Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Witness of Risen Wounds

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, 2012

Thomas – doubting Thomas.
Many have said that we live in a disillusioned age.
We have seen so many of those who have been held up in the public eye come crashing down – from politicians to sports figures to religious figures – so many highly publicized failures and deceptions have perhaps made us a little on the jaded side of things.  And so the encounter of St. Thomas is important for us.

We forget that before the resurrection, when the Lord lay in the tomb, his body beaten and broken, it not only felt like defeat to the disciples, but it probably also felt like they had been horribly misled.  The Lord Jesus had told them that he would usher in a new age.  He had told them that he was going to make all things new.  He told them that God’s kingdom would prevail.

And then all of that came crashing down – and not in a spectacular final finale – but in the most humiliating and miserable way imaginable.  He was crucified like a common criminal. 
He did not even put up a strong defense.  He did not respond to his accusers.  He was beaten, heckled, led by a mob to a hill and crucified between two thieves.  And even there – no eloquent speech from the cross, no long, drawn out battle – he asked for something to drink and gave up his life quickly, dying before the other two criminals. 

It cannot be overstated how much the disciples must have felt abandoned, misled, and disillusioned. 
And we might imagine St. Thomas’ response: “Well I am done with all of that.  I was taken.  I don’t know what I was thinking – how was I so naïve as to think that Jesus would usher in a new kingdom?  To spend three years wandering around with this carpenter from Nazareth who claimed to be God’s son?  He deluded us all.  I’m going to just go back to my life as it was before – from now on I will trust the things that I know.  And what are those things?  Well, you’ve got to just be concerned with the here and now – not fairytales.  Take care of your own.  Try to live a good life.  Work hard.  Make something of yourself.  Be a good neighbor.”

Maybe that’s why Thomas was not with the 12 on that day that the Lord first appeared.  Maybe he thought he was getting busy living, moving on, trying to put the past behind him. 

In fact, when he saw the disciples show up at his door, I wonder if he was happy to see them.  And I wonder if he was all that happy to hear their news. “We have seen the Lord!  He has been raised!”  More delusion.  Couldn’t they just let it go? 
They had been misled; it was time to move on.  Enough of this nonsense.  Unless they could show him that Jesus was going to help with putting daily bread on the table, forget about it.  He was not going to give them the benefit of the doubt.  He had been down that road before.  He did not need a messiah that desperately.  "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hand and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."  A disillusioned man, a man who felt he’d been burned.

There are many of them in our world today.  We know many of them, some of us may even put ourselves in that category from time to time.  People who have given up on the big ideals, on promises of salvation, on miraculous endings.  People who would rather not believe and be proven wrong, than believe and be disappointed.  People too proud to risk being thought gullible.  Who will never bank on an unproven conviction, never step out on a limb, never hazard an opinion, lest it come back to bite them.

But the irony of Thomas, the irony of the disillusioned man is this:  that even as he may have accused the others of escaping from the real world in their thoughts of the Risen Christ, it very well may have been Thomas who was the one escaping.  And escaping into a dead end: disillusioned with the spiritual life, how easy it is to turn to a life consumed with the things of this world: work, financial security, hobbies, and recreation.

When our hopes for heaven were dashed, we take the second best option and embarked upon the task of building our own proxy heaven on earth.  That’s what happens.  When all that remains is the mundane, we are quickly consumed by earthly concerns.  Soon, we are headed down the path of spiritual disillusionment that our culture knows all too well: the path of isolation, workaholism, anxiety, bitterness, fatigue, and ultimately despair.

That is inevitably what happens when we try to create heaven, when we try to raise ourselves from the dead.  That’s what happens when we lose the faith and hope and trust that God loves us and has the power to raise us up and give us eternal life.  Spiritual disillusionment leads to complete disillusionment.  When we lose faith in God’s power to save us and bring us new life, we necessarily begin to embrace a culture of death.

So what does Christ tell Thomas and tell us?
"Put your finger here and see my hands,
 and bring your hand and put it into my side,
 and do not be unbelieving, but believe."

Christ cures Thomas’ disillusioned heart, and he wants to cure every disillusioned heart by showing our hearts his wounds.
They are the proof of his resurrection from the dead.
Proof that light can come from the darkness.
Proof that pain and suffering can find healing.
Proof that sins can be forgiven.
Proof of the reality of eternal life and the source of our hope to one day be able to find that life with Christ in heaven.

He shows Thomas, and he shows each of us, that Christians cannot be a disillusioned people, that we who are the Body of Christ are called to continue the witness of his body, the witness of his risen wounds, the witness of the resurrection, when new life conquered the darkness of sin and death.

We Christians must refuse to escape down the path of worldly self-indulgence and anxieties, but instead embrace the work of the Christian disciple: to show another path, the life giving path of faith in Christ, risen from the dead.

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