Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is the first Sunday after the bright and radiant feast of Pascha – the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! Today is ‘Thomas Sunday’ on which we hear the Holy Gospel account of the Apostle Thomas’ struggle to believe and his confirmation of the true resurrection of our Lord as he places his hand upon the wounds of Christ. Today is also called ‘Anti-Pascha’, which means literally ‘instead of Pascha’ – it is a day of renewal and marks the beginning of the Sundays after Pascha that we use to benchmark the entire church calendar. St Gregory the Theologian says in his homily for this day, ‘The real renewal we now celebrate is the going from death to life. And so we put off ourselves the old man and renew ourselves, that we too might walk in newness of life.’
The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the turning point of all history and, if we may say so, of eternity. For, by trampling down death by death, our Lord smashes the dominion of hell and throws open the gates of Paradise to all mankind.
As we heard from St John Chrysostom in his famous Paschal Homily: ‘Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it. He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He Who came down into hell, despoiled hell; and hell was embittered when it tasted of Christ's flesh. Isaiah, anticipating this, cried out and said: ‘Hell was embittered when below it met Thee face to face.’ Hell was embittered because it was done away with. It is embittered because it is mocked. It is embittered, for it is destroyed. It is embittered, for it is annihilated. It is embittered, for it is now made captive. Hell took a body and discovered God. It took earth and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw and was overcome by what it did not see.’
How is it then, you may ask, if Christ has overcome evil and the Church proclaims the victory of goodness, how is it that there is still so much evil in the world? Why do we still endure sorrows and sufferings? If Christ were victorious, how can this be?
The answer to this question lies no further away than the tip of our nose and the depths of our own heart. Yes, Christ has risen – the Church boldly proclaims and rejoices! Christ has overcome the world and its evil, and He stands ready, willing and able to infuse us with this same healing power of Grace. But this infusion of Light and Life and Grace requires our participation, our cooperation, our willingness to enter into the death and resurrection of Christ. It requires our trust and our faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. We must believe and not doubt.
Metropolitan Anthony of Sorouzh offers us the following instruction regarding the Apostle Thomas… He writes: ‘What happened then, when after the Resurrection of Christ, the Apostles said to the one who had not seen Christ risen, that they had actually seen the risen Christ? Why did he not accept their message? Why did he doubt? Why did he say that he must have proofs, material proofs? Because when he looked at them, he saw them rejoicing in what they had seen, rejoicing that Christ was not dead, rejoicing that Christ was alive, rejoicing that victory had been won. Yet, when he looked at them, he saw no difference in them. These were the same men, only full of joy instead of fear. And Thomas said: Unless I see, unless I probe the Resurrection, I cannot believe you.
Is it not the same thing that anyone can say who meets us?
We proclaimed the Resurrection of Christ, passionately, sincerely, truthfully, a few days ago. We believe in it with all our being; and yet, when people meet us in our homes, in the street, in our place of work, anywhere, do they look at us and say: Who are these people? What has happened to them?
The Apostles had seen Christ risen, but the Resurrection had not become part of their own experience. They had not come out of death into eternal life. So, it is also with us; except with the saints, when they see them, they know that their message is true.
What is it in our message that is not heard? Because we speak but we are not. We should be so different from people who have no experience of the living risen Christ - Who has shared His life with us, Who sent the Holy Spirit to us – these things should make us different as, in the words of C.S. Lewis, a living person is different from a statue. A statue may be beautiful, magnificent, glorious, but it is stone. A human being can be much less moving in his outer presence, yet he is alive, he is a testimony of life.
So, let us examine ourselves. Let us ask ourselves where we are. Why is it that people who meet us never notice that we are limbs of the risen Christ, temples of the Holy Spirit? Why? Each of us has got to give his own reply to this question. Let us, each of us, examine ourselves and be ready to answer before our own conscience and do what is necessary to change our lives in such a way that people meeting us may look at us and say: Such people we have never seen. There is something about them that we have never seen in anyone. What is it? And we could answer: It is the life of Christ at work within us. We are His limbs. This is the life of the Spirit in us. We are His temple.’
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ… let us cast aside the doubts that so hinder us. Christ has accomplished everything! We, in our arrogance and ignorance, have it all wrong… we think we must have proof before we might believe; but the truth is that if we will dare to believe, then God will prove Himself over and over again to us. We must start with the Solution, which is Christ, and then the problems of unbelief will be overcome. We must do as did the Apostle Thomas… we must reach out to Him and cry out ‘My Lord and my God!’ If we will only believe, our Lord will bless us as He promised when speaking to the Apostle Thomas: ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’
This is the blessing Christ promises to we who would dare to believe. May God grant you that simplicity and sincerity of heart to believe in our risen Lord and may that belief and blessing stir within you that joy and that life that will make all those around you take notice of the radiance of the grace of God shining forth within you!
Christ is risen!!!