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Saint Thomas, Apostle – July 3rd
Readings: Eph 2:19-22; Jn 20:24-29.
Reading 1 (Eph 2:19-22):
Brothers and sisters:
You are no longer strangers and sojourners,
but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones
and members of the household of God,
built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.
Through him the whole structure is held together
and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord;
in him you also are being built together
into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Gospel (Jn 20:24-29):
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But Thomas said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
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.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed!
St. Thomas apostle is often called “the father of those who hardly believe;” but it was because of him, we had many Christ’s teaching about many different ways of believing.
Today readings show us many different ways one can use to believe in God. In the first reading, the author of the Letter to the Ephesians ascertained that our faith is built on the cornerstone which is Christ, and the foundation is the faith of the apostles and the prophets. In the Gospel, Jesus reproved Thomas because he used only sensible knowledge, and didn’t believe in his revelation before the Passion and the apostles’ witnesses.
1/ Reading I: Our faith is based on the apostolic faith.
1.1/ The position of the faithful in God’s household: The author of the Letter confirmed: “You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God.” An analysis of the four nouns which were used in this sentence shall help us to understand the author’s intention.
(1) The strangers (Xénos): are those who have no relation with the natives and aren’t protected by the native laws. The author wanted to imply the Gentiles’ situation when they didn’t know Christ yet.
(2) The temporal residences (pároikos): are the foreigners who legally live in a country, but only temporal in a limited time. They can enjoy some rights as the natives but they must depart when their time are ended.
(3) The fellow-countrymen (sympolítês): are those who were born in a same village of a country. They might have the same faith, habits, tradition and culture. These people have a tendency to form an association to help each other when they have to move out of their village and live in different places or countries. For example, the Thuc Hoa Association are for those who were the fellow-countrymen of Thuc Hoa village, Bui Chu province and North Vietnam. The author of the Letter called the faithful “you are fellow citizens with the holy ones,” because they have the same faith in Christ and are called to be holy.
(4) The members of the household (oikêios): are those who have blood relationship or under special situations, united as a closed group and live under a same roof. These people are called “the members of the household.” They are enjoyed all rights and have a duty to protect their house. The author called the faithful “the members of the household of God,” because they share the salvation which Christ has prepared for them. They have a duty to prepare for all members of their household to inherit God’s salvation.
1.2/ God’s building: is personalized to indicate the position and the duty of each member of the household. A building has the following parts:
(1) The cornerstone (akrogôniaios): is Christ himself. This is the most important stone which connects the two walls of the building and the foundation together, according to Jewish architecture of building a house. Some said that two walls are represented by the Jews and the Gentiles. Christ or the faith in Christ is the cornerstone for this building. If it isn’t built on the cornerstone which is Christ, God’s building shall not be formed.
(2) The foundation (themélios): are the prophets and the apostles. The second important structure of the house is its foundation which the building is built. Jesus gave us a concrete example how to build a firm house on the rock. The prophets and the apostles are compared as the foundation of God’s house because of their faith in God. It is because of their preaching, witness and blood, faith is spreaded to many people.
(3) Other parts of the house: are all the faithful. We can compare each faithful as a brick in God’s building; though small but is necessary for the building to complete. The author concluded: “Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord;in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
2/ Gospel: Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed!
2.1/ Faith based on sensible knowledge: There are people who only believe one thing is true when they see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and touch with their hands. Thomas was one of them. Since he wasn’t present the first time when Jesus appeared to the disciples, they said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
2.2/ Faith based on other things: Beside the faith based on sensible knowledge as Thomas requested, we have at least three other ways to believe one thing is true.
(1) The speaker’s authority: This is the way which we use everyday. For examples, children believe in what their parents said; students believe in their teachers; workers believe in their owner; etc. We believe in these people because we think they shall not deceive us. Most of the courts also use this way when they require to have two or three witnesses to determine one thing is true. Jesus blamed Thomas “hard to believe,” because he didn’t believe in Jesus’ revelation and ten witnessess who are his companions.
(2) The effects: The principle of cause and effect is the principle which we also use daily. For examples, when we see smoke going up, we immediately know there is a fire; we don’t see the current but we don’t want to touch the electrical outlet for fear of an electrical shock. Similarly, though we don’t see God; but when we see all creatures, we believe there is a God.
(3) The historical authority: When we study history, we believe in the recorded historical events. If there is any doubt, we can collate or compare different sources and use our reason to determine the truth of historical events. When we study Scripture, we also base on history to determine the truth of historical events. For examples, we used to see these sentences in the New Testament: “to prove the Scriptural prediction is true;” or “to fulfill the Scripture had written.”
2.3/ Thomas proclaimed his faith: Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”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.”Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Faith based on sensible knowledge is the lowest way for a person to believe. Jesus blamed Thomas because he didn’t use other ways. Though Thomas was hard to believe, but when he believed in Christ, nothing could shake his faith. He wasn’t only profess Christ is his master but also his God.
APPLICATIONS IN LIFE:
– We are living brick in God’s temple. Our duty is to make this temple is alive and growing up every day.
– Our faith is based on not only sensible knowledge, but also on Scripture, history, effects and many witnesses through generations.