April 8, 2018
Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi
In my Easter Sunday homily, I pointed out that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but fear. That’s right—faith’s opposite is fear, not doubt. We see that theme woven into the Gospel today
The basic fear is that this is all there is and that death is the end of everything. Other fears arise from this foundational fear, such as the fear of being abandoned, or the fear that I am all alone in this world
Look at the behavior of the disciples to see what fear can do to the human person. Full of fear, they are living behind locked doors, cut off and isolated from the rest of the world, hiding and helpless
Are they afraid that the crowds who waved palms and sang the praises of Jesus as the next King of Israel might mock and ridicule them? Are they afraid that the news they heard from Mary Magdalene might really be true and that Jesus is back from the dead, and that he might be coming to punish them because of their cowardly behavior? Are they afraid that the “leaders of the people”, the ones who killed Jesus, might track them down and put them to death as well
But the disciples, frozen by fear, cannot keep the Risen Jesus from coming to them He is the embodiment of perfect love, an as the first letter of John conveys, perfect love casts out fear
Jesus, risen from the dead, casts out fear with the gift of His peace, a peace the world cannot give, a peace which makes whole what seems to be irreparably broken By the gift of His peace, the Risen Lord restores the relationship he had with his disciples, shows them that even death cannot separate him from them, and that by his mercy, they are forever forgiven
Fear flees in the face of such a love for if Jesus can live after death, so can they, with him The authorities can kill them, but with Jesus they will live on
Which leads us to so-called “Doubting Thomas. Thomas, who was absent when the Risen Lord first appeared to his disciples, shows us that wrestling with doubts can actually lead one to a more profound faith, a richer faith
Too many Christians and non-Christians know Thomas only for his struggle to believe But there is more to the story of Thomas He only has four lines in the whole New Testament, and today we hear two of them
Previously in John’s Gospel when Jesus decided to go back to Judea to visit his dying friend, Lazarus, it is Thomas who speaks up “Let us go along to die with him.” (11:16) So, we could call him, “Courageous Thomas.
Thomas also speaks in the Last Supper discourse in John’s Gospel where he asks Jesus: “Lord, we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?” (14:5 It was because of this “smart” question from Thomas that we are gifted with one of Jesus’ most powerful statements about his identity: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (14:6 Surely we could call this Apostle, “Smart Thomas”, for asking one of the best questions in the New Testament
The last words we hear from Thomas are “My Lord and my God” (20:28) the most powerful confession of faith in all the Gospels So, why don’t we call him, “Thomas, the Confessor of the Faith.
No, we limit our understanding of who Thomas is to one line, “Unless I see in his hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nail, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (20:25 But even here Thomas is pointing us to something very, very important Thomas wants to see the wounds of Jesus, and Jesus needs someone to point out the importance of his wounds.
For even in his resurrected body, Jesus still has the wounds of his crucifixion The tomb is empty, but the wounds remain Even when he ascends into glory to be seated at the Father’s right hands, Jesus still is marked by the wounds of his love for all humanity Jesus needed a way to let us know that his becoming one of us and one with us in our humanity, was not just a short, unpleasant episode that’s over and done with. No! The Son of God has a human body even now And that human body, even in its Risen, glorified form, still carries the wounds he suffered for our salvation Because of those wounds, God never forgets what God has done for us, even if we forget, even when we are ungrateful and sinful Because of those wounds, the river of God’s merciful love keeps flowing out over the world and into lives thirsting for such a mercy
The wounds are a sign of God’s mercy, the mercy of a God who lifts fear from our hearts and would replace it with love
The mercy of a God who will seek and find us no matter where we hide, no matter how many locked doors we hide behind, no matter how many times we lock the door to our heart and throw away the key
The mercy of a God in the Risen Christ reaches out to touch us with compassion in the most wounded parts of our lives, to mend what has been broken, to make whole again what has shattered
Thomas also teaches us if we want to be healed of our wounds, we need to reach out and touch the wounded body of Christ In order to experience the new life the Risen Jesus longs to share with us, we are called to reach out and touch with compassion Jesus living in the wounded lives all around us
In those wounded by hunger and thirst, in the sick and in the stranger Jesus living in the broken lives of people all around us
When we reach out with compassion to touch Him living in our brothers and sisters, who because of their wounds feel alone, forgotten, abandoned, then we find healing for our deepest wounds.
As we share the peace we have been given, peace flows like a river into our lives
As we share the mercy of God we have received, God’s mercy heals us and brings us new life
Mercy given in and through the Risen Christ, not given to be kept, but to be shared and given away Peace, forgiveness, and joy—all these gifts flowing from the Merciful One, Risen from the dead Mercy which comes flowing into the apostles, and especially Thomas, as he touches the Wounded Christ now Risen. As Thomas gets into the wounded Body of Christ, then he experiences Mercy Then he knows joy and peace and the fullness of forgiveness and new life
SO WE MUST TOUCH THE WOUNDED BODY OF CHRIST in order to receive the life-saving, world-renewing mercy of the Risen One We need to touch the wound of the living Body of Christ Instead of turning away, reach out to touch with a cry of belief in his presence in his wounded body See in the brokenness, both our own touched by Christ and the brokenness in others the very presence of the Risen Christ, and in the touching, by “getting into” the wounds, our woundedness is healed as peace flows like a river into us, joy erupts as light in our darkness, new life blossoms and blooms
EVERY SAINT DID THIS—REASON they are SAINTS, REASON in their life of belief they received the Mercy of God only to have it flow through them into the world in a specific way to touch and heal and help the wounded body of Christ Seton—- orphaned children to teac MacAulay— wounded by sicknes Rother— the wounds of the forgotten ones, crushed by poverty and injustic The saints teach us that the only way into the peace of the Risen One is through his open wounds The saints show us that the way to receive joy and share it—touch the wounded ones Forgiveness—freely flows into our lives when we reach out to touch the wounded Body of Christ
WHAT DID C.S. LEWIS SAY “If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them,” wrote C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. How much do I want joy? Peace? Eternal life? Do I want these things enough to reach into the wounded Body of Christ