Christ is risen!
Now that we have rightly celebrated the great feast of the Resurrection of our Lord, having spent this past week as if it were all one great feast; today once again we renew the celebration.
Today is both the eighth day and the first day; it is the eighth day from the most glorious Resurrection of our Lord, and the first Lord’s Day to follow it. It is an image and a reminder of that which has gone before us, and of that age which is to come, that age which is at once the first age and the eighth age. The eighth age chronologically, and the first age in its importance and permanence, the never-ending age of the world to come.
In today’s Gospel, we hear recounted our Lord’s first appearances to His apostles after His Resurrection. We hear that at our Lord’s first appearance to the disciples, Saint Thomas was not present, and thus he did not believe. At our Lord’s second appearance Saint Thomas, too, was present, and when he saw the sacred wounds of our Lord, his unbelief was changed into belief.
In both appearances of our Lord, He appears all of a sudden, unexpectedly, the doors of the place in which the disciples were gathered being shut, and He stands in the midst of the disciples. By our Lord’s entry through the closed doors He shows that He is God by nature and can do all things that He wishes to do, and is not limited by material nature. By baring the side of His body and showing the marks of the Nails, our Lord makes known to all that He had truly raised up His Sacred Body which had been hung on the Cross. He was not some phantom, not some apparition, but truly the same One Who was crucified and died, and Who is risen as He foretold.
And all the disciples saw our Lord as He stood in their midst and bestowed peace upon them, for this is the very first thing He says to His disciples: Peace be to you.
He greets His disciples with these words, laying down a kind of law for the members of His Holy Church, which remains even to our own day. Our Lord desires – He commands – that we should be at peace with one another and with God; for this is the source of all that is good, and the condition without which no good thing can last. If there is no peace, there is no lasting goodness. There is nothing sweeter than genuine peace, and by the grace of God, we may receive the peace of God, which passes all understanding.
And having granted peace to His disciples, our Lord then emboldens them saying: As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you.
The disciples undertake the Lord’s work with this mission, this sending forth. Immediately thereafter our Lord also sanctifies His apostles and bestows upon them the Holy Spirit and confers upon them power of the forgiveness of sins.
Our Lord, indeed, had come and had done all these things, but as we heard, Saint Thomas was not there. And later, when he had arrived, he doubted the word of the Apostles who told him of all that had transpired. He wanted proof, declaring that unless he himself were to touch the very wounds of our Lord, he would not believe.
How often do we do the same thing, my friends? How often do we even now doubt the voice of the apostles as they declare that they have seen our Lord? How often do we doubt the very existence of genuine mission, despite the testimony of the disciples? How often do we place the burden on our Lord so that we trust not in Him but in our own self-satisfaction? Let us be honest about this.
But let us also be honest that through the doubt of Saint Thomas, the mystery of the Lord’s Resurrection becomes revealed more surely and more powerfully. This happens when our Lord again appears to the disciples a week later, in the same manner as He had appeared previously, but this time with Saint Thomas being present. The Lord alone can take that which is imperfect, that which is sinful, such as doubt, and turn it into an occasion of perfection, an occasion of grace.
If Saint Thomas originally had been present with the others, he would not have doubted, and he would not have sought to touch Christ. At his second appearance, our Lord approaches the doubting Thomas, desiring to make known to him the truth of His holy Resurrection from the dead. He comes to save the one disbelieving disciple. For the sake of one soul our Lord shows Himself with the wounds which He bore; He did not even wait for Saint Thomas himself to say anything, but rather offered immediately what Saint Thomas was seeking.
And Saint Thomas rejected his doubt, and cried out, confessing Jesus Christ to be Lord and God.
And the Lord said: “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed,” to teach that true faith consists in accepting things which are unseen with belief.
It is not only the disciples that our Lord calls blessed here, but also all who believe, in all times. And this is our challenge today, my friends: If we wish to be blessed, then let us believe, even if we have not seen.
Let us consecrate ourselves this day, this day which is simultaneously the eighth and the first. Let us come back to our senses and be renewed. If we have doubt, then like Saint Thomas let us go where the disciples possessing true mission are, for they can rightly say with the Apostles, “We have seen the Lord!”
Let us look upon the truth of the Resurrection not with the dim and dull light of human reason, which is fallible and fickle, which doubts and demands, but rather let us look in the radiant and perpetual light of God’s grace. Thus might we begin to see, genuinely, that which we heretofore did not see, but nevertheless did believe.