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Doubting Thomas or Enlightened Thomas?

Homily for the Feast of St. Thomas

Doubting Thomas or Enlightened Thomas?

Students of education enter into an investigation of how human beings learn. One of the pillars of Western pedagogical tradition is the so-called Socratic Method, named for the ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates. In the Socratic Method, the classroom experience is a shared dialogue between teacher and students in which both are responsible for pushing the dialogue forward through questioning. Such questioning can be a natural part can be a part of the process of coming to a deeper understanding. The "teacher," or leader of the dialogue, asks probing questions in an effort to expose the values and beliefs which frame and support the thoughts and statements of the participants in the inquiry. The students ask questions as well, both of the teacher and each other. This method of teaching does not involve lectures or rote memorization of facts and figures, a method that is also popular among some teachers.

The Gospel passage that we read on the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle features the statements that led to the dubious naming of Thomas as “Doubting Thomas.” This label is often used when someone questions answers that others offer as facts. However, if we look at Thomas’ exclamation from the perspective of the Socratic Method and couple it with his striking exclamation of faith, we realize that Thomas is the only Jewish character in all four Gospels to come to the understanding that Jesus is God. Since this is the exact same truth which opens St. John’s Gospel, it can be seen not as an expression of doubt but as the evangelist’s way of explaining how a person of faith comes to this conclusion.

While others will acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah or as the Prophet or as the Son of God, Thomas expresses his faith in Jesus as God incarnate. Jesus responds to Thomas’ act of faith by looking ahead to all those who will come to believe that Jesus is God without having seen him. We, of course, are part of that community, or, as St. Paul puts it in the first reading, members of the household of God. Indeed, we come together as members of God’s household to celebrate that faith and affirm it as we answer “Amen” to the Eucharistic minister’s statement, “The Body of Christ.”

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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