St Thomas the Apostle

(entered heaven around 74)

Dear Tanya,

I am delighted to see how much progress you’re making in the spiritual life.  The complaint expressed in your last email was right on target.  You are absolutely correct: if only we had more faith!  You have advanced to the point where you really wish to do God’s will over and above all other things, and you have come to realize that you don’t always know what God’s will is – or at least, sometimes you find it hard to keep in mind.  Frankly, I think it’s more of the latter: you know what God’s will is – the commandments, the duties of your state in life, spreading the faith, the dictates of your conscience – but you don’t always see God’s will in the particular activity your doing at the moment.  And that is why you need more faith, so you can be aware of God’s presence – his active, loving presence – in your life, every moment of your life, in every activity, encounter, struggle, and joy.  Well, the good news is that today’s saint teaches us all how to grow in faith.

Thomas was one of the Twelve Apostles.  We don’t know the circumstances of his being called by Christ, but we know that he was a courageous and outspoken fellow.  We also know that he was a bit temperamental: he wasn’t with the other Apostles on the evening of the Resurrection – he had gone off on his own, and he wouldn’t believe the testimony of his comrades when they told him the Lord had risen; he demanded to see and touch Christ’s wounds for himself.

And Jesus indulged his request.  A week after Easter, Christ appeared once again to the Apostles and invited Thomas to touch his wounds, at which point Thomas uttered one of the most beautiful prayers in Scripture: “My Lord and my God!”  That was a prayer of deep faith: having beheld the Resurrected Christ, he immediately declared his faith in Christ as God and Savior (“Lord” was the term the Jews of the time used for God).

Sometimes we think that it must have been easy for Thomas to believe, since he saw Christ.  But he still had to make that leap of faith – Jesus was still Jesus, and not all who saw him believed that he was Lord and God.

Our own faith gets bolstered by Thomas’s experience, but that experience also tells us how we ourselves can go about deepening our faith.  To come to his declaration of faith, Thomas asked and acted.  These are the two ways to increase our faith: to ask God to increase it for us (faith is supernatural virtue, given by God and directed to God, so we need God to help us make it grow) and to use it, to make acts of faith, to utter prayers like St Thomas’s frequently, daily, all the time.  In that sense virtues are like muscles, the more you use them the stronger they get.  When was the last time you “exercised” your faith?  It’s something you can do when you’re walking down the street or sitting at the beach: “Lord, I believe in you, in your Resurrection, in your love for me…”  Acts of faith build up the virtue of faith, and the virtue of faith will enable you to see more and more God’s hand in all you do.

Thomas didn’t forget his lesson.  He was sold as a slave to a king in southern India, who ordered him to build a magnificent palace (Thomas was a carpenter).  But Thomas used the money to help the poor instead, for which the king imprisoned him in anticipation of having him flogged alive.  Soon thereafter, however, the king’s brother died and saw a beautiful palace in heaven, which an angel told him had been built there for the king by the charitable deeds of Thomas.  The brother was permitted to return to the king in order to try and buy the heavenly palace from him, but when the king heard what had happened, he wouldn’t sell.  He released Thomas and asked to become a Christian.  Thomas’s faith in Christ has spawned the first Christian community in India.

Faith opens up these kinds of vistas to us – marvelous vistas.  May you be blessed with them forever.

Your loving uncle,


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