St ThomasIn the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

This morning we hear the Gospel recounting two of the appearances of our Lord to His disciples and Apostles. On the first visit, 10 of the Apostles are present – Judas being dead, and Thomas not being with the other disciples. Notice that as Christ appears His Apostles, He blesses them, and then immediately the Gospel says that He showed them His hands and His sides, and then they recognize Him as Jesus and are glad. I think it’s important to point this out because of what later happens with St. Thomas, and the way the Father’s talk about this scene with St. Thomas – it’s different than the way we often think of it.

So after this appearance of Christ to the Apostles, St. Thomas returns to their hideout at some point and the 10 share with him that they’ve seen the Lord. St. Thomas immediately replies, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 8 days later, the Gospel tells us, Jesus appeared to the Apostles again, and Thomas was with them. And the beginning of our Lord’s visit is perfectly parallel to the beginning of His first visit – He blesses them, and then He shows to Thomas His hands and His side. And as we know, Thomas believed, and then uttered one of the most profound statements in all of the Gospels – calling Christ “my Lord and my God.”

So, I’d like us to think a few more minutes on the scene where the Apostles tell Thomas about the first visitation of the Lord. It’s from this statement of Thomas’ that he will not believe without seeing with his own eyes that St. Thomas is widely known in the West as Doubting Thomas. I grew up with a particular disdain for Thomas that he struggled to believe. But this is not the mentality of the Orthodox Church – Thomas is set up for us today as an example of faith and belief, an image of what most of our lives are like.

This is the Sunday of St. Thomas – and the icons of this Sunday typically show St. Thomas reaching for Christ (we don’t really know if he touched the wounds or not – some people say he did and others that he didn’t) and Christ gesturing at His hands and His sides. And the icon is not titled “Doubting Thomas” but rather “The belief of St. Thomas.” The Fathers will call the doubt of Thomas a blessed doubt – he didn’t doubt because he didn’t want to believe, he doubted because he wanted desperately to believe but he was weak. His doubting led to his belief – he didn’t abandon the other Apostles and think they were crazy, he stayed around and waited for the Lord to appear again.

He wanted to believe. It reminds us of the father of the epileptic boy – “Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief.” And this is a prayer that most if not all of us could pray on a very regular basis. We have faith and we want to believe, but we’re also weak and tempted by doubt.

In two places, this morning, the Gospel gives us great hope and shows us how God deals with our doubt. At the first appearance of Christ to the Apostles, He immediately shows them Him hands and His side – He doesn’t come and demand blind belief, He shows them who His is. He knows they’ll be tempted by doubt, and He attempts to stop unbelief before it ever appears. And then with St. Thomas, our Lord knows that Thomas doubts, so He comes and offers him the chance to believe [and remember, by doing for Thomas exactly what he’d done for the other Apostles].

God doesn’t condemn us for our doubts and our struggles in faith; He understands that these temptations are a part of this fallen world. So He gives us innumerable opportunities for belief, if only we have the eyes to see them. What could these signs look like? St. Paul says that all of nature and the created world testify of God, our existence, the perfect balance of the natural world, the birth of a baby, Holy Communion . If we’re moving through life with this attitude of “help my unbelief” – then on occasion we’ll see the things happening around us with the eyes of faith, and our faith will be strengthened, and our doubt dispelled.

As we continue in the celebration of this Paschal season, giving thanks for the gift of the Risen Christ – lets us also give thanks that the creator of all things doesn’t despise us for our struggles, but reaches down to us constantly, revealing Himself to us, and offering us salvation.

Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!