In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
CHRIST IS RISEN! –
Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see. This line from the book and movie The Polar Express, a story about believing, speaks so well, I think, about the essence of today’s Gospel.
Seeing is believing – I quote from Wikipedia: “Seeing is believing is an idiom first recorded in this form in 1639 that means “only physical or concrete evidence is convincing.” It is the essence of St. Thomas’s claim to Jesus Christ, to which Jesus responded that there were those who had not seen but believed.
Seeing is believing leads to sophistry that “seen evidence” can be easily and correctly interpreted, when in fact, interpretation may be difficult.” (1)
The Gospel for this second Sunday of Easter tells us, among other things, of seeing and interpretation. Blessed Thomas makes a declaration to the ten disciples, who have already seen the Risen Lord in his absence, that he must see and touch the wounds of Jesus’s crucifixion before he believes the witness of the disciples. Because of this, Saint Thomas now has the unfortunate moniker of Doubting Thomas. I don’t believe this is fair to Thomas; after all, he didn’t ask for more proof than the other disciples had already seen. However, I don’t see Thomas as the patron saint of empiricism either. He had as much faith in the other disciple’s witness as they had in the women’s witness of the Resurrection. In this part of the gospel account, I think the ten disciples and Thomas have difficulty interpreting and understanding the Resurrection. As the evangelist tells us, “they did not yet know the Scripture that he must rise from the dead.” John’s Gospel is full of seeing and believing. Mary Magdalene sees the risen Lord and hears him speak her name and believes.
The beloved disciple sees the grave clothes in the empty tomb and believes; however, even after their first resurrection experience in the upper room, they don’t seem very much changed. One really can’t blame them with Jesus popping in and out of their presence, leaving them alone once more – because interpretation may be difficult. The Disciples are still hiding out in a locked room, and even the ‘Beloved’ Disciple was in a sorry state of fear. Then The Lord appears to them again at the end of the octave of that first Easter.
The Second Sunday of Easter has several names. Low Sunday, I don’t know why, Thomas Sunday, for obvious reasons, but early on, the second Sunday of Easter became known as Quasimodo Sunday because of the introit Psalm antiphon:
Quasi modo géniti infántes, alleluia: rationabiles, sine dolo lac concupíscite, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. As newborn babes, alleluia desire the rational milk without guile, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. The antiphon is from 1 Peter 2:2.
On the second Sunday of Easter, the newly baptized put off their white robes from their Baptism at the Vigil and joined the congregation; the Church called them infantes, infants; this name connects them to the Introit Psalm.
“The rational milk without guile” describes, in part, the Church’s teaching on Baptism, also called illumination in the early Church. By Baptism, we receive the gift of faith by the Holy Spirit, rational milk that elevates our reason to understand spiritual things, things about God that we can’t know by reason alone.
So, what happened to the disciples? Were they not baptized? Well, yes and no.
They all had probably received Baptism by water, but as John the Baptist testified as to God’s instruction to him, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one (Jesus) who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”
When he appears to the disciples, he first assures them with a greeting of peace on both occasions. Peace be with you, Shalom Aleichem, an ancient Hebraic greeting, a divine greeting, a greeting from God to his children. A salutation of angles used to mark something new. Shalom, peace, do not be afraid. The risen Lord then sends the disciples out to continue the work that His Father sent Him to do, to bring shalom to the world and forgive sins. Jesus next breathed the Holy Spirit into those gathered in the room, completing their Baptism, elevating their reason. Thomas gets the proof he asked for in Jesus’s second visitation. Jesus invites him to touch the wounds in his hands and place his hand in his side. Jesus tells Thomas not to be unbelieving but believing. Indeed, this elicits Thomas’s belief because he made the greatest confession of faith, I believe, in all the Holy Scriptures. “My Lord and my God!” Jesus then says blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” Hallelujah! That’s us!
Baptism in the Spirit affected a profound change in the disciples. They all went out into the world boldly proclaiming the Lord’s Gospel of forgiveness and shalom, even in the face of torture and martyrdom.
Here we are, some 2000 plus years from these events, and all of us who exclaim Christ is risen are blessed because we have not physically seen Him, yet we believe.
We believe through faith that was given to us by God’s grace at our Baptism of Water and Spirit. The Pure spiritual milk that nourishes our growth into salvation and sustains our faith. Without seeing, we may believe because of the witness of Saints written in Holy Scripture, the Word taught and preached in the Church, the traditions of our Catholic faith, our sustenance from the very body and blood of Christ, and one another as members of the body of Christ. If doubt creeps in, as it sometimes does, our faith will hold firm if we have each other on our journey of faith. Look around at the other people assembled here. They are part of your blessing––the blessing that Jesus promised to those who believe.
The author John M. Sweeny wrote, “Doubt invigorates faith, demands more of it, and causes us to ask more of each other. “Doubt connects us. Doubt binds my faith to yours. It makes me reach out. Discover. Explore, Question, Challenge, and Learn. A person who doubts is one still on a journey.”
Our journey leads us to continue the work the Creator sent our Savior to do, to spread His Gospel of shalom, forgiveness, and love to the world. The Church is not only a place of belief but work! Christ’s shalom is not to be contained in this place’s four walls or any church. We begin by sharing shalom at the peace. We not only share peace, but we also share our faith and forgiveness. We share our humanness and our love for one another.
God means for us to carry it into the world, in our daily lives. Because as an unknown author stated, “the creed you believe is spoken not by your lips, but by your life.” We share Christ’s shalom when we are kind to and tolerant of our neighbors, the people we work with, and most of all, those we dislike and who dislike us.
Shalom, when we hold a dying person’s hand and listen to them.
Shalom, when we visit and pray with a shut-in.
Shalom, when we demanded and worked for justice for immigrants and refugees. Justice for people who suffer because of racism and injustices in our society. Justice for those forced into poverty and starvation.
Shalom, when we work for justice and care for the Earth, God’s gift to us.
Shalom, when we act out of kindness, compassion, and love.
In this way, we live a resurrected life experiencing the Resurrection’s joy not just for ourselves but for the world.
Shalom Aleichem! Amen
Seeing is believing – The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia. http://www.artandpopularculture.com/Seeing_is_believing