There are religious communities called St Thomas Christians. They claim to be founded by St Thomas in the first century and live in Southern India, on the Malabar Coast. That country was once under the sea. Following the Hindu tradition, Parasarama, sixth Avatar of Vishnu, threw his axe across the ocean, and the waters receded as far as his axe was thrown. The land which then rose from the water was fertile and lush. There was a community of Jews in that part of India in the first century, so it is possible that an Aramaic speaking Jew called Thomas might have visited.
Whether it is true or not, many of us could call ourselves ‘St Thomas Christians’ also, not because of the place we live, but because of the times we live in. We share his doubts and admire his cheekiness. ‘Unless I see the nail marks, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe’ [John 20: 28]. Many of us today would say, ‘Good on you, Thomas, I couldn’t have put it better myself.’
And there is another moment in the Gospels where Thomas stands up for us, and forces an answer from the Almighty which could have been left unsaid if it wasn’t for his impertinence. At the Last Supper Jesus is doing his best to console his followers who are apprehensive about his leaving them: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled, he says, you believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many mansions; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’ And then the bold Thomas chirps up : ‘we haven’t the faintest notion where you’re going, so how on earth could we know the way?’ And so we get one of the most important answers ever given to human beings: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and you have seen him’[John 14]. In other words, don’t listen to a single word you hear about God. Most of what you hear are fearful rumours, or libellous accusations, from people who must never have read the Bible. The only truth about God which we can rely on is what Jesus Christ said and did when he came here on earth. He did everything in his power, even giving up his own life, to let us know that God is love, that God loves each and every one of us.
As St Thomas Christians, it is not enough to hear this and say ‘My Lord and my God;’ it is not enough to believe in the resurrection for someone else. We have to feel it, touch it, believe it for ourselves, at this moment in our lives, and not at some moment in the distant future. We have to throw our axe as far as we can and drag the world around us into blossoming fertility. That is what baptism and resurrection are all about: crawling out of the water and standing up tall on dry land. We have to live as people of the resurrection, as people who source their lives from the energy of Divine love; energy which we receive daily from an ever-loving God, and most especially through the Eucharist, this blood-transfusion which are now celebrating. We are a resurrected people and Alleluia is our song. ‘Blessed are you, Thomas, because you saw and you believed: thanks to you, we are even more blessed who have, because of your dogged determination, also believed.’ We now live, in the light of your message, which is the Gospel – the best of all possible news: Christ is alive, Christ is risen from the dead, and so are we. Alleluia.
From a Homily by Mark Patrick Hederman for Low Sunday 2017.