Scripture Readings: Acts of the Apostles 5:12-16; Revelation 1:9-11;12-13;17-19; Gospel According to Saint John 20:19-31
We continue our celebration of the Passover of Christ whose resurrection from the dead is the cause of our joy. This Sunday’s Gospel shows us Christ in the midst of his disciples, not bound by time or space, but simply appearing in their midst.
Thomas, one of the apostles, is not present at this appearance of Jesus described in chapter twenty of Saint John’s Gospel, and so Thomas asks for proof of the resurrection of the Lord. Sometimes called “the doubter,” Thomas wants to see and touch the wounds of the crucified Lord, now proclaimed as risen and seen by various people.
For Thomas and for many others to this day, the resurrection can be difficult to grasp, with questions about how it all came to be and what it means for one’s existence. Many want empirical proof, like Thomas, which is understandable, but which reduces faith to the senses, what can be seen, what can be touched, and in fact that is not the essence of faith.
Here we must recall that the deepest and most important aspect of our faith is the spiritual dimension, which like love and faith itself, goes far beyond material proofs. It can be said that love does not seek proofs, but simply is. Nonetheless love is expressed in many signs and acts, on the part of God and on our part. One gives and one receives love, and that is to be the essence of our life in God, who is Love, whom we are to desire above all else.
In the same way, our faith, which we pray increases as time goes on, is something we always desire more of. If our faith were something totally grasped and understood, it would be lacking. God’s mysteries are always inexhaustible, never fully understood or completely explained, by God’s very nature of being God.
In the Gospel text this Sunday, Jesus praises those who believe without seeing. This is our call as well, and even if we were not present when and where it all took place, we confess that Christ went to the cross for love of us, handed over his life entirely, even to the last drop of his blood. Such love did not stop there, but ultimately led to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Christ’s redeeming work is now complete in the mystery of the resurrection. We are to hold fast to these wonders, firmly believing even without seeing.
In the Song of Songs in the Old Testament we find a beautiful expression about love. There we read: “Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away” (Songs 8:8). In the cross of Christ, we have the “proof” we need, because our God, who is Love, triumphs over floods, even death, by the power of the resurrection.
It is good to remember that the new life of the risen Christ is not something to be put off until tomorrow or next year or until the next life, but meant to be experienced here and now, in an active participation in the Sacraments of the Church and in a genuine life of prayer and loving service of others.
Christ offers us his Body and Blood, often called the fountain of life eternal, at every Eucharist. Christ’s risen life is freely offered to us and can now be received. It is an act of faith to believe this, to accept and receive the risen Christ in a tiny piece of bread and in some drops of wine. We do not see Christ, but rather bread and wine, yet therein lies the mystery: Christ is present in the simple form of bread and wine.
In our Christian life we are called to go beyond the senses, by our faith, which brings us to say and believe that it is Christ whom we receive, with whom we are in communion.
As we continue the Easter celebration this Paschaltide, these fifty days of special rejoicing at the resurrection of Christ, may we grow in faith, hope and love, the theological virtues, expressions of our deepest aspirations as Christ’s followers.
Even in this life we are co-heirs of the glory promised to those who are willing to lose all to have the pearl of great price, nothing less than eternal life in Christ our God.
Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB