Saint of the Day – 3 July – St Thomas the Apostle of Christ – Apostle, Martyr, Preacher, Evangelist (called Didymus which means “the twin” or Mar Thoma in Syriac) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, according to the New Testament. He is informally called doubting Thomas because he doubted Jesus’ resurrection when first told (in the Gospel of John account only), followed later by his confession of faith, “My Lord and my God”, on seeing Jesus’ wounded body. He was ready to die with Jesus when Christ went to Jerusalem but is best remembered for doubting the Resurrection until allowed to touch Christ’s wounds. Preached in Parthia, Persia and India, though he was so reluctant to start the mission that he had to be taken into slavery by a merchant headed that way. He eventually gave in to God’s will, was freed and planted the new Church over a wide area. He formed many parishes and built many churches along the way. An old tradition says that Thomas baptised the wise men from the Nativity into Christianity. His symbol is the builder’s square; there are several stories that explain it
• he built a palace for King Guduphara in India;
• he built the first church in India with his own hands;
• it is representative building a strong spiritual foundation as he had complete faith in Christ (though initially less in the Resurrection);
• he offered to build a palace for an Indian king that would last forever; the king gave him money, which Thomas promptly gave away to the poor; he explained that the palace he was building was in heaven, not on earth. He was martyred by being stabbed with a spear c72 in while in prayer on a hill in Mylapur, India and is buried near the site of his death. His relics later moved to Edessa, Mesopotamia and finally to Tortona, Italy in the 13th century. Other attributes are arrow, spear,t-square, placing his finger in the side of Christ, a twin, a chisel.
His Patronages are:
• people in doubt; against doubt
• blind people and against blindness
• construction workers
• stone masons and stone cutters
• East Indies
• Sri Lanka
• diocese of Bathery, India
• Castelfranco di Sopra, Italy
• Certaldo, Italy
• Ortona, Italy
We feel great kinship for the apostle Thomas because, like him, most of us curiously combine faith and doubt. We sometimes share the enthusiasm St. Thomas expressed when upon Lazarus’s death Jesus decided to go to Bethany. “Let’s go too,” Thomas said to the other disciples,“that we may die with him” (see John 11:16). But also like him we sometimes wonder where Jesus is headed and where He is taking us (see John 14:5).
However, we are most like Thomas because doubts occasionally rattle our brains and cloud our souls. So we all relate to the story of doubting Thomas (see John 20:25–29). Thomas was absent the first time Jesus appeared after his resurrection. The apostle swore he would not believe, “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”. Eight days later Jesus appeared again and told Thomas to touch his wounds. “My Lord, and my God,” Thomas exclaimed, recovering his faith.
Some early Christian writers criticized Thomas’s faithless behaviour. But others praised him for helping us cure our doubts, as Gregory the Great does in this homily:
“. . . For the faithlessness of Thomas aids us in our belief more than does the faith of the disciples who believed. . . . When he is brought to believe by feeling with his own hand, every doubt having been removed, our own mind is confirmed in faith. . . .The divinity cannot be seen by any mortal man. So Thomas saw man and confessed him to be God, saying, “My Lord, and my God.”
On seeing, then, he believed, and proclaimed him to be God whom he could not see.
Then Jesus spoke these words that give us much joy: “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed” (see John 20:29). This sentence undoubtedly signifies to us who hold in our minds Him whom we have not seen in the flesh. But we are signified only if we follow up our faith by works. For he really believes, who carries out in deed what he believes.
We do not know for sure where Thomas conducted his missionary activity after Pentecost. Some claim that he evangelised among the Parthians. But a stronger tradition says he carried the gospel to India. He is supposed to have recruited the Christians of Malabar and died a martyr by the spear at Mylapore, near Madras. An ancient stone cross there marks the place where his remains lay buried until they were removed to Edessa in 394 and then later to Italy.
St Thomas, Apostle of Christ pray for our unbelief!