In the Gospel of Mark, we hear that Jesus “went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed twelve [whom he also named apostles] that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” (Mark 3:13-15) Among these twelve was the apostle Thomas, an apostle whom we often characterize by his doubt alone. However, if doubt is all there was to Thomas, I am fairly confident Jesus wouldn’t have chosen him as one of his closest friends and coworkers for the Kingdom. While the Gospels don’t reveal too much about Thomas, let’s reflect on the lessons he can teach us about how to be Jesus’ disciples.
First, Jesus desires to use our whole selves. As God, before ever having met him, Jesus knew all that Thomas had done and all that he would do. He already knew Thomas would question whether the other apostles really saw the resurrected Lord. We might wonder why Jesus would still choose Thomas in spite of this. But if we look at Jesus’ other apostles and those He chose to spend time with we see sinners, doubters, and deniers. We see fully human people that, though imperfect, always sought after and returned to God. Jesus didn’t call men and women who had it all together and never messed up; he called imperfect people who through their very imperfections glorified Him and revealed what the Kingdom of God is like. What imperfections or mistakes have you made that the Lord has been able to use for His glory and your sanctification?
Second, discipleship requires boldness. Being a disciple requires boldness as we walk with and follow after the Lord. Sometimes this boldness looks like Thomas bravely encouraging the other disciples to follow the Lord into Jerusalem to “go to die with him.” (John 11:16) Thomas may not have fully understood what he was proposing, but in his proposal we see a real desire to go where the Lord goes and take up the Cross. I think we can see that same boldness in Thomas’ doubt, too. It takes a certain amount of courage to be honest with the Lord (and ourselves) about our doubts, struggles, and imperfections. However, it is only when we present ourselves fully and imperfectly to Him that He can speak into those places and guide us. Where might the Lord be inviting you to boldness in your witness or your prayer?
Third, discipleship grows from our encounters with the Lord. Everyday Jesus gives us opportunities to encounter Him personally: when we receive the Eucharist, when we spend time with Him in prayer, when we experience His presence in the midst of our day. Thomas encountered Him as they broke bread, prayed, and ministered together. Thomas got to know the Lord by remaining close to Him and spending time with Him. It was this closeness and intimacy with Jesus that fueled Thomas’ ministry. If we want to have the zeal and courage to spread the Gospel, then we too must remain close to Jesus and receive His grace. How have you encountered the Lord in your life recently? How has that equipped you to go forth as a disciple?
We might first think of Thomas and his doubt, but there is much more to this apostle of the Lord. As we celebrate his feast and the fruitfulness of his mission, we can ask for his intercession to offer ourselves fully and entirely to the Lord, to be granted boldness in our spiritual lives, and to more deeply encounter the Lord so as to more deeply share Him with others. St. Thomas the Apostle, pray for us!