. And this is the passage for which St. Thomas is generally known. He was even called “unfaithful” after that event. But it is very often forgotten that this passage, though the most famous, is only one of three incidents from the same Gospel of John, in which St. Thomas speaks. In their own way, they complete our knowledge of him, complement the image of this apostle of Jesus and emphasize the uniqueness of Thomas’ character.
The first incident, in which St. Thomas speaks, is the event of the death of Lazarus, Jesus ‘friend from Judea, and the miracle of his return to earthly life by Jesus’ action. And it was in that Judea that they wanted to stone Jesus shortly before. Namely, after Jesus learned that Lazarus had died, he said to the apostles: “Let us go to Judea again! […] Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to wake him up ”(Jn 11: 7-11). And in order to turn Jesus away from his intention, his disciples said to him, “Teacher, have the Jews now sought to stone you, that you may go there again?” (Jn 11: 8). And as Jesus did not give up, the apostles continued to convince him that it was not prudent to return to Judea, and told him, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will be healed” (Jn 11:12). And John the Evangelist continues: “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. I’m glad I wasn’t there, and for your sake – to believe. Let’s go to him! ‘ Then Thomas, called Gemini, said to his disciples, “Let us also die with him” (Jn 11: 14-16).
These words of Thomas should be read, listened to and understood in the light of the real danger that threatened Jesus in the event of his return to Judea, as an expression of Thomas’ great personal courage and willingness to die with Jesus if necessary while He carries out His mission, but at the same time as Thomas’ call to all the other disciples of Jesus to show solidarity with the Lord. He is not afraid to return to the region and among the people, who are a real danger to life for all of them, and he invites others to behave in the same way. He is willing to risk his earthly life for Jesus. He chooses freely to always be with Jesus. Not only when Jesus is praised, but even in mortal danger. He is also He chose not only to live with Jesus but also to die for him and with him, as he himself says. To be with Jesus in life and death, in Judea and eternity. Forever!
The second incident, in which Thomas speaks, took place at the Last Supper. Then, on the eve of his death and departure from this world, Jesus comforted the very worried and troubled disciples. He said to them, “Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God and believe in me! […] There are many dwellings in my Father’s house. I’m going to prepare a place for you. When I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that you may be where I am. And where I go, you know the way ”(Jn 14: 1-4). These words of Jesus surprised the apostle Thomas. They were not clear enough to him and he is not ashamed to admit it publicly. Therefore, as a very curious person, who is always ready to seek clarification, and above all as a disciple who wants to always be with his Master, even where Jesus announced his departure, he says to everyone in front of Jesus: “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How then can we know the way? ”(Jn 14: 5).
Thanks to this question, all the disciples heard Jesus say of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (Jn 14: 6). That is, thanks to the Apostle Thomas, we gathered here today as worshipers of this apostle, know about this fundamental teaching of Jesus, which is a great challenge for every follower and every believer, and for us gathered here, especially to the extent that he wants to achieve his eternal salvation. That is, thanks to Thomas ‘question, we know that only Jesus’ way and path leads people to Heavenly Father.
In the Gospel of John, the apostle Thomas speaks for the third time in the description of the two apparitions of Jesus, with Thomas absent at the first apparition and present at the second. From this account of John we learn that Jesus appeared to his disciples for the first time on the very day of his resurrection. We also learn that they were very frightened because we read, “And in the evening of the same day, the first day of the week, when the disciples were shut in fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said unto them, Peace be unto you.” (Jn 20:19). So they were all behind well-closed doors. In fear. Except Tom! That is, although there was great fear among Jesus’ disciples and they hid and closed the door, Thomas was different and was somewhere outside the door. Curious, as he was, he probably went to look for answers to new questions, which arose, and doubts, which he wanted to solve. At that moment, apparently more brave than the others, it can be assumed that he went out to reconnoiter Jerusalem. Because it is clear that he did not run away or forget the other apostles. In fact, he knows where they are and, after reconnaissance, returns to them with the information gathered. But they shock him by telling him what happened while he was gone. That is, that they saw the Lord. And he, obviously very surprised and taken aback, and probably suspicious of his colleagues because of their cowardice, replied, “If I don’t see the nail mark on his hands and put my finger in the place of the nail, if I don’t put my hand on his side, I won’t to believe ”(cf. Jn 20:25). Because he knew that “big eyes are in fear”, and in such a state it often seems to see what is not there. But when, just a week later, Jesus reappeared to the apostles, Thomas was among them. And when he was convinced, that is, when he personally saw the risen Jesus, he confessed his faith in the divinity of Christ with the words: “My Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28). It is a confession of faith, which Christians to this day often repeat, especially at the moment when they partake of the Eucharistic Jesus, their Lord and God.
At the end of the description of this event, we read that Jesus Tommy, after he confessed his faith in Him, God and Lord, said: “Because you saw me, you believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed ”(Jn 20:29). This is the third great lesson of Jesus, which he uttered thanks to the reactions and questions of the apostle Thomas. The lesson, which directly refers to the Church, the community of faith, to our present condition, because we are not given to “see” the Risen One. In fact, the whole Church has believed from the beginning the testimony of the apostles, who “saw” and then believed and gave their lives for it.
Commenting on this last incident with the Apostle Thomas, St. Gregory the Great, the Pope writes: “What, brethren, to observe in all this? To attribute to the pure case that this disciple, chosen by the Lord, was absent, and that when he came then heard of the event, and hearing doubted, and doubting touched, and touching believed? No, this did not happen by accident, but by Divine disposition. The mercy of the Lord worked in a glorious way, for that disciple, while, with his doubts, touching the wounds on the body of his Master, healed in us the wounds of unbelief. The unbelief of Thomas benefited us more, in terms of faith, much more than the faith of the other apostles. While he has been brought to faith by touch, our mind is fixed in faith by overcoming every doubt. […]
One, however, was what he touched, and the other was what he believed. The deity cannot actually be seen by mortal man. So he saw a man, and he acknowledged God, saying, ‘My Lord and my God.’ So he believed when he saw it. He saw the right man and said it was the God he could not see. (Hom. 26, 7-9)
Other great saints and minds of the Church wrote similarly. Thus St. Augustine says: Thomas “saw and touched man, and confessed his faith in God, whom he neither saw nor touched. But what he saw and touched led him to believe in what he had doubted until then. ” (In Johann. 121, 5)
Dear brothers and sisters, The case of Thomas the Apostle, apart from the saintly example, is an important lesson for all Christian believers for at least three reasons. First, because it comforts us in the uncertainties of the faith we profess, and encourages us in our quests. Secondly, it is important to us, because it shows, that any doubt can enter enlightenment, where there is no uncertainty. And third, the words, which Jesus addressed to Thomas, remind us of the true meaning of mature faith and encourage us to, in spite of difficulties, continue on our path of adhering to Jesus.
Therefore, through the intercession of St. Thomas, God grant that all of us, who have not seen, but believe and confess that Jesus is “my Lord and my God”, confirm this faith every day with our deeds. And so that, according to our testimony, others could “see” and “touch” God’s goodness and believe. Through the risen Christ, our God and Lord. Amen!