2nd Sunday of Pascha; Thomas Sunday
Realism About The Resurrection
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Christ is risen! Truly He is risen! Christos voskrese! Voistinu Voskrese!
Today, brothers and sisters, we have the second half of the story of the Apostle Thomas. When I think of the Apostle Thomas, I like his story, I think, among all the Resurrection stories, the best of all because I really think his story fits us to a T. Or, it should fit us! It fits those who endure to the end. It fits those who find their way, who bear fruit. It doesn't fit anybody else. Let’s put is this way: if we are to bear fruit, we must be like Thomas. If we are to be fruitful in the Christian life, our life is going to resemble his.
And why do I say this? I think Saint Thomas is sort of like every man. A complex person, with belief, but also with unbelief, with certainty but also with anxiety. This is what Thomas experienced. He couldn't believe that the Lord was risen, he didn't see Him the first day that He was risen. He didn't see Him until the eighth day. And in that intervening time he just couldn't believe.
Now, someone might judge him for that, saying, why wouldn't he believe his friends? Many witnesses had told him that the Lord was risen. Well, there's a lot of things that we don't do right. There are a lot of things that we get wrong, a lot of misunderstandings that we have, a lot of stuff that mixes up good and bad in us, so that it's hard to know why we do what we do or why we don't do what we should. Thomas is just like us. And he couldn't believe.
But what did he do? He didn't leave. He stayed with the apostles. Imagine how his heart was aching when he wanted to believe. He just couldn't. You see, partially, belief is a gift of God. It's not just to sit in a corner and believe. God grants us to be able to believe. He doesn't force us to believe, but He helps us.
You know all those confusing thoughts that go on in your head? If they just keep going around and around and around, you get so turned around you don't know which end is up. That's how Thomas was. And we need divine intervention for things like that.
There's a lot of things in the world that are very curious, very strange, very terrible. We don't understand why they happen. So we're like Thomas. But we do understand that God loves and God is perfect and that somehow His plan will always be realized. We just have no idea how. No idea. But like Thomas, if we continue to struggle, continue to be with God, eventually it will become clear to us.
So, like so many stories, the story of belief of St. Thomas after his unbelief, is life in microcosm. Learn to read the Scriptures in this way. Because constantly it is life in microcosm. So many of the miracles, the parables, this event, are showing what life is like.
Now, for Thomas it took eight days. For us, it takes a good part of a lifetime or perhaps a lifetime for some of our problems to be solved, for some of our confusion to become more clear to us. But we must be like him. We must be with the apostles. We have to pray. We have to fast. We have to do things when they don't really give us much pleasure or they don't touch us much. But we know they are right things to do.
I'm not talking about doing things because of some legalistic idea that we've got to do this and we've got to do that. Christianity is not legalism. People make it legalism because it is actually easier that way. Christianity is to give your entire heart to God. There's nothing legalistic about that at all. It's just giving all of yourself. But it's really hard. Because there's things that pull you back. Just like Thomas. So you keep going, keep making mistakes. Sometimes you believe firmly. Other times maybe you have doubts. Sometimes you're happy. Sometimes you're sad. Sometimes you're confused. Sometimes you seem to understand. That's what life is like.
You know, the Resurrection has to be looked at realistically, from two perspectives. Number one, the Resurrection is happening now within us. I talk about that all the time because I don't think we live like that, but the Resurrection is truly transcendent and should affect everything you do, everything you say, everything you are, should be affected by the Resurrection.
But also we're like Thomas. And there are parts of us that are not quite affected by the Resurrection yet. There's still darkness in us. There's still confusion. There's still anger and passion and all kinds of stuff. The Resurrection is supposed to fix all that, and it will. It doesn't happen to the apostle. It doesn't even happen on the day of Pentecost. It happens through our lifetime of struggle.
So that's what I mean by being realistic about the Resurrection. We can't just say it's Pascha, Christ is risen, happy, happy, happy. Because there's still things in us that should make us not very happy. What should make us happy is that they can be solved. They can be changed.
Thomas wasn't real happy, for eight days he wasn't happy. Imagine how broken his heart was! He had said he would go die with Him, but he had run away just like everybody else. And now he didn't even know if He was alive or dead. I'm sure there was a piece in him that believed. But there was also all that other stuff in him, probably guilt to a large degree, confusion, that wouldn't let him completely believe. It wouldn't let him have the joy of the belief. And it took the Lord, seeing Him, and converting him for Thomas to be able to have this joy.
We're just like him. If not in eight days, in our lifetime. This is the blueprint for how to save your soul. It doesn't matter if you have sins, doubts, unbelief. None of that matters if you're like Thomas, if you struggle. Because, no matter how much you have doubts inside, you know what's true. Sometimes that truth can't quite get out because of your weaknesses. But it's there and you know it. And God is going to help you get that truth out.
When I talk of truth, the truth is not a concept or a fact. Truth is Jesus Christ. Truth is righteousness. So you want to be righteous, and yet there are things about you that aren't.
We're celebrating the Resurrection, but not all of us is resurrected. I don't think we should pretend otherwise. It's just true that we're not completely resurrected yet. We should be, and God will help us to be. And the path is the path of Thomas, of fidelity, of struggle. Like the man who said, "I believe; help my unbelief." I think this Thomas is just another application of that idea. He believed, but he couldn't believe completely. He just couldn't quite believe completely. And that's because he had to struggle and God would grant him the ability to believe. But He only grants this ability to those who struggle and those who try. Those who are lackadaisical, they are not going to be able to find their way.
Brothers and sisters, I've told you many times, I want you very much to feel that there's darkness in you. Not because I want you to be miserable. It's not about being miserable. It's about being realistic. It's about knowing what you are and what you will be and having a great desire to be that person that you will be. Wanting that above everything else.
As a pastor, I shudder when I encounter people that don't seem to have a concept of who they are. They don't seem to know that they've got black in them and that they've got passions. And when they do talk about some passion, it's, well, you know, “I'm only human”. Well, I'll tell you what. “Only human”, from a Christian perspective, means to be like Jesus Christ because He is the model for what a human being should be. So actually when we say that, we really shouldn't say, we're “only human”. We should say, we're not really human yet. But we will be, if we are like Thomas and if we just endure. Maybe it will take a week. Maybe it will take a month. Maybe it will take fifteen years.
I've been now a priest for fifteen years, and stuff is still happening, and I'm still waiting. I believe it's going to happen. I don't know when. I don't know how. But I know that if I stay close to the church, struggle, pray, fast, fall down and get up, then God will enlighten me; and those that I love, my flock, my family, God will enlighten them too. Not according to my timing. My timing is "right now." It's not God's timing.
Thomas wanted to know right now that the Lord was risen. That wasn't God's timing for him. He had to endure what must have seemed like an eternity, of eight days of waiting. But eventually God revealed Himself to him, and He will reveal Himself to you, but only if you're like Thomas.
Since we are like Thomas in our failings, we must be like Thomas in his endurance, or else we will not be saved.
So God help you to endure: To pray when you don't feel like praying, to repent when you don't feel like repenting, to forgive somebody when you don't really want to forgive him and when he doesn't want to give you any advantage whatsoever. God will help you. And God will enlighten you. And you will know how to do it. As Thomas was able to say, "My Lord and my God," so will you be able to say that. I don't mean say it with your lips. I mean have it, the feeling of it, everywhere in your whole soul and the certainty that knowing that He is your Lord and your God and you are His child.
This is what our aim is in life. May God help us to get there, like Thomas. May all of us have an eighth day and we see the Lord as He is and we're not ashamed. Amen.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2010
Transcribed by the hand of Helen. May God save her and her loved ones.
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