•Acts 5:12-16 • Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19 • John 20:19-31•
Weekly Scripture Readings: First Sunday of Easter
To print a PDF of the homily, click HERE.
Christ is risen! Truly he is risen!! It took time, a long time, for his close companions to comprehend even slightly what happened to Jesus. In their experience the dead are dead! That is the end of the discussion. So his close companions were, as we are, faced with mystery and confusion. Skepticism is easier than accepting such a bold claim. So like them we continue to ponder, question and even doubt.
All of that is illustrated in the experience of Thomas the Apostle. He “was not with the disciples when the Risen One came.” Although they must have been filled with enthusiasm when telling him of their experience, his response to them was quite clear. “I will not believe!” He was skeptical. He was full of questions. He wanted empirical proof.
When the Risen Christ stood among them one week later, Thomas was with them. The Risen One invited him to reach out and touch him. We are not told whether he did so or not. We are told only that Thomas saw and believed.
This story helped the early communities come to grips with an urgent dilemma. The authoritative eyewitnesses all had died. How could someone believe that God had raised Jesus from death without the witness of at least one who had seen him? We face the same dilemma.
An integral part of my homily last Sunday was an oft-quoted sentence from the short story titled “The Little Prince.” The fox reminded the little prince: “it is only with the heart that one can see rightly … what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Love enables one to see with the heart. Love opens the heart to believe. It was his love for Jesus that opened the eyes of Thomas to the mystery. It was his love for Jesus that moved him to affirm that Christ is risen! Truly he is risen!!
So it is with us. Countless generations of “resurrection people” have gone before us. We rely upon them and their transition from skepticism to conviction. The faith and love of my paternal grandfather, my maternal grandmother and my parents; the faith of Raymond Hunthausen and Dorothy Feehan and so many folks like you helped me to “see with the heart” and recognize “what is invisible to the eye.” So now with all of them and all of you I am able to affirm that Christ is risen! Truly he is risen!!
The transition from skepticism to conviction confronts every individual. The gospels tell us God “raised Jesus from the dead.” Why accept it? What does it mean? John does not explain what it means, but he was careful to establish the continuity between the earthly, crucified Jesus and the Risen Christ.
The Risen One invites Thomas, “touch my hands,” “touch my side.” He is the same, but different. “The doors of the house were locked. Jesus came and stood among them.” Physical barriers no longer limit the Risen One. He is different!!
Thomas also was the same but different. Experiencing the Risen One does that to people. They become less fearful. Their love is expansive and unconditional. They are more fully human and more fully alive.
Why accept that Christ is risen? Truly he is risen!! I can only repeat what I said earlier. I want to be like folks I admire and love — more fully alive and more fully human. They are who they are because of their faith and relationship to the Risen Christ.
My experience tells me the fox was correct when he told the little prince, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.” Thomas saw with the heart. I hope your love enables you to see with the heart, to see “what is invisible to the eye.” Christ is risen! Truly he is risen!! Happy Easter!