HOMILY FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER, C (APRIL 3, 2016)
Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish
The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
The main theme of today’s readings might be summarized by Jesus’ saying in the Gospel of John: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Belief! The early followers of Jesus saw Jesus with their own eyes. Thomas was able to touch Jesus and verify for himself the reality of the risen body. We have not had that luxury, so how much harder is it for us today, 2000 years later, to believe. Yet we do, and Christ calls us blessed for that. By what means do we believe then?
First of all, we believe because we trust the men and women who wrote the accounts. This was not the ramblings of one person, but Jesus was seen by all the apostles and by many of the other followers. We trust that that many people, at different times and places, could not have been so mistaken or could have invented what happened.
I think we also believe because of the strangeness of the account descriptions. Jesus’ resurrected body was not quite the same as his earthly body. Yet, the combination of supernatural and natural elements seems to make it very realistic to us. Jesus appears out of nowhere in the room where the Apostles were hiding because they feared, being Jesus’ followers, that they might be put to death as well. The room was locked, but Jesus just appeared – supernaturally! But his appearance was normalized by his customary greeting to them: Shalom Aleichem, Peace be with you. It made it seem less supernatural and more ordinary. This combination makes it so much realistic to us.
Jesus also greeted them by symbolically breathing on them. He says for them to receive the Holy Spirit, but I think this was symbolic of what would happen to them a few days later at Pentecost. When they receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost they are quite different than the frightened people they remained that day. gain, much more believable.
If that isn’t enough to help us believe, we have the story of the doubter, Thomas, who standing in for those of us that find it hard to believe in the miraculous, has to be convinced by actually physically touching the wounds of Jesus. And he is, and so are we!
Our belief, then, today, is helped by the writings of the Gospels and the witness of the disciples. John says at the end of his reading today that he wrote these things down “so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” John was writing his Gospel at a time when most of the contemporaries of Jesus had passed away, and all there was now was word of mouth and the writings that had been created.
Belief today is also helped by our experiences with others who believe. We see this in the Acts of the Apostles, our first reading today. The Apostles were able to go and spread the word by preaching and healing and were so successful that people brought all their sick onto the streets when the Apostles would pass by. Even though people were frightened by what might happen to them if they became followers of this crucified man, Luke says: “Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women…”
So these are some of the ways that we are able to maintain our belief and faith today, centuries after the events happened. The final image that we are left with today is from the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelations. This is the image of Christ that inspires all believers: “I saw one like the Son of Man… but he placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, but see, I am alive forever and ever.” Now we have Christ’s own words that John has written down to help our unbelief, to give us strength in our belief, to inspire us to know that our beginning and now our ending will be in Christ, who has defeated death and the underworld. It is a beautiful and inspiring image for all of us who believe. It gives us assurance that there is something after death, and that our end is to be with Christ our Creator, and the Creator of all. Someone who knows us, because he has been in our shoes, walked with us and died with us.
So there you have it from the readings today – a compendium of ways that we are blessed because we believe, and the reasons why we should believe. This week I would ask you to think about what you believe, and take heart because of those beliefs. Christ has told us that we are blessed because of this, and Christ does not lie. Everything we do becomes a step closer to that blessedness which is now our birthright. The ups and downs of our daily life can be made blessed by this belief, and it can make our understanding of life so much more positive. This is the Good News of our belief in Jesus Christ. May it strengthen and secure us in his love. God bless you.