Sermon Sunday of St. Thomas
CHRIST IS RISEN!!
Today we celebrate Anti-Pascha. Bright week is over. We can go back to eating vegetables. The Cycle of Tones starts again. And we must begin to struggle with living the Glories of Pascha in the time of our daily lives.
We hear in the Acts of the Apostles that the faithful were meeting constantly, in one of the porches of the Temple. This was an audacious act that was not safe. This will not be the only time that the Apostles are put in prison for ministering the Word and healing the sick. By meeting together they emboldened each other in the Faith. And by their example many were added to the Body of Christ. We hear that with almost envious ears today. They met together; we cannot.
In the Gospel today we hear of Thomas. We know the story. Thomas did not want to believe unless he saw it with his own eyes and touched Jesus with his own hands. We all can identify with Thomas’ desires to know. Origen says that Thomas was called Didymus (the Twin) because above all the other disciples, he adopted Jesus manner of speaking parables in public and explaining them to his disciples in private.
Thomas was not satisfied to see an apparition. He wanted to verify the story that Jesus had risen in the flesh. His mind was very precise; he knew what questions he had for Jesus. He had heard that Jesus appeared even though the doors were locked. He wondered if this were an apparition.
But, how did Thomas know that Jesus had been pierced with a spear? He was not there at the crucifixion. He heard it from the other disciples. Why did he believe them about the wounds but not believe that Jesus appeared to them in the flesh? Jesus gave him 8 days to ponder. Yet when Jesus appears, St. John Chrysostom points out that He does not let Thomas get his speech out. He invites him to fulfill his desire. By doing so, Jesus demonstrates that He is risen bodily. Jesus demonstrates that though He came in the room with the doors shut that He was Resurrected in the Flesh.
We live in a culture that is obsessed with wanting to know how and why: How does it all work? Why do certain things happen? We have a pandemic that is scaring people precisely because we do not know what to expect and how it will act; it is not very good at being predictable. But when we look at how God does things, most often He does not tell us how and why. In the Old Testament Job wanted to know why; God did not tell him. In the New Testament, the Theotokos wanted to know how; God did not tell her.
There is doubt that leads to faith, as in the case of Thomas; there is doubt which leads to estrangement from faith. We are told in another Gospel that even as Jesus charges His disciples to go into the world, some doubted.
Pope Gregory Dialogos said that Thomas doubted on behalf of us all, and that his confirmation of Christ’s Resurrection is a confirmation on behalf of us all. . . Yet even though he doubted, it fell to Thomas to be the first to proclaim that Jesus is Lord and God. Nathaniel and Peter had proclaimed that Jesus is the Messiah, and Son of God. Thomas is the first to declare that Jesus is Lord and God. He leaps from doubt to the fullness of Faith.
Notice that when Thomas is absent from the company of the disciples, he doubts; in the presence of the disciples he finds faith beyond measure. So it is with us too. We must come together to confess our common Faith, supporting each other in love. Very few of us are called to be hermits. And this is difficult for us right now, since because of the pandemic, we cannot all meet together to celebrate the Resurrection, to scream out: CHRIST IS RISEN, and hear that thunderous reply: Truly He Is Risen.
St. Gregory Palamas notes that though Christ rose bodily, that because He had defeated death that His body was not limited by the usual things that limit bodies. He had destroyed the power of corruption, therefore He could show His wounds to Thomas, for the wounds did not fester and did not pain Jesus. His wounds and scars had become glorious by the Resurrection. And Jesus’ words “Blessed are they who have not seen yet have believed. Blessed are they that HAVE BELIEVED. Christ speaks of our own belief today, having a full perspective as having already happened. In His Kingdom, which is Eternal, we already believe and faith Him.
Today we realize what a precious thing being able to meet together is — we notice and are grateful for those things we cannot do. . . this is part of the healing that comes from fasting. We generally are not grateful for events until we can no longer do them. There will come a time when we CAN meet together. We must notice with St. Gregory that while Thomas was alone, his faith was not full. When he met with the Apostles his faith is confirmed. This will happen again at the Dormition of the Theotokos where Thomas is again absent at the beginning. Yet his tardiness always results in a deeper faith. So when we are again allowed to meet, let us not take that precious gift for granted.
“May we all attain unto this in Him Who has now died and is risen for us, and will come in glory: Christ the King of the Ages, to Whom belongs all glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.”