In the traditional Roman liturgical calendar December 21 is the feast of “doubting” St Thomas the Apostle, who put his finger into the Risen Lord’s side and exclaimed, as so many of us do at the Host’s elevation during Mass, “My Lord and my God!”
Speaking of Thomas’s finger, on the Second Sunday of Advent the Roman Station was at the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, where many relics of the Lord’s Passion are venerated, among them the finger of St Thomas. Of that finger, St Peter Damian (d 1072) wrote that it became the “magister mundi… the world’s teacher”. The saint preached, “by its special dignity, it is truly to be called the ‘index’, because it pointed out to the ignorant the truth of the Lord’s flesh” (s 41). The Latin index is “a pointer”, someone that “indicates”, and also the sign or “proof” of a thing.
It is hard to improve on Benedict XVI’s teaching about Thomas during a general audience in 2006. Here is a sample:
It is above all the Fourth Gospel that gives us information that outlines some important traits of his personality.
The first concerns his exhortation to the other Apostles when Jesus, at a critical moment in his life, decided to go to Bethany to raise Lazarus, thus coming dangerously close to Jerusalem (Mk 10:32).
On that occasion Thomas said to his fellow disciples: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (Jn 11:16). His determination to follow his Master is truly exemplary and offers us a valuable lesson: it reveals his total readiness to stand by Jesus, to the point of identifying his own destiny with that of Jesus and of desiring to share with him the supreme trial of death.
In fact, the most important thing is never to distance oneself from Jesus.
Moreover, when the Gospels use the verb “to follow”, it means that where he goes, his disciple must also go.
St Thomas was blessed in life to see, hear and touch Our Lord. We do this in the Blessed Sacrament, by which we can also taste and consume the Lord. The love of the Lord and our profession of belief come at the price of wounds. The perfect Wounds of Our Lord are each one more glorious than any merely human sign of beauty. Don’t remain distant from Our Lord. Before Christmas go to Confession.