Link to Gospel Reading: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them: "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him: "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them: "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe. Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said: "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
both now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.
Christ is Risen!
but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.
Walking on the moon
If we think today of the people who first landed on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, it was a very difficult task to trust in the machine that would take them all the way up to another planet. Their lives were on the line, they could be easily killed because of a minor miscalculation. They might not be able to return to earth, and if they did who said that they would land safely. People who skydive sometimes have their parachutes broken and do not make it. Let alone ride a spaceship. However, they took on this humongous step, because the rocket that was taking them to the moon, was tried before numerous times. It was tested, and tried, and it succeeded. It wasn’t just trusting the science that took them, but because they had a long experience with these people and machines. They trust them. What built that trust was the relationship with the people behind this project and their experience with them and what they can do.
Experience with Loved Ones
Same thing applies to the people who are closest to us, whether it is a spouse, or a family member like a mother or Father, a son or daughter, or even a close friend. It is the experience with them that makes us trust them. There is no science behind trust. Just a strong relationship.
All were afraid
Hence, when we look at today’s Gospel, it is easy to put the spotlight on Thomas, and call him the doubtful. But in reality, all the disciples were all doubtful, they were sitting in the room and they were shutting the doors as they were afraid from the Jews. What is fascinating about that is the people who saw Jesus after His resurrection that he conquered death, they were still living in fear. They believed that Jesus resurrected from the dead, but that belief did not change anything in their hearts, and had no effect on their lives. They were living in fear. Of course, this can be explained by the fact that the Holy Spirit did not dwell on them yet. Because once the Holy Spirit descended on them, it filled their hearts with fire and lit up the whole world.
Our life today
But when we look at so many Christians today, including ourselves, we are more to blame, because we do have the Holy Spirit, and we do unite with Christ weekly, but many of us do it out of habit, and less so of faith. Hence, we are still living in fear and anxiety, we put a bow on it and we give it a handsome name: Stress.
The reality of it is that we suffer of stress, anxiety and fear, because our experience with Christ is still nominal. We really know him mentally, intellectually, historically. We know Him as a story, we do not know Him as a person. We know about Him, we hear about Him from others. Like St. Thomas heard from the disciples about His resurrection. If we had a real experience with Christ, and we truly believe that He conquered everything including death itself, then we can wake up every morning in our lives saying: Today I am going to enjoy watching the hand of Christ work with me today and conquering every adversity, every spiritual enemy, every challenge, and if He did allow adversity to come, then He is doing so out of love, He wants to teach me something, He wants me to grow in Faith. Let me ask Him to give me patience and more Faith. It is a great blessing, Glory to God.
Saint John ends His Gospel with these words
but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name
Our life in Christ should be experiential, empirical, real and deep. If it was this way, all our life will change. Because Jesus is the Christ and He is Risen! This is what St. John meant by “Life in His Name “.
St. Gregory Palamas Words
You will see that it was Sunday when the disciples assembled and the Lord came to them. On Sunday He approached them for the first time as they were gathered together, and eight days later, when Sunday came round again, He appeared to their assembly. Christ’s Church continually reflects these gatherings by holding its meetings mostly on Sundays.
I notice that Thomas lost his faith when he was absent, but when he was together with the believers his faith did not in any way fall short. So I have the idea that if only a sinner will flee the company of immoral men and associate with the just, he will never be found lacking in righteousness or the resultant salvation of his soul. It seems to me that the psalmist and prophet was hinting at this when he called blessed the man who avoided sitting with the scornful and being their companion
Do not miss Church
Let no one out of laziness or continuous worldly occupations miss these holy Sunday gatherings, which God Himself handed down to us, lest he be justly abandoned by God and suffer like Thomas, who did not come at the right time. If you are detained and do not attend on one occasion, make up for it the next time, bringing yourself to Christ’s Church. Otherwise you may remain uncured, suffering from unbelief in your soul because of deeds or words, and failing to approach Christ’s surgery to receive, like the divine Thomas, holy healing.
The Doors being Shut
Christ did not spoil the womb of the Virgin who bore Him in the flesh. He did not undo the signs of virginity when He was born, but kept them intact, even though at that time His body was subject to suffering and death. So it is not at all surprising if now that He had immortalized the humanity He had assumed and His body was no longer subject to death, He could enter through closed doors. However, as He undoubtedly had a body free from suffering and death, how was it that on His Side and His Hands He had marks of wounds and holes from the nails? For the evangelist tells us that the Lord said to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27). Why did He have scars? It would be impossible for a mortal, suffering body to display marks of wounds and nails and to remain healthy and sound. On the other hand, an immortal body without suffering can show the scars and wounds it suffered to anyone at will, and nevertheless continue free from suffering and death.
The Saints wounds
Those who have suffered for Christ are adorned forever with their wounds. Windows in a house do not make it less safe and are not something ugly but a necessary decoration for a building, to let in light and allow those within to look out. In the same way, the body’s sufferings for Christ’s sake and the resultant wounds become for those who bear them windows to let in the light without evening. And when that light shines forth they will be recognizable by the divine beauty and radiance of their wounds and not by their ugliness. Their scars will not be obliterated when suffering comes to an end, in so far as they procure immortality.
May the Theotokos and St. Thomas help all of us say with him to Christ from the bottom of our hearts: My Lord and my God. Amen