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Trust after Heartbreak

In the Gospel Reading, the risen Jesus appears to ten of his apostles. Thomas is missing. The ten are convinced. But when Thomas rejoins them after Jesus has vanished, Thomas is highly skeptical. 

A week later, Jesus appears to all eleven of them and invites Thomas to make good on his skeptical challenge. Jesus tells him, Put your finger in my wounds and believe! And then, without so much as touching Jesus, Thomas believes.

When heartbreak is so powerful, it can need space to breathe, to let its pain come to fruition.

Actually, then, all Thomas did was see Jesus and his wounds, and then he believed. But, of course, that is just what the other ten apostles did in the first appearance of Christ, when Thomas was absent.

So why didn’t Christ make his first appearance to the apostles at a time when Thomas was there too? Why did Christ first appear when Thomas was absent? Why single Thomas out in this way?

Thomas had trusted Jesus and believed he was the Messiah. But then the Romans killed Jesus; and when they did, they also killed the hope in Jesus that Thomas had. How much Thomas trusted before the crucifixion can be understood by the way Thomas hardened his heart against trust in the aftermath. “The bigger they are, the harder they fall,” we say. And the bigness of Thomas’s heart and the greatness of his trust in Jesus can be seen by how hard Thomas fell when he thought his trust was betrayed.

Thomas thought he had made a fool of himself by believing in Jesus, and he was not going to let his heart be broken again. And so when he heard the other apostles express their belief, he scoffed. In scoffing, Thomas protected himself against further heartbreak by turning his back on Jesus and all that Jesus meant to him.

And maybe that is why Jesus left Thomas out of his first appearance to the apostles. When heartbreak is so powerful, it can need space to breathe, to let its pain come to fruition. Maybe if Thomas had not been able to move all the way from heartbreak to skepticism, he would not have been able to move back to Jesus so powerfully either. 

Without any more evidence than any of the other apostles had, Thomas says to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”

Eleonore Stump

Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University

Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go