Sermon on the Sunday of St. Thomas
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Christ is Risen!
Each year, various parishes in the Archdiocese from across the country request that seminarians from Holy Cross School of Theology come and assist as chanters for Holy Week services. This year, I was called upon to assist with the Holy Week chanting duties at a parish down South. On the Friday before Palm Sunday, I was in Washington DC awaiting my connecting flight. Since I had about 45 minutes before the departure of my flight, I decided to walk around the airport terminal. As I walked around the terminal, I noticed a peculiar sight at the newsstand in the terminal — I saw pictures of Christ everywhere. As I approached the newsstand, I noticed that these pictures were actually the covers of some of the nations most popular magazines — Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News.
The three best known news magazines in the country had all chosen to make Jesus Christ their feature story (week of April 8, 1996); or perhaps, to put it a bit more accurately, these three magazines had chosen to make the questions about Jesus Christ their feature story. The questions which the three magazines raise are primarily two-fold: First, “Who is Jesus?”, and secondly, “Did he rise from the dead?”
Oddly enough, the answers to both of these questions are found in today’s Gospel reading. In the days following the arrest, crucifixion, and death of Jesus, the disciples had hidden themselves since they were afraid of any aftermath by the Jewish authorities. As the gospel tells us, while the disciples were locked inside a house on Sunday evening, Christ appeared to them. Jesus, whom the disciples knew to have been crucified and dead, now stood among them alive. As proof that it was truly He and not some imposter, Christ showed the disciples the wounds of his crucifixion and the wound on his side, where the soldier’s lance had pierced Him.
There’s a twist to the story, however; Thomas, one of the Twelve disciples, was not present when Christ appeared to the other ten. Thomas was absent and did not see the risen Christ. Even though all the disciples told Thomas that they had seen Jesus alive — and that Jesus had appeared to them — he would not believe. Rather, Thomas said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails, and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
The gospel then tells us that the following Sunday, the disciples were again locked inside the house. This time, however, Thomas was with the other ten disciples. Although the doors were locked, Jesus once again appeared to the disciples. This time, he called Thomas over to him and told him to behold the marks of His crucifixion; to put his finger in the marks of the nails and put his hand in his side. Upon seeing Christ, Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”.
Today, the first Sunday after Easter, the Church commemorates the disbelief of Thomas and his subsequent profession of Christ as Lord and God. Today, the church as a whole responds to these articles in Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News, which flooded stores, newsstands, and homes across the nation and answers the questions “Who was Jesus?”, and “Did he truly rise from the dead?”.
St. Paul stated in his first letter to the Corinthians, “If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.... if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” Saint Paul again stated that if Christ has not been raised, then we as Christians are the sorriest of the sorry; we are to be pitied above all others because we are fools.
But we as Christians are not fools; we are not to be pitied, for Christ indeed has been raised. As St. Paul declared, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.” The disciples did not merely see Jesus; it was not some figment of their imagination. Rather, they saw, spoke with, ate with, touched, and proclaimed the risen Christ. St. John the Evangelist declared this when he wrote in his first epistle, “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word or life.” Christ has truly risen from the dead. Through his resurrection, Christ conquered the enemy — death itself — so that we, who have faith in Christ, may also be raised up with Him in newness of life.
Today, our Christian faith is under attack. Jesus’ life, his miracles, and above all his resurrection, are being challenged by liberal skeptics. Don't let any of these empty criticisms about the Christian faith deter you in your perseverance. These attacks are unfounded and empty. The Christian faith is precisely that—a faith. It is not based exclusively on the static historicity of an abstract figure, but in the living relationship with the living God. In order to be understood, the Christian faith must be lived and experienced relationally. Each one of us needs to know in whom we have believed.
If you have any doubts about the resurrection, put them aside today and take courage, for Christ has indeed risen from the dead. Through the witness of the disciples, St. Thomas, who beheld and touched the risen Christ, and through our own experience of the same risen Christ through our faith, we can rest assured that Christ has indeed risen from the dead.
By cultivating a living relationship with Christ, we also can enjoy this same experience. By allowing the risen Lord to raise us up from the depths of sin and all its expressions — hatred, jealousy, immorality, gossip, lying, cheating, and all its expressions — we too can be resurrected with Christ into a newness of life.
Therefore, from now until Pentecost, remember that exclamation and greeting and declare it. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and by his resurrection he has revealed himself to be fully human and fully divine. Proclaim with confidence and joy oti CristoV Anesth, that Christ has risen from the dead! And respond with conviction "Alithos anesti!" that “Truly, he has risen!”