Believe in the Lord and ourselves as His disciples

04-24-2022Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

What helps us to define the early church are three elements found in the first reading. You will note that the first element is the apostles. They are central because they witnessed, in a strong sense, the Resurrection. The church, as a community, is the second element. In fact one that was slowly increasing in membership. The third element is the regard others held for this community as a holy and healing group of people.All of these points come to have profound meaning in the Gospel of today where we are reminded that faith does not depend upon seeing.

All of these points come to have profound meaning in the Gospel of today where we are reminded that faith does not depend upon seeing. We learn that the faith community itself is a sign of the Death and Resurrection of Christ for all of us.

Our first reading which is from the Book of Revelation is a strongly driven “coach’s talk” at mid game to a worn down and hurt team. The talk is to remind us not to worry and give up, for the team will win in the second half. In fact if you simply believe and trust in God, you will win. The core requirement is to believe.

Our Gospel then thematizes the Easter story by telling us that life comes through faith in the Risen Lord. The story line focuses on Thomas the Twin who may be a symbol for us. Thomas, who was missing when the Lord first visited, does not want to believe what they say as witnesses. After Jesus, the narrative focuses on Thomas, the twin (perhaps the twin to us all). The other disciples, visited by the risen Lord, are filled with the gift of Christ’s peace. They rejoice. The absent Thomas doesn’t believe the witness of the others. He wants hard proof that what they saw was the real crucified Jesus. Thomas gets his proof. Jesus challenges his unbelief by offering his wounds and exhorting him, “Do not be unbelieving, but believe!”

We recognize that the words that Jesus speaks to Thomas are in fact meant for all of us. Certainly when you hear them spoken, you will agree. Jesus said: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Clearly we understand that is us. Jesus is as much with us now as he was with the original disciples over some two thousand years ago. This sort of faith is not an artificial piety given off by frowning faces and simpering noises to which we are often forced to witness. Life in fact depends on it. This story is recorded so that we may come to believe in the Risen Lord.

In our American culture we treat faith as personal and individual. It is correct that faith is personal; however God does appear to everyone individually and God is present to all of us, a community of believers. Our God is a gathering God. Jesus surrounds himself with many people and invites them to share their faith. We in the United States are raised to be individualists. True, faith is a personal response to God’s gift of faith; however note that the risen Lord does not visit each disciple individually. Rather, He is present to the whole community of believers. From the very beginning of revelation, we have God who always gathers a people. With Jesus, it is the same. Before and after His Resurrection, Jesus is surrounded by others. The invitation of the Risen Lord to us is to invite others to faith. We learn that it is the more, the better, until everyone becomes part of God’s kingdom. 

We also learn in the first reading that the early Christian community is not only a community ofbelief; it is a community of service. We are able to conclude that what we need now is to believe not only in the Lord but in ourselves as his disciples.