April 16, 20232

Second Sunday of Easter

Poor Thomas,
so often remembered as doubting Thomas,
as if he didn't believe in Jesus or his resurrection.

But who could blame him?
He wasn't there when the other disciples had their doubts removed.
They had all heard the testimony of Mary Magdalen earlier in the day,
but still they had doubted what she had said.

After all, what she said was just too much to believe.
How could a crucified man be alive and well and walking around Jerusalem,
and why would he appear to her, before he appeared to any of them?
It was just all beyond belief.

But that night, when most of the disciples were still hiding in fear,
gathered together behind locked doors and shuttered windows,
their doubts were vanquished when he suddenly appeared.
"Peace be with you," he had said,
and then, he breathed on them,
and called them to be ministers of mercy,
sharing with them the responsibility to forgive sins.

But Thomas wasn't there,
and when he returned from wherever he had been,
he had his doubts,
but he didn't doubt the Risen Lord,
he doubted his fellow disciples.

When he returned,
the doors were still locked,
the windows still shuttered.
His fellow disciple said they had seen the Lord,
told them about what he had said,
but were still acting as if he were still dead and buried.
The room was not filled with peace.
They were still afraid to go out and tell others.
And rather than being messengers of mercy,
they were unwilling to forgive Thomas for his doubts.
It was as if they still didn't believe what their own eyes had seen.

A week later,
they were still gathered behind locked doors
and shuttered windows,
still afraid to go out and proclaim the Good News,
still unwilling to forgive Thomas for his doubts.

When Jesus appears that time,
knowing what had been going on in that locked room
over the past week,
and after offering all of them peace,
he turns to Thomas,
and as a gesture if mercy,
he basically says
"Do whatever you need to do
in order to believe.
If you need to put you finger in the wholes in my hands,
then do it.
If you need to put your hand in my side,
they do that.
Whatever it takes,
know that you are forgiven
and that I believe in you."

In a way, Jesus is giving the disciples another example for them to follow.
He is doing what they should have been doing all week.
He was proclaiming the Good News of the Resurrection
and forgiving sins,
the very things he had asked them to do when he appeared to them the first time.

Today, as we remember what happened in that room so long ago,
Jesus does for us what he did for his disciples in Jerusalem.
He comes among us.
He says, "Peace be with you,"
and "As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
He breathes on us and says to us,
"Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained."

The scripture scholar, Gene LaVerdiere,
said that the second part of that sentence should be said with said with sadness.
He offered a paraphrase that might capture the meaning of the original Greek more precisely:
"If you forgive sins, they are forgiven.
If you don't, you who have experienced my mercy,
then who will?"
He claimed that Jesus was not giving the disciples the power to forgive,
but was giving us all the responsibility to do so.

Many scripture scholars believe
that the first letter of Peter was addressed to the newly baptized.
In the passage we just heard a few minutes ago,
we who were also baptized,
were reminded that we were given new hope
through God's "great mercy,"
and "the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."

We were called upon to rejoice
even if we have to face trials and tribulations,
because we have been given a gift far more precious than gold,
our faith in the Risen Lord.

"Although [we] have not seen him [we] love him;
even though we do not see him now yet [we] believe in him,
[and we] rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,
[because we have] attain[ed] the goal of [our] faith.
the salvation of [our] souls."

When Christian missionaries arrived in India
in the late 15th century,
they were astounded to discover that Thomas had been there before:
that the one who had been known for his doubts
was known there for his faith:
that the one who had seen and heard the Lord
in that locked upper room,
had brought peace and mercy,
and had witnessed to the good news of Jesus Christ;
that doubting Thomas had been the apostle who traveled the farthest,
and was still remembered not for his doubts,
but for his faith.

Though we, at times, may have had our doubts,
may the blessings we have received
in the waters of baptism,
in the bread broken and the wine poured,
and in the words we have heard,
enable us to share the good news with others.


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