In the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Christ is Risen!
Today is the Sunday after Pascha. Most of us know it as Thomas Sunday. In the West, among the Latins and Anglicans, (and maybe others) it’s known as “Low Sunday.” The origins of this are uncertain, but I’m sure it has something to do with the sharp contrast in attendance between Easter Sunday and the following Sunday. This year, however, in the time of the Covid19 pandemic, the contrast has vanished altogether; only my family and Reader John attending both. In Russia, though, they call it the “Sunday of the Belief of Thomas.” I like that a lot! It’s positive, it’s uplifting, and best of all, it’s true! The Gospel today, in spite of what we might think, is NOT about Thomas’ doubts, but it’s about his faith.
The Holy Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews, writes: “Now faith is the assurance of things that are hoped for, and the proof of things unseen.” Now Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus first appeared. When they told him that they had seen the Lord, he was unconvinced. Why? I’ve told you this before, but it’s worth repeating. The Lord Jesus Himself had taught His disciples saying, “At that time, if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe it!” (Matthew 24:23). So Jesus appears again, and this time Thomas is present. Remember, Thomas had insisted on “touching” Jesus. Right? Why do you think he insisted on that particular proof? Because demons could appear in many forms, but they could never confess that the Messiah, the Son of God, came in the flesh. The Holy Apostle John verifies this when he writes: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already” (1John 4: 2-3). Jesus here, Himself, is proving that He is no demon counterfeiting His likeness, and even offers the proof of “touch” that Thomas requires. So what then is the result of that touch? Thomas, probably crumbling to his knees declares Jesus as: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20: 28).
By physical proof the righteous skepticism of Thomas was allayed, but what about faith? Where is Thomas’ exercise of faith, “the assurance of things that are hoped for, and the proof of things unseen?” Pope St. Gregory I, the Dialogist, writing in the late 500’s
said: “It is plain to us that faith is the evidence of those things that are invisible. For things that are visible do not result in faith but in knowledge...Thomas saw one thing, but believed another. Divinity could not be seen by mortal men. Nevertheless, Thomas saw a man but confessed God, declaring Jesus to be both his “Lord” and his “God!” St. Augustine of Hippo wrote: “He saw and touched the man, and acknowledged God, whom he neither saw nor touched; but by the means of what he saw and touched, he now put far away from him every doubt, and believed” (St. Augustine of Hippo, Homilies on the Gospel of John, Tractate CXXI). This is the bold declaration of the faith of Thomas, this is why we call this day “the belief of Thomas!” It is this same faith that has been passed down from him to us every time we sing from Psalm 117 (and declare) at every Matins (Morning Prayer) service: “The Lord is God and hath appeared unto us” (Psalm 117:27 LXX). Amen.