Scripture Readings: Acts of the Apostles 4:32-25; First Letter of John 5:1-6; Gospel of John 20:19-31

We continue our yearly celebration of the Passover of Christ, whose triumphant resurrection from the dead is our hope and joy. Today the Gospel account describes Christ in the midst of his disciples “on the evening of that first day of the week,” the day Christ rose, when not bound by time or space, the Risen Lord simply appears in their midst and extends the gift of peace.

Thomas the Apostle, though, was absent for this wondrous appearance of Jesus, and wanted proof of the Lord having appeared to the other disciples. Thomas, to this day called “the doubter,” understandably wished to see and touch the wounds of the crucified Lord, now proclaimed as risen and seen by various people. Were the others just joking with him about what they saw, Thomas may have wondered, or had the Lord truly risen?

Just as at the time of Christ, so now, it is not always easy for his followers to accept the fact of the resurrection. Many find it difficult to understand how it all came to be and its full meaning for humankind. Many want “proof,” as did the Apostle Thomas, with the result of reducing faith to the senses, what can be seen and what can be touched.

We must never forget, though, that the deepest and most important aspect of our beliefs is the spiritual, which goes beyond “proof.” This is the nature of faith and love. Love does not seek proofs, but simply is.

On the other hand, as we give and receive love, we find it expressed in various ways. The risen Christ does likewise. As love is something we believe in and hope for, so too is the risen Savior, in whom we believe and in whom we hope.

Our faith in the risen Lord hopefully grows as time goes on, since we should desire more and more to know, love and serve the living God. If our faith were something totally grasped and understood, it would be too small.

God in his mysteries, though, is inexhaustible, that is, never fully understood or completely explained, by God’s very nature of being God. Yet our God is ever near and desires to be manifest to us, as did Jesus to those first apostles and disciples at the time of the resurrection.

In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus praises those who believe without seeing. We too, living centuries after the earthly sojourn of our Lord, are called to believe that Christ, out of love for us, went to the cross, handing over his life entirely, shedding his blood even to the last drop.

Such love did not stop there, however, but led to his resurrection from the dead, that central event and mystery of our Christian faith.

The work of God is complete in the resurrection of Christ and we are witnesses to this fountain of immortality, no less than the first followers of Christ.

In the book called the “Song of Songs” from the Hebrew Scriptures, we find a beautiful statement about love. There we read: “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it” (8:6). In the life-giving and glorious Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ we have the greatest proof of the love of Christ, for love triumphs over death by the power of the resurrection. This is new life at its best, being offered to each of us as well.

With this in mind during Eastertide, the new life of the risen Christ is not something to be put off until the next life, but meant to be experienced even now to some extent, especially for us in the Holy Eucharist. In this Sacrament of the Church, instituted by Christ, we are offered Christ’s own Body and Blood, the source of eternal life. The risen life in Christ is offered again, even daily, to those who are ready and willing to receive it, for our spiritual nourishment and well-being.

It is an act of faith to believe in this, of course, to accept and receive the risen Christ under the form of bread and wine. We do not see Christ, but we see bread and wine, and therein lies the mystery: a call to accept in faith that Christ is present in the simple and humble form of bread and wine. We must go beyond the senses, then, through a living and active faith, which brings us to say and believe that it is Christ whom we receive, with whom we are in communion.

Each of us is invited by our God to believe without seeing, to receive consolation and peace in the presence of the risen Christ, whose very presence produces peace.

In the Eucharist we celebrate and partake in we can truly “taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” as the psalmist expressed it in the Book of Psalms so long ago.

Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB