Friday, July 3, 2015

Agape Catholic Bible Study on Feast Day of St. Thomas

The Gospel Reading for July 3rd ~ Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle
John 20:24-29 ~ St. Thomas’ Doubt turns into a Confession of Faith
“24 Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 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 nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ 26 Now a week later [8 days 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.’ 27 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 [become not unbelieving], but believe.’ 28 Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29 Jesus said to him, ‘Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.’” [..] = Greek literal translation.
In verse 24, St. John refers to “the Twelve” Apostles, even though at this point with Judas’ betrayal and death there are only 11. Some scholars point to the mention of “the Twelve” as an error, but St. John is probably using 12 as one of the “perfect numbers” (see “The Significance of Numbers in Scripture”: http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/…/The%20Significance%20of%20…], indicating the “perfection” of the Apostolic Magisterium. The number 12 in Scripture has always been the number for the Church—in the Old Covenant it is the number of Israel’s 12 physical fathers, and in the New Covenant it refers to the universal Church’s 12 spiritual fathers. When the Magisterium meets in council, even if not all the bishops are present, it is said that the Magisterium, as a whole, is in council. In the same way, even though 11 Apostles were present in the Upper Room Resurrection Sunday, it can be said “the Twelve”, in the fullest sense as the leadership of the Church, were present.
St. Thomas (called Didymus which means “twin”) was not with the other Apostles when Jesus came through locked doors and appeared to them in the Upper Room on Resurrection Sunday. When Thomas returned, the Apostles told him they had seen and spoken to the resurrected Lord.
Poor St. Thomas is always remembered for his remark in verse 25, which must have come from his discouragement and his fear. He seems not to be remembered for his courageous statement in John 11:16 when he declared he was prepared to die with Jesus.
Verse 26 records that it was on the 8th day since the Resurrection (as the ancients counted without the concept of a zero place-value) that Jesus appeared again to the Apostles in the Upper Room on the first day what we call Sunday. The 7th day of Creation became the Sabbath (Saturday). Sunday is both the first and the eighth day of the week. The number 8 in the symbolism of numbers represented salvation, regeneration and redemption. It became the number of the New Covenant people. All early churches were built 8 sided; this includes the early church that was formed at Peter’s house in Capernaum and all the Byzantine Churches of the 4th-6th centuries. Whenever archaeologists find an ancient foundation that has 8 sides they know they have found a Christian Church marking a holy site associated with Christ.
Jesus’ entry into the room was similar to His entry a week earlier. He did not use the doors to enter. This testimony proves that Jesus was not prematurely pronounced dead and later revived. He is not bound by the laws of physics!
Jesus’ statement in the literal Greek, “become not unbelieving”, gives us a better sense of Thomas’ spiritual condition. He had not yet fallen into unbelief but his doubt about the Resurrection put him in danger of falling into unbelief. What you believe matters! Thomas responds to Jesus’ challenge by acknowledging Jesus as His Lord and God. The literal translation is “the Lord of me and the God of me”. Both Peter and Thomas knew how to humble themselves and to repent. Judas was lost because he would not repent and turn to Christ. Thomas’ profession of faith is one of the strongest statements affirming the deity of Jesus in Sacred Scripture!
“29 Jesus said to him: ‘You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.’” In Hebrews 11:1 it is written that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen…” Thomas’ faith would have had more merit if he had accepted the testimony of the other Apostles instead of the exceptional proof he received through seeing and touching Jesus’ wounds. St. Paul wrote to the Church in Rome: “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes from the preaching of Christ” (Rom 10:17). It is the same preaching of Christ that is passed from the Apostles down to us in the Church today. When we accept that testimony we must not only believe but we must practice what we believe. Jesus’ statement “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” is a benediction our Lord has pronounced on all the future generations of believers!
How many times have we been guilty of the same unbelief as Thomas when we reject the teaching of Mother Church in favor of secular values and morals? How many Catholics in government have stated that Church must be separated from State, and since the law of the land allows abortion how can they stand against it; do they need to see the nails in His hands? Don't they know that Christ's Kingdom has authority over all earthly kingdoms/states? Or how many of us question the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist or the perpetual virginity of His blessed mother; do we need to see the wound in His side? To believe in the name of Jesus Christ is to accept all that He taught and to be obedient to the teaching of the Kingdom of His Church. There is no such animal as a “liberal Catholic.” Liberal and conservative are political terms. There are orthodox, true doctrine Catholics, or there are bad Catholics. Catholicism is not a cafeteria style religion where one can pick and choose what one believes. It is an all or nothing religion. Place your finger in His wounds and like Thomas cry out “My Lord and My God!
According to the history of the Church, Thomas was martyred at the altar of his Church in India. He did die for Jesus as he said he would in John 11:16. He had faithfully carried the Gospel to what was then the end of the earth! Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015

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