Wednesday, September 27, 2006

General Audience: For St. Thomas, wounds hold qualifying sign of Christ's identity

~via Asia News

...Benedict XVI today resumed his catechesis on the personalities of the apostles, dedicating today’s to the apostle Thomas (known as “Didimo”, that is, twin).

He is famous for his stipulation – after the resurrection of the Lord –that he would believe in Jesus’ resurrection only if he could put “my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side” (cfr Jn 20:25). The pope said: “From these words, emerges the conviction that Jesus is now recognizable not so much from his face as much as his wounds. Thomas holds the wounds to be the qualifying signs of Jesus’ identity, which reveal the point to which He loved us. In this, the Apostle is not mistaken.” The pontiff recalled that the demand to “see” and “touch” the wounds of the risen lord were satisfied by Jesus, who however reminded him that “Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe.” And here Benedict XVI paved the way for believers and non believers who seek confirmation or verification of the Christian faith: “The case of the apostle Thomas is important for us for at least three reasons: first, because it comforts us in our insecurities; secondly, because doubt can lead to an enlightened outcome beyond all uncertainty, and finally, because the words spoken by Jesus remind us of the true meaning of mature faith, encouraging us to persevere, despite the difficulties, in our walk of devotion to Him.”

The catechesis about the personalities of the apostles serves not only to understand the history of the Church but also to grasp the present “what it means to follow Jesus”, as the pope himself explained at the start of the cycle. Thus, from the resolve expressed by Thomas in the words spoken before the Passion of Jesus, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’ (Jn 11:16), the pope said: “His determination to follow the Teacher is truly exemplary and offers us a precious teaching: it reveals total availability to belong to Jesus, to the point of identifying one’s fate with His, to want to share with Him the supreme trial of death. In effect, the most important thing is never to distance oneself from Jesus. On the other hand, when the Gospels use the word ‘follow’, it means that where He goes, there his disciple should go too. In this way, Christian life is described as a life with Jesus Christ, one spent together with Him. St Paul wrote something similar when he reassured the Christians of Corinth: “You are in our hearts, to die together and to live together” (2 Cor 7:3). That which transpires between the Apostle and his Christians should, of course, be valid first of all for the relationship between Christians and Jesus himself.”

The pope also recalled the episode when Thomas, during the Last Supper, made it clear he did not understand the words of Jesus, asking him: ‘Lord we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ (Jn 14:5). The pope said: “In reality, saying these words, he reveals quite a low level of understanding, but what he says gives Jesus the opportunity to make the celebrated response: ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (Jn 14:6). So it is primarily to Thomas that this revelation is made, but it counts for all of us. Every time we hear or read these words, our thoughts can go to the side of Thomas, to imagine that the Lord is talking to us as he talked to him. At the same time, his question confers upon us too the right, so to speak, to ask Jesus for explanations.” And spontaneously, he added: “Often we also say: I don’t understand you Lord, help me to understand. In this way, we express the poverty of our capacity to understand and at the same time, we adopt the confident attitude of one who expects light and strength from he who is able to give it.”

Finally, the pope recalled that, according to ancient tradition, Thomas evangelized Syria and Persia, reaching western India, from where Christianity later reached southern India too. In this missionary perspective,” concluded the pope, “we end our reflection, expressing hope that the example of Thomas will increasingly invigorate our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God.”

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