Saturday, April 18, 2009

Believing Thomas

(2nd Sunday of Easter, B)

Every year, on the second Sunday of Easter, we hear this Gospel because it relates a scene of the disciples gathered on the Sunday after the Sunday of the Resurrection. So this is one of those special moments when the situation of the people in the Scriptures matches our own pretty closely. The disciples were gathered on the Sunday following the Sunday when Jesus rose from the dead, just as we as disciples of the Lord gather together on this second Sunday of Easter.

In this scene we meet the famous Thomas. He gets a kind of bad rap in the tradition, and on a certain reading of this gospel he earned the awful nickname of ‘doubting Thomas.’ But is that fair? All he wanted was to see what the others had seen the Sunday before when he was absent. And he wanted to know that this person that they had seen was really and truly the Jesus that he had known in his earthly life; that’s why Thomas demands to touch Jesus in the wounds of his Passion.

So, as the Gospel relates, when the disciples are gathered on that second Sunday, Thomas is now with them. And just as on the first Sunday, “Jesus came” and “stood in their midst,” greeting the disciples again with peace. Now the history of art has left us with the image of Thomas putting his hands and fingers into the Lord’s wounds, but the gospel doesn’t indicate that this ever happened. Instead, as soon as Thomas sees Jesus he bursts out with the most perfect Christian confession of faith and exclaims, “My Lord and my God.”

After Thomas’s confession, and this is the climactic conclusion of St. John’s gospel, Jesus gives Thomas a challenge right back. Jesus asks him if he believes because he has seen, and then Jesus pronounces a blessing on those who believe without having seen. That’s us, brothers and sisters. We are the ones upon whom the Risen Jesus gives his special blessing: those who have not seen, but have believed.

Now here we are at a subtle point. Obviously we have not seen the Lord in the same way that the first disciples did. But the life to which Jesus was raised is eternal life, and as we say in the Creed, he is “seated at the right hand of the Father.” This means, because the Resurrection is a matter of eternity, it is a mystery that is, in a very real sense, just as present to us as it was to the disciples in the gospel we hear today.

This is why we who are the most recently converted disciples of the Lord continue the apostolic tradition of gathering on the first day of the week to commemorate the Resurrection and wait for the Risen Lord to appear and give us his peace. In fact, everything we do here at Sunday Mass is meant to make us attentive to the presence of the Risen Jesus. We proclaim the Sacred Scriptures, the Word of God. Since we believe that Jesus is the Word, the Speech of God made incarnate, then we know that everything we hear in Scripture refers to the mystery of Christ. Then we offer the commemoration of his own self-sacrifice which Jesus commanded us to make. We allow his Presence to be risen into the bread and wine of this Eucharist, which communicates, by our Communion, the presence of his Risen Life to us. And so by our Holy Communion, we allow the gift of the Resurrection to rise into our lives and our bodies, so that we might be the presence of Jesus for each other and for the world. This is what it means, in the words of the first letter of John in the second reading, to be “begotten of God,” to be born again into the life of grace and Resurrection.

So as we stand in awe before these sacred mysteries, let us exclaim with our brother, believing Thomas, “My Lord, and my God.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have always thought that "believing Thomas is the Twin to the one we know as Doubting Thomas and that both live within us. Thank you for your sermon. Here is my sermon from yesterday,