Dom Alex Echeandía, OSB: "This blog reflects on what many people ask about God and His image. In a way, it focuses on questions like: How should art depict the relationship between man and God? How can art best express eternal values? Can you, and should you, portray the face of Christ? For many centuries these were some of the questions which taxed the minds of the greatest artists of Western Christianity. For Eastern Christianity, the sacred icons make that connection between God and man in Christ, the perfect and ideal Image of God: Imago Dei."

Homily on the Second Sunday of Easter (Low Sunday) by Dom Alex Echeandía at Weobley & Kington, 06th April 2013

“Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

Let us begin by describing what happened in that locked room where the disciples were after Jesus' resurrection.

The last time that Jesus was with all the Apostles was in the upper room, but after his crucifixion and death, he appeared to those who abandoned and denied Him. Surely, they were filled with guilt! But Jesus’ presence filled them with joy, although they were still frightened. Jesus wanted to meet his disciples, and, neither any material thing nor death could stop him from encountering the ones He loved. Just as the cloths that covered Jesus' body in his burial could not hold him, nor could the stone keep Him in the tomb after the resurrection, so now the locked doors cannot stop Jesus from meeting his disciples.

This encounter in a risen body opens up a new creation. This new creation comes from the Spirit of Jesus: “Receive the Holy Spirit”, he said. It is the same Spirit that Jesus breathed out at his death on the cross. The Spirit given by Jesus allows people to become free from sin: “For those whose sin you forgive, they are forgiven”. So, the Risen Christ brings a new way of being that allows us to be free from our faults and mistakes, free from our fears, sufferings and pains. It is the Spirit of Christ that sets us free. This liberation is experienced through the kind of meeting with Christ that Thomas had in the room where the Apostles were hiding.

But, why was Thomas still with the other disciples on that Sunday after Jesus was crucified if he did not believe that the Lord had risen from the dead? Was it because, after three years, he remained friends with the other disciples no matter what?, or was it because he was also persecuted for being known as one of the Twelve? It frequently happens that when a mother of the family dies, the children are not as united as before. Likewise, Jesus was the centre of the Apostles' unity. However, as far as they were concerned, Jesus was not there with them after the crucifixion.  Everybody, including John the beloved disciple, thought that their master was not with them any more. John needed to experience the empty tomb and cloths on the floor in order to believe. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

If I say to you that I have a dinosaur in my room, you will probably not believe me. You may say, unless you go and open the door of your room and let me see, I won’t believe you. The experience of Christ’s resurrection was for Thomas something that was highly improbable. Thomas knew what a painful, horrible and cruel death is crucifixion: “Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe”.   It is no surprise that Thomas doubted what he heard and refused to believe the account of his friends and fellow disciples. 

Thomas' reaction shows that he is one of us, especially when it becomes hard to believe the mysteries of God, the love of God and all His goodness that apparently seems so often to be absent. In his weakness, in order to receive the good news that Jesus brings, Thomas needed to have the support of others. He was not alone. He needed the company of his friends and co-Apostles to discover the Risen Lord. It is by the support of others that we come to have an encounter with Jesus, because, as Jesus said, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” 

The risen Christ marked with the wounds of his passion comes to Thomas and gives him faith, in the company of the disciples. It is true that God reveals Himself to those who live together, bound by common charity, as did the first community of Christians, who are described in the first reading: “The whole community remained faithful to the teaching of the Apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.

It seems that the love we experience among our neighbours enables us to believe in the love of God, and so it allows us to experience the risen Lord. Therefore, it is on the soil of love that our encounter with God can be possible, especially when it becomes hard to believe in what God does for us. It is also applied in our lives, in a world where self-satisfaction and selfishness stop and block our minds and hearts from encountering the One who died for us.  

Thomas experienced the love shared within the Church and also by the experience with the crucified and risen Lord. The experience of Thomas is also our experience of belief and unbelief, but only by being united with the community of believers and in that close relationship with Jesus, especially in the Eucharist, can we experience the love that God offers.

As we know, Thomas received the mission from Christ to go to the ends of the world to proclaim what he experienced. As Thomas, we also are called to tell others what we experienced at Easter. The Good News that God loves us to the very end, that He sent his only Son, Christ our Lord, to saves us all and to make us a new creation. This new creation begins here and now.

We live in a society of suspicion and mistrust. We don’t trust the banks, especially after the global crisis. We also are suspicious of politicians and even of our neighbours. Although we need to trust others in order to find some solution to our difficulties, we still doubt their actions and their motives for doing them. 

However, we need to trust doctors who prescribe medicine for us; we need to trust the pilot in the plane because he knows how to transport us to our destination. We cannot do everything by ourselves.  Some kind of trust is necessary.

Now, if we benefit from trusting our doctors, pilots, chauffeurs and many other people, it is even more necessary to be open to the One who can offer us true happiness. He will teach us how to love, how to live and how to die. 

What Christ offers us today through the experience of Thomas reveals how fragile we are as we move through life. It is a human thing to question what we cannot understand. But, even though Thomas believed what Christ said only when reinforced by the evidence of his eyes, so the same Christ opens up our hearts to trust him as we turn our life into a journey of faith. Christ holds out to us a promise of eventual success when he says, “Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe”

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