33 - St Thomas Sunday, April 26, 2009

Acts 5:12-20

John 20:19-31

Jesus says to St Thomas in this morning’s Gospel: “You believe because you have seen me.” Let’s study these words of Jesus to St Thomas for a few moments. Something very important for people especially in our day is being said in them.

Since the Age of “Enlightenment”, western thought has been anything but enlightened. European man dismissed God as an unnecessary hypothesis that intelligent men can do without, and proceeded to explain the world without God, leading western man to nihilism and to the belief that God is dead; which meant to say that God never was anything more than a figment of the human imagination. The world and everything in it has come to be as it is only by chance.

The gray dreariness of this godless sky is the cultural climate in which all of us now live. Its gloom has seeped into the mind and soul even of those who don’t read or think philosophical thoughts. In the mental vacuum created by spiritual laziness, many people, because they “see” no evidence for God or His Christ dismiss the resurrection as just a story, and they have embraced instead the nihilistic notion that there is no human soul that survives death; or if there is, it will reincarnate itself in some other form until finally, after so many aeons, it will dissolve back into the primordial soup whence it came. Truth, right and wrong are relative concepts because there is no God; and so there is no truth other than what you believe it to be.

Of course, such a gray, dreary world view wants some form of relief; but instead of making their way into Christ’s Holy Church, people have retreated into their own lusts and given themselves to the many diversions their irreligious society now offers. They effectively numb their mind to the gray sky; and in so doing, they numb themselves also to any religious discernment or sensitivity. In numbness they live; and in the same numbness they die.

I ask you to consider: where did this “enlightened” world view come from? Who proclaims it? Unbelievers who have rejected God, who in their blindness proclaim to the world that what they have seen and heard is ultimate truth, which is nothing. On this nothing, they have built their philosophical towers of Babel that now rule the halls of academia; and from their ivory towers they have produced the political ideologies that now govern the nations of the world. You can see for yourself where their governance has brought us.

Listen again to the words of Jesus to St Thomas that we heard in this morning’s Gospel: “You believe because you have seen me.” From that Upper Room, St Thomas went to India to proclaim what he and the holy apostles had seen and beheld with their eyes, what they had heard with their ears, what their hands had touched and felt.[1] St John tells us explicitly in his first epistle what it was the holy apostles had seen and heard and felt with their hands. It was the very God whom the world’s enlightened philosophers say does not exist: “That which was from the beginning; the Word of Life eternal who was with the Father in the beginning and who was made visible to us because the ‘Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”’[2] That is to say, this was no wispy ghost, no hallucination, no wispy fantasy that they saw but a spiritual reality, a divine Person in flesh and blood.

Understand very well what the apostles saw and heard and felt: Him in Whom the world has its origins, Him in whom all things came to be. Science and philosophy cannot know the Word of Life that the holy apostles proclaim to us. Science knows only earthly things that it can see and measure with its earthly instruments; philosophy knows only what its mind can comprehend. But the holy apostles proclaim to us heavenly realities, which are beyond the earth, beyond the mind. Indeed, if all things came to be in the Word of God, then science and philosophy cannot even know earthly things because earthly things are known not in themselves, but in their spiritual essence which is rooted not in the earth but in heaven, in the Word of God in whom heaven and earth and all things were made.

Recall Jesus’ words to Nicodemus who came to Him by night – i.e. in the darkness of his worldly mind: “We speak to you of what we know and we bear witness to you of what we have seen,” Jesus said to him.”[3] In other words, the Gospel of Jesus is not about fantasies or will-o-the-wisp figments of human imagination but about spiritual realities that are really real: “We speak to you,” he says to Nicodemus, “of what we know from having seen them [oidamen], we bear witness to you of what we have seen with our eyes [ewrakamen].”

Christ’s Holy Resurrection is not an “earthly” thing but a “heavenly” thing. Science and philosophy and all the so-called humanities are of no use to us in bringing us to belief in Christ’s Holy Resurrection. They cannot see it; they cannot lay hold of it; they cannot measure it – because they are intellectual disciplines developed by the human mind, which is of the earth, and so they cannot see anything that is above the human mind in the heavens. They are of this world; they are not of the Spirit. They are of man; they are not of God.

Even the feeble light of human logic can see from this that outside the vision of God the Word incarnate, worldly understanding and knowledge is in darkness. Its eyes are blind because it cannot see God; and it is only arrogance that makes it audacious enough to believe that it can explain the world exhaustively without any reference to the Word of God in whom all things were made. This is not only darkness; it is utter foolishness – and so is that worldly society that puts its trust in what the scientists and the philosophers proclaim from what they have seen and heard and felt with their hands – nothing; and not in what the holy apostles proclaim from what they have seen and heard and felt with their hands – the risen Lord, the Word of life who was in the beginning with the Father.

Whose proclamation will you believe? Whose witness rings true? Whose witness makes you suddenly feel alive with heavenly joy and hope and meaning? Whose proclamation awakens in you a palpable and immediate intuitive sense in which you suddenly see with inner eyes somewhere deep in yourself a spiritual dignity and nobility that marks you in your inner essence as a child of God created in His image and likeness? The proclamation of the blind who say there is no God, no truth and no meaning to life because in their blindness they have seen nothing? Or the proclamation of the holy apostles who saw with their own eyes, heard with their own ears, touched with their own hands the Word of Life eternal who was in the beginning with the Father, and who in His Holy Resurrection appeared to them not as a ghost, not as a figment of religious imagination, but in His crucified and risen body that St Thomas felt with his own hands?

Jesus then says to St Thomas: “Blessed are those who do not see, yet believe.” St John immediately goes on to explain. He says, in effect: You, too, can believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, by seeing what we have written in this book about the signs that Jesus performed, so that by believing, you might have Life in His Name. We can believe what St John has written in his Gospel because he is writing about Christ who is Himself the Image of God in whom we were made.[4] He is writing about the Truth of our being, which is irreducibly immediate to us: it is in our hearts; it is who and what we are. Because we are made in the Image of God, there is in us a spiritual faculty by which we are able to see God with an irreducibly immediate apperception. But this spiritual faculty in us has been covered over by our worldliness; and so we cannot see it. Therefore, blessed are they who believe but do not see, because they are those who in the spirit of repentance are taking up their cross in obedience to Christ’s command in order to nail their worldliness to Christ’s cross and to put to death the old Adam in them, that Christ might purge them with hyssop and create in them a clean heart, that they might have life in His Name, and in the acquisition of Christ’s Holy Spirit, attain to that purity of heart in which we shall see God.

Beloved Faithful, you are blessed because you have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Resurrection without seeing. In repentance, your inner eyes are being opened to behold the Truth of the holy apostles’ proclamation. The Light of Christ’s Holy Resurrection has been sown in you like seeds of divine love sown in the ground of your soul; you have received into your bodies His precious body and blood and become communicants of life eternal in His Name. And now you have been called to join the apostles in this high calling that is yours in Christ Jesus to become stewards of the mystery of Christ that you have seen and heard and felt in His Holy Church. So, turn your eyes away from the world and fix them steadfastly on this Word of Life proclaimed by the apostles, which we see in the holy icons and in the lives of the saints, which we hear in the teaching of the Church, and which we handle with our hands in the sacraments, the mysteries of the Church. And in the joi de vivre that comes from seeing the beauty of Christ’s holy resurrection, rise up from the waters of your baptism in the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, and take up your cross in love for the Savior, and in the gifts of the Spirit that you have received, proclaim to the world in word and in deed what you have seen, what you have heard, what you have handled with your hands: the crucified and risen Christ, the Light of the world who shines in the darkness of the world’s nothing and gives eternal life to those who believe in His Name. Amen.

[1] Cf. I Jn 1:1-3

[2] Jn 1:14

[3] Cf. John 3:12

[4] Col 1:15