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My Savior lives!

April 12, 2015

Sunday QuasimodogenitiQuasimodogeniti

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”.

John 20:19-29

”Not all that glitters is gold” we used to say. We cannot believe all we see. But we also say: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” In what way should we believe? A funny story:
“A teacher, I don’t want to mention her name, wanted to show their elementary school children that God was a myth. The class unfolded this way:

Teacher: Today we will learn that God doesn’t exist. (Then, turning to one of the children, said:) Bobby, do you see the tree outside?
Bobby: Yes, Teacher.
Teacher: Bobby, do you see the grass?
Bobby: Yes, teacher.
Teacher: Go outside and look up and tell me if you see the sky.
Bobby: (Returning a few minutes later) Yes, I saw the sky, teacher.
Teacher: And did you see God?
Bobby: No, teacher.
Teacher: That is exactly my point. We can see everything that exists, but we cannot see God because he doesn’t exist. It is only a fairy tale.
At that time, Mary, a classmate of Bobby, asked the teacher if she could ask more questions to Bobby.
The teacher, somewhat surprised, agreed.

Mary: Bobby, do you see the tree outside?
Bobby: Yes.
Mary: Do you see the grass?
Bobby: (bored with so many questions, answers) Yeah!
Mary: Do you see the teacher?
Bobby: Yeah!
Mary: Everything that exists one can see it, right?
Bobby: Yeah!
Mary: Do you see the brains of the teacher?
Bobby: Noooo.
Mary: So, Bobby, as we have been taught today, our teacher has no brains!”

Like I said, we cannot believe everything that we see. And this applies to us today, when through many images and movies, people want to cheat us with advertising offers that don’t correspond to the whole truth. For example, an insurance agency describing a wonderful area full with people with happy faces; but we all know that no insurance can guarantee anything. No, we cannot believe everything we see.

And the same is true in reverse: we cannot see everything we should believe in. I think, for example, that precisely here and now in this church, television programs are being broadcasted. I see and hear nothing of this, but I am quite sure that the television signal and waves from these stations are now present in all this space. We do not have to see all that we believe in. Just as I believe that the church may now not be half full or half empty as it seems. I believe that God’s angels are present here. The Holy Spirit is present here, according to the promise in the Bible: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Mt 18:20) And I think that these angels watch over us better than any insurance of this world. As I said, we do not have to see everything we believe in.

And here we come to the most important words from Jesus in today’s Gospel, which are directed to the disciple Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”. The really important and durable things in life correspond to those that cannot be seen, they can only be believed. And among all these things is firstly the fact that Jesus Christ is alive and present with us here and now. This fact is specifically related to his word: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

The apostle Thomas, to whom these words were addressed originally, is often remembered as the ‘doubting Thomas’, the disciple who doubted. For this reason we have the phrase, “If I don’t see it, I don’t believe it.” I always feel a little sorry for him, because I see that people judge him wrongly. Sure he, in the night of Easter, doubted that Jesus was alive because he wasn’t there when he appeared risen. But the other apostles did the same – before seeing Jesus! They didn’t believe the women who returned, announcing the wonderful news of the empty tomb: “The Lord is risen”! But they always were afraid and were discouraged; they were hidden in a house. And there they were, with as many doubts as the apostle Thomas. Only when they saw Jesus, and they saw his hands and his side were they ashamed of their lack of faith and believed. Jesus could also say to them: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

And Jesus says this to us too. This is a wonderful blessing that applies to all Christians. Blessed are we, for we need not be hidden fearfully; we can live freely and courageously. Christ is risen today, He is here with us and He calls us as He did with the apostle at the time: “Peace be with you” This peace cannot be seen with the eyes, but corresponds to the most important things you believe, even though one cannot see. This peace has to do with the central part of the gospel for today and also concerns Jesus’ proclamation on Easter Sunday to his disciples, when Thomas wasn’t yet there. He said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” We have peace with God because Jesus died on the cross for us. We have peace with God because God accepted the atoning sacrifice conquered by the resurrection of his Son. We have peace with God because the fruit of this atoning sacrifice was given to us through baptism. We have peace with God because the words of forgiveness of sins during confession always remind us: “Your sins are forgiven.” That means: that nothing separates you from God; you belong to Him, He is in your life; He will consider you ‘not guilty’ on the Day of Judgement and He will give you eternal salvation in heaven. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

And why can we believe this? Because Jesus Christ was credible; he showed himself before his first disciples. Better yet: the first disciples could see and believe. They saw the living and the truly resurrected. They were able to convince themselves when they saw his injured hands, feet and side. So as Thomas did, the other apostles did too. And today, when we read this story from the Bible, they are practically lending us their eyes, so that we too can take part in the resurrection of our Lord; just as it happens with the forgiveness of sins.
Do you recall the wonderful story of the paralytic who was on the roof of the house to get to Jesus; the apostles lived this experience and wrote about it for us. When the paralytic was before Jesus, what did Jesus do? This man hid his sins. Could they see them? No, no one could see, they had to believe. The Pharisees who were there couldn’t believe it, and doubted that Jesus had the power to forgive sins. But straightway Jesus did something and everyone else could see: He healed the paralytic. The paralytic stood up to the great astonishment of all who were there, rolled up his mat and went home. And Jesus said why he healed the paralytic, so that we may recognize: he has the power to forgive sins. And even today this story gives us certainty that our sins are truly forgiven when it is announced to us in the name of Jesus. And in the same way, the story of Passover in the Gospels gives us certainty even today when they say that Jesus is risen and lives. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” – This is something special we are told, for all disciples of all generations, that is based on the testimony of those who have witnessed.

If our sins are forgiven and we may have peace with God, then we also believe that God has considered us. That is the main reason for which the Son of God became man and did all he did: this way he wanted to show that God has consideration of humanity and wants to invite everyone to take a whole eternal life. If we judge only what our eyes see, then we start to doubt. We start to focus on all that we don’t see that we lack, and when we don’t see good things we can only see the negative: the suffering and needs, poverty and lack and disease. And doubting, we wonder if God really has interest in us. The response of Passover, the response of the apostle, the response of the whole Bible tells us: Yes, he truly cares. God truly loves us, you and me and all humankind, though sometimes we don’t see it or we don’t notice it; even though our eyes sometimes see other things. Well, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
We do not have to believe all we see. Not everything needs to be seen to be believed. We are rather blessed when we believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ and what the apostles saw and witnessed. It is how faith works. Amen.

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