A reader, Kathy, asked a good question: “why would you put a man putting his finger in another man’s loose skin as your web page? Aren’t you supposed to be religous?”
She’s talking, of course, about the banner art for the blog. (She also means to capitalize “Why”; and to write “religious”; but that’s a different topic.) I told her I’d explain where the art comes from.
Let’s examine the full painting:
Look at it. No, REALLY! Look at it. Look at the expressions, especially of St. Thomas. Look at how Jesus is holding his hand. One word: Masterpiece.
For those (Kathy) who don’t know the context of the painting , the very subject matter comes to us from Sacred Scripture. We are reading this very story at Mass this weekend for the Gospel reading. In other words, it is a religious painting.
John 20:24-29 — Now Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him: We have seen the Lord. But he said to them: Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said: Peace be to you. Then he saith to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing. Thomas answered, and said to him: My Lord, and my God. Jesus saith to him: Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed.
Now, go back and look at the painting. It shows the very moment when St. Thomas realizes that, in fact, Jesus has risen from the dead — and the implications of that event. Caravaggio has perfectly captured that particular moment. Look at Thomas’ eyes; he is saying to himself, “Good God! It’s true!” And then we get the most perfect prayer: “My Lord, and my God.”
Look at Jesus. He is serene He understands the doubt of Thomas, and He provides the proof that Thomas needs. Jesus is in control of the situation. See how He grasps Thomas’ hand, pushing it into the sacred wound in His side. It is Jesus Himself who brings Thomas to belief.
Look at the other two Apostles. (I think that they are St. Peter and St. Matthew.) They have already seen Jesus, so they already believe. But, there’s no doubt that they’re interested in the results of Thomas’ probing of the wound. One can almost sense that they’d like to put their fingers in the wound, too.
St. Thomas’ doubt is our doubt. We, too, would like to probe the sacred wounds. Like St. Thomas, may we believe and make the confession of faith to Jesus Christ: “My Lord and my God!”
For an EXCELLENT article about the relationship between faith and intellect, please read Rev. Henry Graham’s article, “Catholic Faith, Catholic Intellect,” published in the wonderful magazine, This Rock.