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Thomas the apostle

/ 08:31 AM April 03, 2013

John’s gospel gives account of the apostle Thomas as the doubter who declared that unless he saw Christ and touched his wounds he would not believe he had resurrected. In due time, he would get to do exactly that, touch the wounds of Christ, and thereupon declare his faith. There is something timelessly lovely in this story, even if its moral may have changed over time.

And it is best contextualized inside the parable of the good shepherd in which Christ declares that if a good shepherd loses one sheep he would go off in search of it leaving behind the rest of his 99 sheep. The story suggests he loves the lost one more than the 99 who are not lost.

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And Thomas might in his state of disbelief be exactly this one lost sheep that the Master seeks out so he might have him stick two fingers into the wound on his side. And thus, return him to his flock and fulfill his destiny as the apostle who preaches to faraway India and is the sole witness to the assumption of Mary, the mother of Christ. Thomas seems among the apostles the epitome of the lost soul, the prodigal son who takes the longest to return to the fold to reestablish his place there.

Even now, the memory of his life is filled with controversy. He is alleged to have written a gospel containing just sayings by Jesus Christ. Half of these correspond to the canonical gospels. The other half has been condemned as heresy forming part of the Gnostic gospels. And yet quite rightly, scholars have referred to these in order to get closer to the truer picture of the historical Christ. The fact they are not part of the canonical account gives them the sense of being important if only because they give us the alternative view.

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They find their way into a body of narratives which now includes the story of Mary Magdalene who is also mentioned in Thomas’ gospel. A quick research of her reveals how she has over time fallen victim to historical maltreatment by an evolving male-dominant society. It is unfortunate that the accounts of her are further garbled by sensational fiction best exemplified by Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” But the fact is, she is a martyr and a saint of the church with devotees who celebrate her still as “apostle to the apostles,” one of many women who stood with John at the foot of the cross when Christ died and the first to see him risen from his tomb.

In this age of easy information it is worthwhile to note that there are many accounts of these histories or if you will, herstories, not all of them consistent with each other. This is understandable when we think back to early Christian times when the movement of faith that Jesus spawned was still as now not a single homogenous persuasion. We might imagine Christian communities rising all over. There would have been a diversity of practices oftentimes competing with each other. This diversity exists to this day and we might as well reconcile with the fact it is this diversity which makes the universal faith stronger instead of weaker.

Yet still as ever before, there are things about faith that might be universal to all people and all religions. And ironically enough, the gospel of Thomas, non-canonical and by that virtue therefore disturbing as it is, gives these good account. Faith is less the knowledge of the true God, what he is and what name he goes by, as much as the perennial and never ending search for him. And the greatest and most important area of this search for him being not what has been written about him but the marks of him we can best discover inside ourselves.

God’s kingdom and our salvation is here within us. We need only to search for it. That is the truest prayer. And yet, it is also outside of us, in the world. Not in a past world but in the world which exists all around us now. Here, our search for God and the truth of him finds its clearest and most concrete form. And here also, we might as well translate all these into events quite current.

In our case the disappearance of Jonas Burgos and the new developments about him require our closest attention. Much has been said about him. For a time, it seemed only his own mother was left to search for him. His kidnappers have yet to take account for his disappearance. And yet in a sense we are all responsible for him if we are by any means Christian. And when politicians speak to us of development and progress and the fight against corruption Jonas’ disappearance must be used as the yardstick against which to measure their sincerity. When they say they will lead us to a better life we should ask: What have you done to find Jonas Burgos and discover how he disappeared the way he did?

As if to say: Show me the wound on your side if there is one so I might touch two fingers into it and like St. Thomas the apostle of Jesus Christ come to believe.

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