Friday, April 29, 2011

Believing Is Seeing - Sunday, May 1, 2011

Reflections on the Readings
Second Sunday of Easter - May 1, 2011 - Year A
Divine Mercy Sunday
By Dennis S. Hankins

Believing is Seeing

Without having seen him, you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. (1 Peter 3:8)

This Sunday we will hear a lot about doubting Thomas and how we often are like him. Yet the scriptures today say something quite to the contrary. Of course each one of us may have this or that about which we may be struggling. We all have questions. Every Christian has prayed, "Lord I believe, help my unbelief." But even this prayer is a prayer of faith. It is a prayer of hope. It is a prayer heard in heaven.

But in the Spirit of worship, we are gathered here mostly because we do believe. We believe that Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary, and became man. We believe that this same Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, that he was crucified and was buried. We believe that he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven and that this very Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father of mercies. We believe.

Immediately after the resurrection, however, Thomas was not in the secret room where the other anxious disciples hid for 'fear of the Jews.' Thomas was not present on that day when Jesus entered through the locked door. He was not present when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and conferred upon them the power to forgive sins. Thomas was missing. We don't know where he was. Maybe no one knew. Maybe he was moping under cover through the back streets of Jerusalem. Maybe he went out to find some food since no one had eaten hardly a meal for the last three days. Maybe he was buried in prayer in the garden where he had last seen Jesus pray. We don't know. We can only speculate. But when he returned, he was greeted by the other disciples with the words, "We have seen the Lord."

No matter how often we read this gospel, it still does not say what one would think it would say. Thomas does not respond with inquiry and joy. Actually he is rather glum about the news. "I don't believe it," he retorts. "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe," he exclaims. You could have heard a pin drop. Everyone stares at Thomas. And Thomas stares back at his colleagues with eyes that reveal a heart starving for faith.

Eight days later, the disciples, including Thomas, are hiding behind the same locked doors. Although the doors are locked, Jesus again enters the room. Standing among them Jesus greets his brothers saying, "Peace be with you." Then he invites Thomas to do his thing. "Put your finger here and see my hands, and thrust your hand into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe," Jesus urges. "My Lord and my God!" Thomas confesses. "Have you come to believe because you have seen me?" Jesus asks.

For forty days, Jesus presented himself alive by many indisputable proofs after his suffering and death. John tells us today that Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in his book. But for the millions after those forty days these things are written. They are written so that all those before us and everyone after us may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you and me may have life in his name.

It is God in his great mercy who gave us a new birth to a living hope. And this living hope is founded upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus secures for us our future inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading; an apt description of what is reserved in Jesus' name in heaven for us. This is the preaching of the earliest days of the Church. It was the preaching of Peter and of all the apostles, including Thomas. And it remains the joyful faith of the Church today.

The power of the resurrection of our Lord is revealed through the kind of life we live. Do we want to be closer to Jesus? We make the presence of the Lord felt in the love we share with each other. Our spirituality grows through the unselfish ways we relate to one another. We grow in grace when we are kind, forgiving, and compassionate. These are the gifts that are imperishable, above reproach, and do not diminish with the passing of time. These things demonstrate the genuineness of the faith we profess. This is the way we show that the Lord is risen, that he is risen indeed!

And upon such faith we have the commendation of Jesus, "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Believing is seeing! May those who are watching our lives, come to believe also. Amen.

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