Homily 456 – 2nd Pascha Thomas Sunday
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
May 9, 2021
Epistle: (14) – Acts 5:12-20
Gospel: (65) – John 20:19-31
Christ is Risen!
St. Thomas would have made a good American.
We are an independent sort – not one to take the word of someone else, at least not when we are staking our very lives on it.
So, too, was St. Thomas. He said, I won’t believe it until I see it myself. More than that – see, touch – experience in all the senses the presence of the Risen Christ.
We even have expressions today – I’ll believe it when I see it. Don’t be a Doubting Thomas. Seeing is believing.
In the ancient times, and still today, in order to validate something we don’t accept the word of only one person. To accept anything as true you needed the testimony of two people.
If we look at the trial of Our Lord before the Jewish High Council, the Sanhedrin, we find that they needed two people to testify, even if falsely, to convict the accused.
Ultimately, Our Lord was convicted because of the words He said in the presence of the Council. Personal experience by those in authority doesn’t require witnesses.
We see this as we go back in the early days of the ministry of Jesus, when he called the disciples together. St. Andrew the first-called encounters Christ. He tells his brother Simon Peter, who then goes to “see for himself.” Christ also has a personal encounter with Philip, who goes and tells Nathaniel to come and see.
The woman at the well went and told the people of her village – come see a man who has told me everything I ever did.
And, the Apostles told Thomas, who said – I’ll believe it when I see it, and touch it.
It is interesting, though, that not every encounter with Jesus resulted in knowledge of Him. For example, the disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. The Risen Christ comes up to them, but they don’t recognize Him.
Not until they stop and break bread do the Apostles finally recognize their Lord, whom they had spent years with.
So apparently, we can meet the Risen Savior face to face and not even recognize Him.
There are implications to that truth, brothers and sisters.
That guy with a sign that reads “homeless” on the side of the road – could be Him.
That vagrant sleeping in the alleyway between two buildings – could be Him.
Those kids, rummaging through your trash – could be Him.
And, critically, not just could be Him. They are Him. Each and every one of them.
The only safe course of action is to treat every person you encounter – every one of them – like they are Christ.
What does it take for us to believe? What does it take for us to recognize Christ?
We have the testimony of the Apostles, the four Gospel Accounts.
We have the testimony of the Apostle Paul.
We have the testimony of the others – the children and grandchildren of the generation of the Apostles, right down to the current day, and the faith, that same faith held by the Apostles, which is proclaimed by our Bishops.
That is sufficient testimony. That is trustworthy.
But Our Lord, doesn’t stop there. Like Thomas, Christ offers more than second-hand reports. He offers first person experience.
He allows us to find Him, to experience Him, ourselves.
We find Him in the breaking of this bread.
We find Him in the prayers of the Divine Liturgy.
We find Him in the daily and weekly cycle of services and of prayers that all revolve around this Divine Liturgy, either preparing us for our encounter with Christ or offering Thanksgiving for the encounter we have had.
We find it in the annual cycle that take us from the incarnation, to the crucifixion, to the resurrection, and from the ascension of Our Lord to the descent of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost to the Dormition of the Mother of God.
Indeed, this is the time, right here, right now, of true, real rejoicing – not because our fasting is over, but rather because Our Lord is Risen from the Dead!
And more than that, Our Lord has chosen to reveal Himself to us! And, like Thomas, we are being granted the gift of seeing and touching and partaking of the Risen Lord.
Christ is Risen!
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!