Sermon for Thomas Sunday

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Хритос Васкрсе! Ваистину Васкрсе!

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ today is Thomas Sunday. In today’s Gospel we heard of Thomas’ lack of belief or faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel describes how our Lord came to His apostles, when the apostle Thomas was missing, saying to them “peace be unto you.” After giving them peace he breathes on them giving them the Holy Spirit and the ability to forgive and retain sins. When the other apostles report that they had seen the Lord to Thomas, he refuses to believe their recounting of the Lord’s visit. He states that he will not believe until he touches the wounds of Christ. Eight days later, Jesus again appears to the apostles, this time Thomas is present, greeting them again with “peace be unto you.” Jesus has Thomas touch His wounds to bring Thomas to faith. The Gospel then concludes with the Lord saying blessed are those that have not seen the Lord yet believe in Him.

The first thing that we encounter in this Gospel is Christ’s greeting to his disciples. That greeting is “peace be unto you.” This is a common greeting in the East. The Jews often say Shalom or peace be to you when they greet a person. This greeting is often said out of habit and politeness in much the same manner we use our festal greetings out of habit and politeness. We must ask ourselves do these greetings really hold the power for us of what they are saying. Do we really mean “Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!” when we utter these phases?

When our Lord greets his disciples with the word peace He states to them what He brings to them. Our Lord brings peace to our lives through His Love for us. He brings this peace to us as it says in the Psalms “The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.” (Psalms 29:11) The strength and peace that He gives to His people is victory over one’s self. As we are reminded in the hymns of Pascha that Christ is the new Adam. Christ as the new Adam is able to bridle the self will of His human nature and follow His Father’s will for Him. In doing this He restores mankind back to the state that God had intended for man. Christ through His resurrection restored man to harmony with creation because man’s will is now in harmony with God’s will.

When we surrender our will to God by allowing Him to be in charge of our lives we experience the peace of the resurrection that Christ gave to his disciples in today’s Gospel. We are reminded of this gift of peace in the Gospel of Saint John “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Through this granting of peace our Lord reminds us and His disciples not to be afraid to proclaim the mystery and joy of the cross which is the Resurrection. As the Blessed Theophylact says “the cross has brought peace: now I send you to proclaim it.” In order to give them the strength to remain at peace and proclaim the Resurrection, our Lord gives the disciples some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit by breathing on them. They, as do we, need the strength of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Risen Christ because as it says in the Gospel of Saint John “the time comes, that whosoever kills you will think that he does God service.” (John 16:2) Thus, we are reminded that not everyone is willing to accept this message of peace. There are those that would rather believe that God is at war with His creation.

Another particular gift that He gives to His disciples that is mentioned in the Gospel is the power to forgive sins. We often wonder why we must come to the Church and confess our sins to the priest. We are told often by the society around us that all we need to do is to confess our sins to God in private. We are often told that the Holy Mystery of Confession is an innovation of men and not scriptural. As we can see from today’s Gospel nothing could be further from the truth. It is through the forgiveness of sins that man is restored to peace and harmony with God. It is through this action that we are taken out of conflict with God and restored to our intended created nature.

The Gospel now turns our attention to belief and faith through Thomas. Thomas is not only brought to belief but, he is brought to faith.

What is the difference between belief and faith? Belief is something that is a mental concept. It is an idea. While faith is the living experience of belief; through faith we know that our belief is true. Faith requires action to transform belief into a living experience so that we may know that our belief is true.

Thomas takes this action by touching the wounds of the Lord. The result of this action is that Thomas is transformed from unbelief to belief and finally faith. Saint Gregory Dialogist tells us about this transformation when he says “When the doubting disciple touched the wounds in his Master’s body, He cured the wounds of our unbelief. Thomas’ unbelief was of more advantage to our faith than the faith of the believing disciples, because when he was led back to faith by touching Jesus, our minds were relieved of all doubt and made firm in faith.” Once all doubt is removed, then the action of faith will restore us to harmony with God and we will be granted peace.

So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ my prayer for you is that you have the peace of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ that you may have a living experience of faith in Him.

Amen.

Хритос Васкрсе! Ваистину Васкрсе!

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Youngstown Ohio on Thomas Sunday 2009.

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