Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.
– Madeleine L’Engle
The readings for the second Sunday of Easter cycle A can be found here.
The scripture scholars will tell you that Jesus’ resurrection is the final sign of John’s Gospel. This Sunday’s reading represents what essentially is the end of John’s Gospel. This story was created to counter the disbelief that existed in the 1st century Johannine community. Thomas goes from disbelief to confessing Jesus as “Lord and God” encouraging those in the early Christian community who were requiring proof to believe on the basis of the testimony of others. Don’t be like Thomas is the message.
Historians will tell you that early Christian belief in the resurrection was pivotal to the creation of Christianity. “Take away the stories of Jesus’s birth, and all you lose is four chapters of the gospels. Take away the resurrection and you lose the entire New Testament, and most of the second century fathers as well.” One does not need to believe to see that the early Christian belief in the resurrection emboldened the faithful and led to the writing of the Gospels.
The resurrection is just as important today as it was to the early Church, and this Sunday you can expect to hear many self-congratulatory sermons around the words of Jesus; “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe,” but how do we live as resurrection people? What does the resurrection of Jesus mean to us today?
“I think that Jesus was principally concerned with His apocalyptic message and this coming kingdom of God. Jesus also taught His disciples that they should begin emulating what life was going to be like in that kingdom. And so, there’d be no sickness in the kingdom so they’re to heal the sick now. There’ll be no loneliness in the kingdom so people are to visit the lonely now. There’ll be no hatred in the kingdom so we of course are to love one another now. There’ll be no war in the kingdom so the people should be peacemakers now.
I think that those ethical guidelines can be translated from that apocalyptic context into our own context. That living life in this world isn’t just a matter of grabbing all the pleasure you can get, or seeking advancement or promotion, prestige or status. It’s also living for one another and helping out our fellow men and women.”
Rather than me feebly attempting to explain how a Church can have life to the fullest, in Jesus’ name, I would like to introduce you to Brother Ronald. For more than 35 years he has been serving the poor in Wilmington Delaware. Brother Ronald began the charity known as The Ministry of Caring. “Brother Ronald has asked people of every profession to get involved with the ministry and says his success is thanks to so many talented people keeping him straight on legal, medical and government standards. He’s also turned to people of every spiritual background, and almost 100 congregations have come forward, including Hindus, Muslims, atheists and people from all sorts of Christian denominations.” One might say that Brother Ronald was emulating what life should be like on Earth as it is in heaven. Breaking down all the walls that separate us to bring help to the sick, lonely, and less fortunate is not just believing the message of Christ, but living it.
“The life and love we encounter in one another and in the human Jesus is the life and love on display in the crucified one”
John Shelby Spong (The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic, p. 304)
If you take one thing away from this homily it should be that your beliefs must be manifest in actions. Blessed are those who believe and also live the resurrection. In the Gospel Thomas finally understands the sign accurately. Today, Brother Ronald can be our guide. Find the Brother Ronald near your location and join in living the message of Christ. If you can, be the Brother Ronald where you live and teach by example how to live the message of Christ. That is the work of Christ in every generation.