Is Death in Charge?

Is Saint Thomas, famous or infamous.  To put it another way, is Saint Thomas remembered more for his confession of who Jesus is My Lord and My God.  Or, is Saint Thomas remembered more for being the one who doubted? I think if we are honest about it, it’s the latter.  More people remember Thomas as the one who had a doubt than the one who confessed that Jesus is our Lord and our God.

But he shouldn’t be remembered this way.  At the very least, we should remember that he is not the only one who doubted.  Think back to last week when we celebrated Easter Sunday, and the angel, and then Jesus himself announced to the women at the tomb that he had risen, Go and tell the brothers, he says… And when the brothers learn of it, where do they remain?  they remain in the upper room, where we find them today at the beginning of the Gospel.  They are in the upper room for fear of the Jews… Why? Because they doubt.  They can’t believe that the one whom they have heard has risen is truly alive, for they saw him tortured and dead.

But even more doubt.  We know all too well the story of the road to Emmaus.  Both Fr. Len and I reflected on this in our bulletin articles and its worth mentioning again today.  These two disciples are leaving Jerusalem. Why?  Because Jesus has died, and we hear them say on the journey home, he was a prophet might in word and in deed, but we thought that he would be the savior of the worldThey too doubted. Thomas is not alone. 

But are they the only ones who have doubt? Aren’t we just like them?  Don’t we too wonder if Jesus’ Resurrection, if Easter Sunday, even matters?  People die every day and we experience the pain and grief that comes from death or, of some other tragedy that ended lives of people too early.  And right now —  right now more than ever —  aren’t we all in some way experiencing fear and anxiety about the coronavirus and who of those close to us might be its next casualty?  Simply put, the experience of death leaves us wondering and asking the question, how can we talk about Christ’s resurrection and victory, “when it seems like death is still in charge?” (Debie Thomas: Unless See, https://www.journeywithjesus.net/lectionary-essays/current-essay?id=2607)

We are just like Saint Thomas.  And not only that, we are just like the disciples on the road to Emmaus wondering if Jesus’ victory over sin and death really matters for us?  We are just like the disciples in the upper room, overcome by the guilt and shame of our own sinfulness and afraid that the risen Jesus might actually show up.  My friends, We are in good company.

But all of these people do not allow their doubt to leave them blind, instead, they allow themselves to see the Risen Jesus. And it is in seeing Jesus alive — recognizing His resurrection, His victory, that offers us renewed hope, healing grace, and courage to be witnesses.

Renewed hope.  Christ’s resurrection reminds us that we do not have to fear death.  And so, even today, we do not need to fear the coronavirus or the end of our lives. Yes, we should be prudent and yes, we should do what we can to keep each other healthy.  But we also know that when our days on this earth near an end, a new life with Jesus awaits us in heaven.  Death has lost.  We must never forget it.  We must hold on to that sure and certain hope that we have for our loved ones who have gone before us, and that we have for ourselves, that what Jesus said to the repentant thief on cross is true for us now: today you will be with me in paradise.

Jesus offers his healing grace.  Recently, through the encouragement of a friend, I watched the movie “Heaven is for Real.”  And for those who don’t know, its about a young boy who after getting really sick, has a near death experience of heaven.  In this experience of heaven he saw Jesus, and Jesus had his wounds.  It is important that Jesus has his wounds because it is where he heals us of from our wounds.  He healed the disciples from their guilt and shame from their betrayal in our Gospel today.  Jesus heals Saint Thomas from his disbelief by having Thomas touch his wounds.  And Jesus continues to heal each of us ever day as we seek his mercy, his forgiveness, and his love.  Jesus’ wounds are the place for us to receive that healing grace.

And finally, Jesus takes these early disciples who all doubted his power, who doubted his victory over death, and his resurrection, he turns them into courageous and bold witnesses of the resurrection. The Resurrection is incomplete without experiencing the risen Christ.  If all we had was an empty tomb, there is no way that our early Christians would have had the courage to boldly proclaim the resurrection, because they would have found themselves too afraid of their death — of being condemned to die just like Jesus did.  Instead, they become convinced, because they have experienced the living and risen Jesus in their lives and they go on proclaiming the good news and the forgiveness of sins for others.

Friends if you have recently or in your life had some doubts, Good, you are in good company.  But my prayer for each of us this weekend, on this Divine Mercy Sunday, is to have a renewed hope and confidence in Christ’s victory, and in some ways more importantly a more profound experience in the Risen Jesus’ love and mercy for each one of us. Christ has healed you.  Christ has loved you and continues to love you.  But there is a world of people out there who are still doubting, who are still wondering if their sins could ever be forgiven, who are still wondering if God loves and cares about them, and are still wondering if death is in charge?  Are we going to allow them to continue to doubt and suffer, or instead, like the early Christians, are we going to go out and boldly proclaim to the world — Jesus Christ loves you, he gave his life to save you — and now he lives at your side every day to love, strengthen, and guide you?

In Christ’s love and friendship,

Fr. Stephen

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