Saturday, April 10, 2010

St. Thomas and Practicing Resurrection

Tomorrow, the first Sunday following Easter Day, is traditionally the day we read the Gospel account of Jesus appearing to Thomas "the doubter." I identify strongly with Thomas, for three reasons. First, his name. Second, I was priested (ordained to the priesthood) on St. Thomas Day (December 21). Third, and most important, Thomas has a refreshing "show me!" spirit about him. I really like that. He isn't willing to take Jesus' resurrection "on faith," especially faith in the word of his fellow disciples! Nope, he wants some hard evidence. Such a demand has been derided and demeaned for centuries with the label "the doubter." In an age in which the word of the institutional church has less and less credibility, such a Thomas-like demand is what more and more seekers are echoing. My colleague Frank Logue addresses the question "How do we know that Jesus' resurrection was real?" in this post on his blog.

Jesus doesn't spend lots of time chiding Thomas for his unbelief. Rather, he presents his wounded hands, feet, and side for Thomas to touch, eliciting perhaps the first post-resurrection Statement of Faith: "My Lord and my God!" Recall that it is Thomas that says, in response to the disciples' fear of going to Jerusalem with Jesus to (it turns out) raise Lazarus: "Let us also go, that we may die with him." (John 11:16b). Thomas isn't afraid to make the hard call and to put his life on the line (as he and most of the rest of the disciples would later do) in response to Jesus' call. In some ways, I like to think of Thomas as the first post-modern Christian: he doesn't want just words, he wants the experience of the risen Christ.

Don't we all want that? Don't we all want a fresh, vivid experience of resurrection life? Sometimes, if we're very fortunate, we get a vision or a spiritual experience of the resurrected Jesus. More often, though, we experience resurrection in the midst of everyday life. There is even post on a Spirituality and Practice site that discusses how to practice resurrection as a spiritual discipline. Because, frankly, we are the body of Christ, even (and perhaps especially) with all of our wounds and shortcomings. When we reach out in love and care to another person, we both do so to Christ and do so as Jesus' hands and feet in the world. The miracle of Easter is not simply the miracle of Jesus' resurrection from the dead, important as that is, but the miracle that resurrection happens each and every day, in ways large and small and, yes, in the midst of death and despair. Just as Jesus appeared to Thomas and offered him and experience of resurrection life, Jesus also appears to and through us with the same offer. The question is, will we recognize Jesus when we see him and will we take the offer?

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