Have you ever felt like an outsider amongst a group of people who all shared a similar experience? Sat awkwardly in the background as they joyfully reminisced? The fact that you missed out on whatever it is that the rest of your acquaintances lived through can possibly leave you feeling isolated and uncomfortable.
I imagine that’s how Thomas the Apostle felt when he returned into hiding in the Upper Room after the Crucifixion of Jesus. Today is his feast day, and we owe some attention to this valiant Apostle who often gets a bad rep and who inspired a universally employed nickname.
Our Doubting Thomas returned to the Upper Room from, well, we don’t know where he was or what he was doing out of hiding. What we do know is that while he was away, Our Resurrected Lord appeared to the rest of the Apostles for the first time since His death, and Thomas missed it. Talk about bad timing.
When he was reunited with the rest of the Apostles, the atmosphere in the Upper Room had shifted dramatically. Thomas was greeted by his excited and enlivened friends who exclaimed to him, “We have seen the Lord” (John 20:25). Imagine the mix of emotion Thomas must have been flooded with: happiness, confusion, hope, disappointment. Emotion that, undoubtedly, you and I would have felt similarly.
Overwhelmed, Thomas doubted the truth behind the other Apostles’ claim. Because he did not share in their experience, how could he be sure? Thomas most certainly felt like an outsider, as is evident by his over-the-top refusal to believe unless he placed his hands inside the very wounds of Jesus.
We know the rest of the story. Days later, Jesus once again returned to the Upper Room. This time, Thomas was present, and was very much the focus of Our Lord. What the Savior does in this moment, although so simple and subtle, bears incredible significance.
Take a minute and think about how Our Lord could have acted toward Thomas. Had He not proven His omnipotence enough during His ministry by healing the blind and lame, forgiving sins, and raising the dead? Was His own Resurrection, then, so inconceivable to Thomas, who had witnessed all these miracles? Jesus could have utterly reprimanded Thomas; but, as per usual, He instead approaches His Thomas with the most merciful tenderness.
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe” (John 20:27).
Although Thomas had previously missed out on the initial encounter with the Resurrected Godman, had been left on the outside, Jesus ultimately and literally brings him inside Himself, into His Heart. Our Lord’s love for Thomas is so great, so all-encompassing, that He transforms the outsider into the one who is closest to Him. Yes, Thomas momentarily doubted the Lord, but the Lord never doubted Thomas.
Let this, then, be a lesson for us. The Lord is close to the outsiders; and they are often the ones who are invited into the deepest of intimacy with Him. Just as He humbled Himself to meet Thomas in the midst of his doubt, He never ceases to reach down to us in our littleness and frailty, in our own doubt and lack of faith, to pick us up and bring us into Himself. So in our moments of weakness, we would be wise to remember the example of St. Thomas, who, although he wavered for a moment, was a bold disciple of Christ, loving Him to the point of death with an unquenchable passion. Then, once united with the Lord in such intimacy, we too may profess undoubtedly along with Thomas, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).