The Healing of Thomas
Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes at St. Mary Orthodox Church of Cambridge, MA on Sunday, April 15, 2018
In reading and interpreting Holy Scripture we must always remember to do so in the light of Christ whose preeminent message was, "Be compassionate as your Father in heaven is compassionate." As the God-Man he sees our deepest needs and understands from his own incarnate experience exactly what cure to apply when, how, and where.
Thomas was deeply wounded by the crucifixion, just as were all the disciples. His questions and doubts arose from feelings of fear, loss and confusion. The parts of him that rose to protect and manage these intense feelings were no doubt on double-duty. His response made perfect sense! We do a grave injustice to Thomas when we fail to acknowledge this.
The other disciples responded in various ways. Peter at the empty tomb was bewildered. The Myrrh-bearing Women in Mark's account were frightened and fled; so frightened that they disobeyed the angel who told them to report what they had seen to the apostles.
It is also interesting that Mary Magdalene and the two disciples, Luke and Cleopas, did not recognize him at first even though they had known him intimately. It took a special and personal response from the Lord to open their eyes to him – the sound of his voice, the breaking of bread. The same is true for all of us.
Jesus responds to every person as is needed. He spoke tenderly to Mary in the garden by simply saying her name. Her eyes were opened when she heard his voice. Peter who had denied him three times was asked three times, "Peter do you love me," as if applying the necessary cure three times to heal the fearful wound that sparked Peter's three-time denial. Luke and Cleopas were awakened only when the Lord broke the bread as he had done at the Last Supper and Thomas, so intimately, needed to see and touch him to believe. His deep sadness was the reason for the Lord's invitation to touch him in the places of his still-visible wounds! How tenderly Jesus responds to everyone.
And not one was criticized by Jesus. Not one of them made to feel inadequate, or unloved, or inferior. Not one of them, doubting or not, was rejected by the Lord, for his heart is always open and never closed to us.
What is that something that touches Thomas deeply and prompts his confession? I think it is the fact that in spite of all his doubts, confusion, and fear Jesus loved and accepted him. This unconditional love is what causes him to proclaim Christ to be both Lord and God. The Lord loves us, as well, just as we are and understands us just as we are. In that moment, Thomas, deeply wounded by the Crucifixion and death of his Lord, is healed. In this moment, we can be, too. Healed by unconditional love.
It seems most obvious in viewing the Lord's varied responses to the reactions of his apostles, that he must also care deeply about each and every one of us. This is our fervent belief. He is alive and he cares for us. He knows our needs, our fears, our confusions, and our deepest desire to be forgiven, to love and to be loved. I think CS Lewis was right when he said that God has an eternity to spend with each one of us...alone.
So, let us open ourselves to him with all our doubts, confusion, and fears and allow the healing of our hearts to radiate for the healing of all. That is, after all, what happened in the Upper Room that day.
"My friends," writes the poet, "love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. Do let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we will change the world."
First, we will change ourselves, and then, the world.