Thomas Sunday

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Sharing the indescribable Gift of Life
Thomas Sunday
11 April, 2010
Acts 5:12-20 ; John 20:19-31

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Christ is risen

Today, we are celebrating the memory of the Apostle Thomas and his encounter with our Saviour in the Resurrection. It is very important for us to understand that it was necessary for the Apostle Thomas to see the Risen Lord. It is important for us also to understand that, just as our Lord invites him, so the Apostle Thomas touches the wounds of our Lord. The apostle had said, when he missed the appearance of the Lord the week before, that he would not believe unless he could see for himself, and touch. Thus, he confirms the experience of the Resurrection. However, he is far from being alone in his determination to see and to touch.

The apostles are not North Americans, nor are they polite Canadians, nor are they western Europeans. The apostles are oriental-minded Middle-Easteners. Can you imagine anyone in the Middle East that you know of, who, upon seeing our Saviour risen from the dead, would merely say : “Oh, how wonderful. It is so lovely. Glory to God”. Of course, no Middle-Eastener would ever stop with only these words. Russian-speakers would not stop there either. Such people as these apostles, on seeing the Resurrected Lord (after getting over their surprise), are immediately going to be touching Him and kissing Him, just as we would. The other apostles, having already had this encounter of touching and embracing the Risen Christ, are joined today by the Apostle Thomas. He also sees ; he touches ; he believes. It was necessary for all the apostles to touch, to see, and to believe. All of them are the eyewitnesses of the Resurrection. Not just the Twelve, but many others saw the Risen Christ in the forty days after the Resurrection. They were all eyewitnesses of the Resurrection. They all saw that He is truly the same crucified Jesus Christ who is risen from the dead because they could see the wounds in His hands and in His side. They had to be eye-witnesses. Our Saviour says to the Apostle Thomas (but not only to him) : “‘Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’”.

Most of us have not seen, and yet we believe. (We cannot ever say that this is the case for everyone because the Saviour does still come to certain people under certain circumstances.) We believe, because the apostles saw and believed, and in their love they worked the works of the Saviour. We heard in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles that the Apostle Peter and the other apostles were in the Temple in Jerusalem. Not only were they teaching, but they were healing people. They were bringing the healing love of Jesus Christ to people who needed to be healed. Just a few days before, we were with the Apostle Peter in the Temple, and we saw him raise up the man born paralysed (see Acts 3:1-8). Because of the work of the Name of Jesus Christ, the man was able suddenly to jump up and to have the possibility to walk, to work with his hands, to have a normal life and a normal employment. This is the gift that the apostles were giving to people – the gift of life which is given, in fact, by the Risen Christ.

The Apostle Thomas, in particular, would need this experience of the Risen Christ. He would become soon afterwards a missionary very far away. First, some say that he went to the area of Ethiopia. “The Synaxarion” says that he went to Persia, and from there to India. Afterwards, from North India, he travelled south to what is now the state of Kerala on the west coast, at the very south end of India. There, the Apostle Thomas brought Christ to people in large numbers, and thus large numbers of people turned to Christ whom they had met and learnt to love. Later, he went around to the other side of India (to where Madras is), and he brought Christ to people on the eastern side of the continent. He was finally killed by certain Hindus. So seriously have the Orthodox Christians of India taken their encounter with the Apostle Thomas that until this day, there are members of the original families that were converted to Christ by the Apostle Thomas who know their whole genealogy all the way back to that moment. They know the name of their ancestor 2,000 years ago who was converted by the Apostle Thomas. The only reason that this group of about 30,000,000 Orthodox Christians are not in communion with the rest of the Church is because they are so far away, and we are very slow to help them come back in.

When our Lord is appearing to the apostles today, we are hearing Him say several times : “‘Peace be with you’”. When our Saviour says “peace”, He brings peace. It is not merely a word. He brings to us the fact of peace. Where He is, there is always peace. Where Jesus Christ is, there is always joy. Where Jesus Christ is, there is always hope and love. This is why, at another time, the Saviour directs the apostles to go and bring to others their peace, the peace of the love and of the presence of Jesus Christ within them (see Luke 10:5). Wherever Jesus Christ is, there is peace. “He Himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). Wherever the apostles are going, they are bringing the peace of Christ.

Wherever we Orthodox Christians go, we also must bring the peace of Jesus Christ. We carry our Saviour, Jesus Christ, in our hearts, in our bodies. We carry His presence within us. Wherever we go, we bring His peace, His joy and His love. We have inherited this peace, joy and love of Jesus Christ from all the saints and from all the anonymous Christians who have gone before us during the 2,000 years since people were first baptised into Christ. It is this same peace, this same joy, this same love and this same Jesus Christ that we bring wherever we go, whatever we are doing every day of our lives. It is this peace that other people can feel. It is this peace and this joy that will draw other people around us to Jesus Christ, as we have been drawn to Him. This peace and joy will enable them to meet Jesus Christ, as we have met Jesus Christ. This peace and joy will enable them to love Jesus Christ, as we love Jesus Christ.

The Orthodoxy of those people in south India is not only an inherited tradition of a memory. It is still a living experience of the love of Jesus Christ that is being passed on in these families, and shared with multitudes of other people in the south and the north of India (and in many other places by this time). When the Lord says to you and to me that He wants us to be yeast and salt in the world (see Matthew 5:13; 13:33), He is talking about this. He is talking about this living proof to other people by our love and by our peace that Jesus Christ is with us. He loves us. He loves all those around us. In fact, He loves the whole of creation because the whole creation is the product of His love.

Brothers and sisters, with the Apostle Thomas, we are encountering today the Risen Christ. We are encountering Jesus Christ who is risen from the dead, and who is giving life to us all. Let us rejoice in this immense, indescribable gift that we have been given (see 2 Corinthians 9:15). Through the prayers of the Mother of God, the Apostle Thomas and the other apostles (especially the prayers of the Apostles Peter and Paul), let us do our best in this love to be faithful to the Saviour. Let us glorify Him, together with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.