Br. Bernard Jean Delcourt, OHC
Easter 2 C – Sunday, April 7, 2013
|Jesus appearing to the disciples on Easter Sunday.|
Picture from a theatrical interpretation.
Through the centuries and above Thomas' shoulder, Jesus calls out to you and me: “blessed are you who have NOT seen and yet have come to believe.”
Blessed are we who continue our journey on the Way despite not having met Jesus in person and in the flesh.
Blessed are we who have benefited from those who wrote the gospels for our edification and sustenance.
Blessed are we by all the generations of those who carried the Message to those who had not yet heard it.
Blessed are we who, with the help of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, have journeyed to belief and continue our pilgrimage of faith.
Blessed are we who with the help of our community of faith continue to believe and journey together towards the glory promised us by the Messiah and the Son of God.
In the Gospel according to John, the Resurrection narrative is a powerful concentration of Easter, Ascension and Pentecost all in one day, the day of the Lord. It all happens in Chapter 20 of which we read the second half today. But I want to take it all in today to grasp what happens in that upper room where the disciples encounter the risen Christ on two Sunday in a row.
In the course of the first Sunday, Easter Sunday, we are exposed to the faith journeys of three disciples: from lack of faith, to conditional faith, to belief.
Mary Magdalene comes to faith but not before having been called by name by Jesus. And we have Resurrection in the person of Jesus being revealed to Mary Magdalene.
Her reflex is to cling to Him but he tells her he must ascend to the Father first. So Jesus' Ascension to heaven on that very day is assumed by the text.
Peter and the Beloved Disciple find the tomb as described by Mary. Peter is puzzled and not swayed.
The Beloved Disciple sees the empty tomb and believes. Period. He is our model for those who don't see Jesus in person and come to believe anyway.
Peter will come to believe later when Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room. It is a very real Jesus who appears to the disciples; one whose body still carries the marks of his ordeal. And yet it is a Jesus in glory, no longer constrained by material impediments.
This Jesus breathes into the disciples so they may have the Holy Spirit for the time his presence will not be felt as an observable person. And we have Pentecost (without waiting fifty days).
Allegedly, Thomas is not the only one who needed some empirical experience of the risen Christ to come to belief. All the disciples, bar one, came to full belief in the face of an observable encounter with the risen Christ. Lucky them! I can only dream of my first encounter with the person of Jesus some time later than in this circle of existence.
If Thomas comes in for particular disapproval, it is not principally for having needed an empirical encounter with the risen Christ too. He comes in for particular disapproval for the forcefulness with which he demands to believe on his own terms; and for his lack of trust in his community of faith's witness to the risen Christ.
Let those who never have put conditions on their faith or refused to be carried by the corporate faith of their community cast the first stone at Thomas.
In the end, Thomas makes one of the most touching conversions I know and proffers a profession of faith that never fails to move me; “My Lord and my God.”
Whether further empirical inquiry was needed for Thomas to get there is not made clear by the text. The emotional color of his exclamation leads me to think he didn't need to prod Jesus' wounds; seeing him once more in person was more than enough.
At times, we can be graced with faith hitting us with an utter lack of subtlety and I think this is such a moment for Thomas.
And what about us, you may wonder? When do we get to see Jesus in the flesh? Well, not just yet! Or at least, you may meet Jesus a lot before you really hear that you are called by name and recognize him.
But the gospels are written that you may receive the Holy Spirit once more, as you did at your Baptism. The gospels are so written, that if you consent to it, the Holy Spirit may reach deep into your soul and help you to unconditional belief; one that doesn't require empirical evidence.
Don't plan on it, don't discount it, just welcome it when it happens. And when it happens, let your community of faith share in your peace and joy and let them carry you when your faith may flag; as Mary Magdalene, Peter and Thomas will tell you, sometimes it does.
Peace to you! Peace to you! Peace to you!
May you live a joy-filled Eastertide.
Allelujah! Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Allelujah!
PS 1: You may also like Br. Julian's sermon on the same scriptures given a few hours earlier at our Monastery in Grahamstown, South Africa.
PS 2: And you may enjoy seeing how one same preacher's emphasis on the same scriptures moves over a period of years. I preached on this same Gospel passage in 2010.