In the Name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit.
The Apostle Thomas is known, in common
speech, as the Doubter. And this name the Doubter casts aspersions on a
man who was very far from being unfaithful to his Master and Lord.
When Christ had left Jerusalem because
the Jews wanted to murder Him, He received the news of the illness and
death of Lazarus; and He turned to His disciples and said, 'Let us go
back to Jerusalem to heal him, to bring him to life.' And every one of
the Apostles was saying, 'They wanted to kill you. Are you returning
there?' Only Thomas said to his fellow Apostles, 'Let us go with Him and
die with Him'. This is not the word of a doubter, of someone who is
divided in his mind and in his loyalty. It is the word of one who is
totally devoted to his master, totally given to him, totally faithful.
What happened, then, on the day when
Christ appeared to His disciples after His Resurrection in his absence?
What happened, that when he came back to them and heard the news of the
Resurrection, he looked round and said, 'I will believe only if I have
proof myself, if I can test — bodily — the Resurrection of the Master,
of the Lord whom I saw crucified and dead.' What happened, why could he
not believe their words?
It was because, I believe, they were
full of exulting joy; but nothing had happened to them. They were
rejoicing, yes, that Christ had visited them, that He had been in their
midst, that He was alive; but they were the same. He had changed; they
had not. It was only when the Holy Spirit came upon them that they
became new creatures, new men, new witnesses. Because then, people
meeting them looked at them, heard them, and saw people who were
possessed in this world of eternal life.
C. S. Lewis in one of his writings said
that when people saw the Apostles, they looked at them and said, 'Look,
statues have become living men.' Yes, we are all, it may well be, like
statues. But we are called to be living people. We are called, all of
us, to be witnesses of the Resurrection, of the life, of the death, of
Christ, of the victory of God.
But meeting us — me and you — can people
say, 'Yes, it is true. Christ is risen, because this woman, this child,
this man is alive with a life of which I had no suspicion, a life that I
couldn't even imagine'? Not an intensity of life in the sense of
enthusiasm only, but an intensity of life divine in us. And this is a
question which is being asked of each of us. We must be able to convey
it, not in words, but somehow differently.
I remember an example from years ago,
from my youth. A very remarkable preacher was invited to give a lesson
to Sunday school children. He spoke magnificently. We, youth leaders,
were lined against the walls, listening with nothing but admiration for
what he had said. But when he had finished, Professor Zander called a
little boy of seven and said to him, 'Well, how was it?' And the little
boy said, 'Oh, it was entertaining; but what a pity that Father does not
believe what he says.'
It was not true. But the children's
response stemmed from the fact that this preacher was used to speaking
to grown-up people on an intellectual level. It was not his heart he was
bringing forth, it was convincing arguments, and they had not reached
the children. And the children thought he did not mean what he said,
because what he said meant nothing to them.
Isn't it the same with us when we speak
of our faith? Of God? Of life eternal? Of Orthodoxy? Can people look at
us and say: 'Yes, it is true, because I can see that he is no longer a
statue, a piece of wood, a piece of stone. He is alive with eternal
life.' And this is a challenge to us. We must all learn to ask ourselves
questions about ourselves, and ask ourselves: do I know that Christ is
risen? Not from hearsay, not from books, not from others, but from an
inner experience. Am I alive with life eternal, or not? If I am, then my
words will be life and power. When Christ spoke to His disciples, as St.
John the Divine tells us, the crowd left, and Christ said, 'Are you also
going to leave me?' And Peter, speaking for all of them, said, 'Where
could we go? You have the words of life eternal.' It was not a
description of eternal life. It was not a discourse about life eternal
that they had been reading. But every word of His was life, and
life-giving; when He spoke it awoke eternal life dormant in each of
them. So should be our words; so should be our presence; so should be
our testimony in the world. Let us reflect on it, because we are
responsible for the world in which we live. Are we truly alive or are we
simply part and parcel of a world that has lost its way? Amen.