4/11/10

Those who have not seen and have believed...


Thomas by Wayne Forte

Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter

(Scriptures for today's liturgy)

Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives.
Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever.

- Revelation 1:17-18

Thomas may have been the first but certainly not the last person
to want some proof that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Every time there’s a new article or documentary
on the Shroud of Turin
(the cloth in which some people believe Jesus was buried),
every time there’s a new proof or a fresh denial of its authenticity,
I get emails with links and letters with copies of newspaper columns
from friends sincerely making sure that I’m up to date on...
well, on something that doesn’t make an iota of difference to my faith.

My faith in Christ would be no stronger or deeper
should the shroud be proved to be definitively authentic.
Nor would my faith in Christ be any the less
should the shroud be proved to be inauthentic.
My faith is in Christ, not in burial wrappings
or other physical “evidence.”

Remember what we heard the angels at the tomb say, last week,
to the women who came on the first Easter morning?
The angels asked,
“Why do you seek the living One among the dead?”

From day one, it seems, it’s been easy for us to look for Jesus
in all the wrong places.
In the last couple of years, folks have claimed to find the image of Jesus
in some very strange places:
- on a grilled cheese sandwich
- on the bottom of a scorched iron
- in the swirls of a butterscotch candy
- on a pierogi
- and in mustard burned to a crust in a frying pan.

If such “discoveries” actually move to faith those who found these images,
then that’s all well and good.

But by “move them to faith,” I mean:

- move them to pray with Jesus
in his body, the Church, gathered for worship,
as we are right here;

- move them to hear Jesus speak,
in his Word proclaimed in the scriptures,
as we have heard him today;

- move them to this table to share in Jesus’ last supper,
as we are doing;

- move them to touch the body of the Risen Jesus,
to receive the risen Christ into their bellies and their souls
as we will today, in Communion.

We don’t look for Jesus among the dead:
- we find him among the living, in one another in this gathering;
- we find him speaking to us now, today, in his Word,
in our prayer and and in the praise we sing;
- and we find him present, alive,
in the sacrament of this table
where he enters not just a locked upper room
but the deepest recesses of our hearts.

And that is how we come to believe that he is risen from the dead,
we whom Jesus calls blessed because although we have not seen,
yet, we have believed.

Blessed are we who, even with our own doubts,
have come here today because we believe that Jesus is risen
and that we will find him here.

Our doubts may be less about the resurrection of Jesus
and more about those who have preached that message to us.

Thomas doubted his brother apostles
when they told him they had seen Jesus.
He was not willing to take them at their word.
In our own times, with cause, we sometimes doubt the word
of those who tell us of the risen Jesus
and we may be slow to believe even those we once trusted
freely and completely.

In such times, like Thomas,
we wait for the One whom we can always trust:
we wait for Jesus.

But we do not wait for him alone, individually,
apart from the company of believers.
We continue to gather in prayer with the assembly of the faithful
and we wait, as did Thomas, even with those we do not trust.

We wait with the whole Church for Jesus to come and show us again
the wounds of mercy in his hands and in his side,
inviting us to lay aside our disbelief and to believe,
to find in him the healing and forgiveness our Church needs
and the righting of so many things gone so grievously wrong.

St. John tells us he wrote this story of Thomas
“so that we might come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
that through him we might have life in his name.”

For us to come to that life,
we need to allow our faith to be stronger than our doubts,
our trust in what is true to be stronger
than our mistrust of those who have failed us.

As surely as Jesus came a second time to that upper room
where the apostles were gathered,
so he comes to this room of our prayer this morning.

As surely as he invited Thomas to touch his wounds,
so does he offer us his body and blood
in the bread and cup of the Eucharist.

If you seek the living One among the living,
you will find him here,
as surely as he has come here
to find each of us.


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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

this homily brought me some hope-

and even though my doubt, about many things, is great, I know my faith is greater because I am alive-

I go to church every week and sit among many, but feel alone- among strangers or almost strangers, but I do not trust.

But I do trust Jesus- I trust God-
He is all I need- He is all I am-

mike said...

Amen, Fr Austin!

Great words, as always!

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Thank you for these words. It seems like it is easier for people, at least those of us raised in Western traditions, to doubt than to believe -- anything. Even research, which is supposed to provide us those proofs we want, generally selects a method based on falsifying a hypothesis, not on proving a hypothesis. Maybe that's why we need to pray for help with believing in accordance with that helpful cry of the father who asked Jesus to heal his son, "I believe; help my unbelief." I think God probably likes that kind of prayer.

Faith said...

What I find hard are the jokes. The quick jabs that aren't mean, just funny.
Why I stay Catholic is the Eucharist. You can find God in any religion. You can find Jesus is any Protestant theology. But only in the Catholic consecration will I find the One that makes the big difference.