What’s in a name? According to the old advertising maxim – a reputation. Or, at least such seems to be the case in the life and legacy of St. Thomas the apostle.
“Doubting Thomas” as he is most often named holds the somewhat rare distinction of having two days in every year dedicated to his memory. The first is his feast day, December 21st, and the second is the Sunday after Easter. This puts him in the ranks of Peter and Paul, arguably the greatest of all Jesus’ followers, despite his proclivity for disbelief.
Some have suggested that this frequency is appropriate given the undervalued nature of doubt in the life of faith. “Doubt is not the opposite of faith,” they suggest, “dispassion is.” Rather one must have doubt in order to have faith. One must be willing to explore and engage with the Divine in order to be in the proper relationship with it.
I can see where these folks are coming from, but I’m skeptical. (See what I did there?)
For me , the true weight of Thomas’ legacy comes form the name that he is actually given in the text. No one calls him “Doubting Thomas” in the Bible. He is only ever referred to as “Thomas, the Twin.” Though, the name of his twin is never divulged. I believe that this is a clever effort on the part of the Gospel writer to make us feel some kindred to Thomas. For all intents and purposes, Thomas could be our twin – our stand-in, rather. Thomas is the every-man who provides us a reliable place to enter the stories of Jesus.
So Thomas gets a place in the weeks bracketing the two most important episodes in the life of Jesus. He is there at the beginning and he is there at the end. In his doubt and in his faith, Thomas is there for us, literally “in our place”, holding a spot in the action in which we can imagine ourselves.
So, let us give thanks for Thomas today. Haven’t we all always wanted a twin?