Acts 2, 42-27 + Psalm 118 + 1 Peter 1, 3-9 + John 20, 19-31
A life-time of disappointments, failures, mistakes, betrayals, let-downs, and unfulfilled promises does eventually wear us down. Because these experiences accumulate quickly, and by the time many of us are young men and women the first bitter taste of distrust, disillusionment, and cynicism have set in. The consequences of this are often subtle, and they weave their way into our behavior and into our hearts. They make us suspicious and doubtful. They cause us to expect the worst and deny the best. Bad news travels fast, and there is a reason. Good news is unexpected and always too hard to believe. “Too good to be true” is not just an old saying, it is way of thinking.
These things are a greater obstacle than locked doors when it comes to believing that Jesus Christ has risen; and this good news is still greeted in every way possible except with immediate belief. Thomas was not the only one who did not believe. Even though the others in that room had seen, they did not believe or they never would have still been in that room a week later with doors locked. It was too good to be true.
Thomas and his friends are a perfect snapshot of their world and of ours. Their disappointment and their disillusionment left them distrustful even of what their eyes and ears told them. Cynicism and suspicion mark our days too. We don’t believe what we see and hear. If we do, we’re fools and we are going to be disappointed. The media captured by the stars and celebrities of our time continues to trick us into believing all kinds of things that eventually unravel and reveal lives of desperate loneliness and narcissism. Politicians and their would-be successors leave us cynical and frustrated often choosing between the lesser of two evils or voting against a candidate rather than voting for one, if we vote at all. Their ideologies continue to reveal a truth we would rather deny; no one is to be trusted.
To all of this and to all of us, a Gospel is proclaimed today. It is a Gospel that speaks directly to us and to all who have nodded in assent to what I have just said. It is a Gospel particularly challenging to young people who are lured into a way of thinking and living that is based only on empirical truth. “Prove it”, they say. “Show me”, they think over and over again. “Show me you love me” is their way of luring another into fleeting pleasure and destructive behavior. The search for proof that there is a God is never really God centered, but some intellectual ego trip for the sake of saying: “I did it” one way or the other.
When it comes to forgiveness, it’s the same thing. Hanging on to old hurts, memories, and grudges is the consequence often of not believing that forgiveness is possible: possible to give or possible to receive. Sometimes even when we have been forgiven by someone we have hurt, disappointed, or failed, we simply can’t move on as they would like for us to do, because lurking doubt and disbelief linger in our hearts. We wait for the other to prove what cannot be proven, so we wait for them to prove that they really did not forgive us because forgiving us means we will have to forgive ourselves.
Yet, to all of this and to all of us, a Gospel is proclaimed today. It is a Gospel of Truth, a Gospel of Hope, a Gospel of Forgiveness.
I think sometimes the apostles were slow to believe because they were slow to forgive themselves. I think sometimes that Jesus came to them again and again not to prove something, but to urge them to believe what they could not see: that they were loved and chosen, forgiven and cherished by the God who was abandoned when they could not see what had been given to them or prove what they hoped would be true.
The news here with this Gospel is that the best things can never been proven, they are simply accepted, believed, treasured and shared. The news here is that we are a people truly blessed because we have not seen but believed. Those who had seen Jesus and lived at the time of his earthly life had a very difficult and challenging time of it. They had to believe what they could not see. They had to believe that this carpenter’s son from Nazareth, of all places, was the “Son of God.” I don’t know about you, but I do not think I would like to face that challenge. Now in these times there is still a challenge similar to theirs. We must look at one another and believe that we see a child of God, someone different from us yet made in the image and likeness of God. We can’t see that, and no one can prove that, but we can believe it, and when we do everything changes and we do too.
Blessed are those who believe but cannot see. Blest with love, blest with forgiveness, blest with hope, and blest with a joy that no disappointment, no betrayal, no let-down, no mistake, failure, or sin can destroy. Cynicism, suspicion, and doubt about this good news has no place among these blessed. Happy are we who have heard this Good News and believed what we cannot see. Happy are we who gather again and again to hear the Word of God and be fed on that Word Made Flesh at this altar. Happy are we whose hope is renewed by the fellowship we share. Happy are we who have unlocked the doors of our hearts, unlocked the possibilities that come with the truth we share in Christ, and the life into which he leads.