2nd Sunday of Easter - What We Believe is What we Become

There are some who will always need in some way to touch the wounds of the Risen Christ in order to come to faith. They will demand some physical proof. Others will become aware of His presence and power in ways that transcend the senses.

Imagine the unreality of the death of Jesus. How could this young man, so gifted, so blessed by God, so powerful in word and work, be suddenly dead? How could that incredible Life be over? How could the hopes and dreams He inspired be gone forever? How could He who said " I am " simply cease to exist?

Faith in the resurrection of Jesus was slow in coming, even for His closest friends and followers. There were the special, fleeting moments when they saw Him again, heard Him speak, even ate fish with Him on the shore. There was the demand of Thomas for proof; there was His invitation to touch His wounds; but, most importantly, there was His challenge to believe without seeing: "Blest are they who have not seen and have believed."

Faith in the resurrection of Jesus means much more than just believing that He has come back to life. It means that He has overcome death forever; that in His humanity He has moved to a state of existence that is beyond space and time. It means that we dispense with childish, earthbound images of Jesus as having a shiny body suspended somewhere in space, floating triumphantly somewhere between heaven and earth. It is the Risen Christ who strengthens us in moments of temptation, who sustains us when our physical forces fail. And ultimately It Is the Risen Christ who leads us through the gates of death to the fullness of new life with Him in the presence of the Father.

Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed!

The impact of Easter, in the early Church, and hopefully again in our time, is for believers to gather, to be together to contemplate the mystery of the Lord's resurrection and let it touch minds and hearts. This special sense of Community is very tangible in the apostolic church. We read about common living, sharing of goods, and a great concern that none of the believers should be left alone or in need. The Gospel incident with Thomas also highlights this same sense of community. The Disciples gathered together, partly in fear and wonder, and partly because they needed each other's support. When Jesus appeared to them, He offered them His gift of peace, and urged them to make mutual forgiveness the very first sign of their faith in the resurrection.

The Gospel tells us that Thomas was not with the others when Jesus first came to them after the Resurrection. The fact that the surviving members of the Twelve seem to have been paralyzed into inaction and are hiding together in a locked room makes us wonder where Thomas actually was. But we can be sure that he must have felt totally alone; not even the fellowship of his companions can bring him comfort.

A week later he is with them and not only does he refuse to believe what they tell him, but he issues an ultimatum: indirectly aimed at Jesus. Maybe he wanted Jesus to know how angry he was and how empty he was feeling; perhaps he was hurting so much that he just couldn't bring himself to believe that Jesus would dare return to the group in his absence.

In any event, the apostles are now together again, behind locked doors, again hiding in fear - not exactly a sign of hospitality or of a readiness to rush out spread the good news of the Resurrection. Jesus is suddenly among them and once again offers them His Peace - a peace that will finally break through their fears, bring reconciliation and make love possible again.

Immediately He turns to Thomas and gently challenges him to follow through with his ultimatum: "Put your finger here - reach out and touch my side… do not doubt, but believe." But for Thomas there is no longer a need for that. He drops to his knees and makes the simplest and yet most profound act of faith recorded in the whole of the New Testament: "My Lord and My God!"

I think Jesus reaches out to all of us as he did Thomas and reminds us all: "Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe." I think Jesus wants us to be together with those who share their faith, so that we can be strengthened, consoled, and nourished. The Risen Lord clearly invites all of us to be evangelists, to give powerful personal and communal witness to our faith, and so to lead many others out of the prison of their aloneness into the joy filled, peace filled, and forgiveness filled community of faith that is the Church.

Christ begs us to celebrate our faith as a community. He commissions us to go out and proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth not keep it to ourselves! He asks us to be instruments of forgiveness and reconciliation, removing the bonds that enslave and separate us from one another.

As He did with Thomas and Peter and the others who would be His followers, Jesus invites us to perfect our faith by touching His wounds which lay open on the persons of our sisters and brothers.

"Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe."   What we believe is who we become.