Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20, 19-31
When Pontius Pilate decided to have Jesus crucified, he asked the question: “Truth? What is truth?” He really wasn’t interested in the answer because he needed to put truth out of the way so he could go ahead and have Jesus crucified. “Truth?” he asked, “What’s that? Does truth really matter?”
An author once wrote: "Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right?" There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but one must take a particular position simply because it is right, truly right because it’s based on truth.
We just heard about “Doubting Thomas.” One wonders what questions were in his mind. We know how his questions were answered. They were answered so convincingly that he was the first of the Apostles to profess his absolute belief in the divinity of our Risen Savior by crying out: “My Lord, and my God!”
Jesus presents us with the God of the Second Chance. On that Easter Sunday evening, the Lord signals the apostles that even though they had turned their backs on Him, He would not turn his back on them. Christ gives Thomas a convincing experience not just for his own sake but for ours as well. Jesus forgives him for his disbelief in the Resurrection and out of Thomas’ doubts comes the best news of Easter for all of us. God starts out all over again. Through forgiveness He gives us another chance.
St. John, the writer of this gospel account, is anxious for us to know that all of this took place one the first day of the week, the first day of God’s New Creation. If you do a computer scan you will discover that "the first day of the week" is mentioned in the New Testament a remarkable seven times. St. John wants us to understand that Sunday had become the Lord's Day. So, our gathering at Liturgy on Sundays as a Jesus community is no accident. We have taken our cue from the apostles. We gather so that Christ can again be with us on the first day of the week. He gives us, as He gave Thomas, another chance to encounter Him on the first day of His new creation.
For many of us, Thomas is our man. Belief and doubt have the nasty habit of co-existing uncomfortably in our hearts and minds. We have our beliefs while at the same time we have our doubts. If that is a problem for you don’t be too upset with yourself. You are in the best of company. All of us are a mixture of fear and doubt, pessimism and trust, belief and unbelief. All of us are in search of certainty.
“Seeing is believing,” we tell ourselves. But with what degree of self-deception do we see things. How easily we can fool ourselves! And this is why we need to have others, trusted others, with whom we can verify things.
Thomas, we must note, was with others. Thomas stands at the border, standing as he does between those first eyewitnesses of the risen Christ and those of us who are blessed because even though we have not seen we nevertheless believe. Thomas moved from his own isolated independence into interdependence with the chosen witnesses, the apostles. It was when he was among them that he passed from disbelief into belief. It was there among them that he found and touched the risen Christ. The same can likewise be true for you and for me. Christ is here for you and me in our shared Holy Communion.
This points to our own need for the Church, our own need for its “cloud of witnesses,” our own need to see and experience the many other signs our risen Savior works among His followers. This also points to our world’s need for us to bring the risen Jesus to them in what we say, in what we do, in how we regard others, and in how we present ourselves to them.
Sunday, as we note, is the “first day of the week,” not Monday. It is on this first day of the week we, with the others who know Christ, have gathered together in this special room, that He appears among us and confirms our faith by giving us His Body and His Blood.
We receive our knowledge from others. Is there anything you know that you did not receive from others? So, too, with faith. For faith, love, and knowledge are all gifts that we share because others have first given them to us.
The question may be asked: “If Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, then where is He? That is literally a wonder-full question. Its answer is that the reality of Christ resurrected is found wonderfully in the lives of those who, touched by God’s Holy Spirit, have shared His compassion and mercy in His healing forgiveness, in His care and concern for outcasts, and in His loving embrace for all of God’s children.
How can we be such a Christ-filed family of faith? There are four essential features found in early Christian communities that we need to find in ours: (1) devotion to the teaching of the apostles, (2) living together in a community of caring and love, (3) sharing in the breaking of the Bread, and (4) prayer. Without these our Church would waste away, break up, and eventually disappear. Without these we would fall into the most deadly and modern form of atheism, the atheism of being so busy that we think God doesn’t matter. Without these four essential elements Jesus may as well still be in His tomb.
Finally we should not forget that the first thing Jesus did when He rose from the dead was to go to His apostles and give them the gift of healing forgiveness, the gift of reconciliation. He put them at peace with Himself. Is that not what our torn-apart world needs the most right now? Reconciliation and peace?
Our bitterly torn world, filled as it is with division, enmity, and hatred, desperately needs what Jesus give us – another chance at forgiveness and healing. If others are to know that Christ is risen from the dead then Christ’s gift to us must be our gift to them. After all, forgiveness was the risen Christ’s first gift to us. He didn’t give it to us to keep for ourselves; He gave it to us so that we might share it with all those around us. If we do, they will along with us stand in the shoes of Thomas the Doubter and with us come to believe in and to experience the presence of the living Christ amongst us.