Let Us Also Go

The month of July is the home of many saint’s feast days. July 3rd is the feast of St. Thomas, Apostle. Saint Thomas is known for his incredulity, for his statement, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (Jn 20:25)

Today’s song, “Water,” by PJ Harvey sings of walking on water, one of the famous miracles witnessed by the apostles which is the embodiment of faith: to set foot on the sea in the presence of God, confidently taking strides, one’s strong faith defying human reason that one ought to immediately start to sink.

Yet the repeated entreaty, “Prove it to me” echoes a very human doubt that Thomas the Apostle also felt. God who can make good from all things, uses the doubt of Thomas to help us to believe. If one of Christ’s own friends said he would not believe unless he had proof and then he came to believe, it makes a stronger testimony for those of us who have not ever seen and yet believe, but whose scientific minds long for proof. Thomas, in that way, is our proxy, whose longed-for proof is handed down to us as one of faith’s heirlooms, the finger in Christ’s side is part of the story that is tactile in its detail, like the towel around Christ’s neck as he washes his disciples feet or the drops of blood falling to the ground in Gethsemane.

Such details help us not only to see, but also to feel. This same proxy who longed to touch God, the way we too have longed, has more to teach, and it is not only his doubt that instructs. Thomas had great intelligence and courage. When Jesus tells his disciples that they must visit the family of Lazarus so that Jesus could “awaken” him, he says they will return to Judea, where people had tried to stone him. “So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go to die with him.’” (Jn 11:16)

What a profound exhortation and profession of faith this is, and one that foreshadows the Christian journey of each of the apostles. If family coats of arms were still in fashion, “Let us also go” could be the motto on every Christian’s banner. Truly, Thomas lives up to his nickname, Didymus, “the twin.” A man of whose life was marked by doubt and faith, there are twin sides to this brilliant, opinionated and articulate sinner turned saint, as there are twin sides to many of us, a union of opposites.

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The Incredulity of Saint Thomas - Caravaggio
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas – Caravaggio

Doubt shall not make an end of you

nor closing eyes lose your shape
when the retina’s light fades;
what dawns inside me will light you.
In our public lives we may confine ourselves to darkness,
our nowhere mouths explain away our dreams,
but alone we are incorruptible creatures,
our light sunk too deep to be of any social use
we wander free and perfect without moving
or love on hard carpets
where couples revolving round the room
end found at its centre.
Our love like a whale from its deepest ocean rises –
I offer this and a multitude of images
from party rooms to oceans,
the single star and all its reflections;
being completed we include all
and nothing wishes to escape us.
Beneath my hand your hardening breast agrees
to sing of its own nature,
then from a place without names our origin comes shivering.
Feel nothing separate then,
we have translated each other into light
and into love go streaming.

—Brian Patten