Homily 409 – 2nd Sunday of Pascha (Thomas Sunday)
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
April 26, 2020
Epistle: (14) – Acts 5:12-20
Gospel: (41) – John 12:1-18
Christ is Risen!
Today, we remember the Belief of St. Thomas. That is the translation on the Slavonic icon of the Saint. In Greek, the icon is titled “The Touching of Thomas”.
Why is this important? Maybe it isn’t – but what Thomas is remembered for most is his doubt. Or maybe skepticism would be a better English word.
So – while the other Apostles took consolation and wonder in the risen Christ, Thomas was spending another week without that consolation. Without that peace.
In many respects, that is what we lack in our day also – Peace. Not peace in the sense of absence of conflict, but peace in the sense of assurance that everything will be fine. Everything is already fine. Even if it is hidden from us.
The first thing Christ offers in his appearance to the Apostles is not power, or success, or financial security, or health. He offers peace.
Peace comes through Christ, and the knowledge of the resurrection – that resurrection which validates Jesus as the Son of God and the Son of David all at the same time.
Now, that is an easy thing to say, but what does it mean? How does that knowledge, that belief, manifest itself in us as peace?
When all of our trust is in Christ, then regardless of the situation we know we live in the midst of His love and His concern and His care for us. So, regardless of how things appear, we can know that it is sufficient, and it is for our salvation.
That, beloved, is peace.
I’m part of a group that has been reading through the Apostolic Fathers, and this past week we read the Epistle of Barnabas. In it, Barnabas outlines for us the characteristics of some of the animals that Israel was not allowed to eat. The unclean animals.
And foremost among them was swine. Likely not a popular topic here in the pork production center of the United States, and particularly not since the shutdown of capacity.
But Barnabas says that we are instructed not to eat swine, meaning not to associate with swine – specifically people who are in his words “like swine”.
He writes, “when they are well off, they forget the Lord, but when they are in need, they acknowledge the Lord, just as the swing ignores its owner when it is feeding, but when it is hungry it starts to squeal and falls silent only after being fed again.”
Swine do not remember the hand that feeds them while they are being fed – but when they encounter strife and difficulty – that is, when they lose their peace – they call out for mercy.
The swine do not believe that the one who cares for them does so from love and will continue to feed them as they need. Not, however, as often as they may want!
And when we don’t have peace – that is an indication that something is missing in our faith in our caretaker. That instead of “Jesus take the wheel” we struggle for control, not believing that what is happening can be for our benefit.
And so, when we don’t have peace, the first place to look may be where we are trying to retain control. The areas where we aren’t confident in our Caretaker’s ability, or desire, to give to us what we need.
Those can be some really sacred cows.
Ask someone to give up their politics. Or their patriotism. Or their security, be it physical or financial. Or the need to be right. Or the desire to win.
And less we believe that God doesn’t ask us to give up anything, especially those things we hold dear, we have to think back to Abraham, who was asked to give up Isaac. To Moses who was asked to give up life in Midian. To Mary who was asked to give up her Son.
Because beloved, what Abraham was willing to sacrifice was miniscule not compared to us, but compared to what God sacrificed – His only begotten Son. And a substitute wasn’t provided.
That is what everything in our life depends on – the sacrifice of Christ, who reconciles humanity to the source of Life.
So we have to look at our sacred cows. Those are hard to sacrifice. But sacrifice them we must. It may be different for all of us – each of us.
In this day of pandemic response, we can use the time to learn how to sacrifice things. Freedom of movement. Detachment from the need for things. Vanity about our appearance.
And adding to that how to care for our neighbors. And how to sacrifice for our neighbors, in the same way that Christ sacrificed for us.
We’ve completed the fast, and now the period of Bright Week ends and we return to our fasting discipline. We return to self-discipline in general. We again begin to embrace the asceticism that sacrifices our wants and needs.
We begin once again to struggle with the desires and supposed needs that spring up within us. But the only thing we need is Christ. All else flows through Him.
So use this time to establish in our mind and in our heart what we really desire, and then offer that desire to Christ – and substitute the desire for Christ, and the acquisition of the Holy Spirit through prayer, almsgiving, fasting and general detachment from the things of the world.
For that must be our only all-consuming desire. And in that desire, we will find peace.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Christ is risen!