Homily May 1, 2011 David Beuerman
What would your response be if I were to say “Christ is risen?”
What would your response be if I were to say that this is the first Sunday after Easter?
OK, I’m glad we don’t have to start like that!
Karl Barth – or was it Karl Rahner? – anyways, some guy named Karl — said that the homilist should have the newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other. That’s sort of the King James Version; the RSV is – – – Internet in one hand, Bible in the other.
So what do we find on the Internet? Well there is trivia: the Royal Wedding, the President’s birth certificate and all that. There is also depression – in more ways that one! – as when we read that NEARLY ONE MILLION folks just applied for minimum wage, part time jobs at Mickey D’s! So much for the economic recovery!
Turning away from trivia and depression, we open the Bible, the Good News according to some guy by the name of John and we find – Alleluia! – two Resurrection appearances. One of these is without Thomas and one is with Thomas. Thomas is one good dude, slandered with the adjective, DOUBTING.
To me, the key themes in the first appearance are Peace, Forgiving and matters relating to the non-appearance of Thomas; the last of these we will deal with when we come to the second appearance.
Before and after Jesus shows his scars, He makes two statements, both beginning with the word Peace. This is certainly not just an accident and is more than just the start of a kindly greeting. Following this, Jesus brings the Holy Spirit to them and chats them up about Forgiveness. So, Peace & Forgiveness: any connection?
Well, if you will forgive me, I’d like to quote from the Buddhist scriptures on that point, this from the Twin Verses. [READ SHORT VERSION]. I understand this to say that if you don’t forgive, you will have no peace, you have no chance of getting your act together, let alone taking it on the road.
I don’t know if I can forgive YOU if you don’t believe The Buddha, but there is also St Matthew at the end of his version of the Lord’s Prayer. [MT 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do NOT forgive others, neither will you Father forgive you.”]. I rest my case for the NECESSITY of forgiveness.
If peace is not enough of an outcome for forgiveness, let us turn to another authority: The Brothers Grimms’ story of Cinderella! At the end of one version of this, one of my grand-daughters’ favorites, we read that Cinderella forgives her step-mother and step-sisters (collectively, her “steps”), invites them to her wedding with Prince Charming and the steps were never unkind again! Not only that – – the steps learned to smile, as Grandma has pointed out. How to make the world a better place! A little forgiveness can have great consequences.
Even if you are convinced that we should forgive and that forgiving will have good outcome, there remains the question, how CAN you forgive? How do you even KNOW if you have forgiven? Do you have to forget? No! Do you have to deny that you were hurt? No! Do you have to condone what was done to you! No! Is there any simple formula, something like six easy pieces for forgiving? No! Do you have to assume that YOU will be forgiven if you nicely chat up the other party? No, one last time!
There are many highly recommended approaches to forgiveness; all of these seem to involve at least three steps. One is: 1) Awareness, 2) Acceptance and 3) Asking (for help). A more explicitly Christian one is: you are well on the road to forgiving if (1) You no longer HATE the person who wronged you; (2) You no longer want to retaliate; (3) You can and do pray for the other. The last of these is key. Here you may well need to include a plea along the lines, Lord, Help me to forgive. God will help you if you do! Good Luck if you don’t!
What does forgiving have to do with Thomas, whose absence was a big part of the first resurrection appearance and whose presence was a big part of the second resurrection appearance? I would suggest two things: 1. WE need forgiveness for calling him Doubting; 2. He does NOT need forgiveness for being a no-show at the first appearance.
OK, as to the first, we should admit, “Tom, old chap, it is a bum rap!” We need look no further than JN 11 and JN 14 to see that Thomas was a courageous believer and seeker after understanding. Even in today’s Gospel we find his powerful confession, “My Lord and My God!” We have given him this Doubting label on the basis of one incident [BIG PAUSE] how not to judge others! Besides an honest doubt openly expressed is better than pretending to belief where there is no belief. You might also consider exactly what Thomas was struggling to believe – that this was really Jesus, NOT who Jesus was — and that, in the last analysis, he didn’t need more proof than those other 10 fellas.
Finally (together: Thanks Be to God!), we should forgive Thomas for not showing up at the first appearance, not only because it would have obviated the second appearance, but because we simply don’t KNOW why he didn’t show. We might make a case for community at a time of need, with the idea being that when the going gets tough, the tough get together with their community, their Church. We can face tragedy and sorrow with community support. Thomas may have been brooding about Jesus’ death alone. We need to grieve in our own way. And, again, we just don’t know why he was not there! We might also wonder why he didn’t take the word of the 10; should he not have believed those who were at the first appearance? Well, simply put, I think we just have to allow Thomas to be Thomas!
Well, I lied to you, I’m not done. There is one more thing. Maybe you will forgive me – at least if I make this brief. In the very last sentence of appearance two, Jesus might be seen as being critical of Thomas. But certainly the main point of this sentence is that WE can come to believe without seeing the scars, on the basis of the testimony of the Apostles, the Bible and Holy Tradition.
(From The Dammapada, TheTwin Verses in the Viking World Bible).
“He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me” – in those who harbor such thoughts hatred will never cease.
“He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me” – in those who do NOT harbor such thoughts hatred will cease.
For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time; hatred ceases by love – this is an old rule.