Meeting Jesus in Our Doubts :: Caravaggio, “The Incredulity of Saint Thomas”

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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, The Incredulity of Saint Thomas; Oil on canvas; 1601-02.

One of the most memorable stories after Jesus’ resurrection is His appearances to the disciples in the upper room. There we encounter the Apostle Thomas’ hunger to see Jesus for himself after somehow missing out on Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance to the other disciples. Once the others tell him that they have seen Jesus their Lord, Thomas responds: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Thomas is forever remembered by his skepticism in this episode, often called “Doubting Thomas” as a result. It is a shame, really, that Thomas is mostly remembered for this and not for other parts of his life. For example, when Jesus wants to visit Mary and Martha after the death of Lazarus, Thomas knows it is risky but still encourages the other disciples: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (11:16). Thomas’ boldness seems to spur on the other disciples to be present as witnesses to one of Jesus’ most stunning miracles, the raising of Lazarus. While Thomas is known as the doubter, it is important to remember that when he finally does encounter the resurrected Jesus, he boldly proclaims not only Jesus’ lordship but also His divinity, exclaiming: “My Lord and my God!” (20:28). Our doubts and skepticism can certainly be a barrier to our life with God. They can derail us from faith, but usually I have found that happens with those who don’t thoroughly explore their questions. Instead, I have often found that skepticism and doubt can become pathways to deepening our faith. Jesus was not afraid of Thomas’ skepticism, but provided an opportunity for Thomas to have a deeper encounter and resulting trust in Jesus. Tradition tells us that Thomas eventually shared the message of Jesus as far away as India. Neither is Jesus afraid of our skepticism or doubts. What might He want to do in and through us as we honestly bring our questions to Him?

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