In this reading from the gospel, Thomas wants proof. And who can blame him? Things had been going so well. Just a few days ago, Jesus had entered Jerusalem. And Thomas found himself swept along in the entourage of a super-star. Then suddenly the whole world collapsed.
Overnight Jesus was arrested… stuck up on a cross… bled white, broken and buried in a borrowed tomb. Scared out of their minds, the disciples are on the run. Thomas is certain that he and his friends are next on the hit list. So he’s not in the mood for all this happy talk about Jesus coming back from the dead. Unless he gets solid evidence that he can see and feel, he’s not buying it. He’s a realist…no fantasies for him.
Then Jesus appears and delivers proof beyond all doubt… proof you can see… proof you can touch. Thomas had adamantly declared: I will not believe. But now “Doubting Thomas” does believe and proclaims the risen Christ as My Lord and my God.
It’s an awesome, numbing experience… beyond imagination. But what does it mean? What do Thomas and the disciples do with this revelation? Are the merely witnesses to the Resurrection? Or are they participants?
Do they conclude: “Well this has all been very interesting. But we have nets to mend and fish to catch. See you in temple sometime.” Or do they answer: “Here I am Lord.”
Scripture and tradition tell us the miraculous impact the Resurrection had on their lives… transforming cowards into champions, the uneducated into evangelists, sinners into saints. More to the point today: What is the impact of the Resurrection on our lives… right here, right now? For an answer, we turn to another Thomas… Thomas Merton who tells us: “It’s not enough to believe in the Resurrection, we (too) must participate in it.”
That’s what makes the Resurrection different from every other miracle. There were individual participants in the healings, in the changing of water into wine, even in feeding the multitude. The benefits and beneficiaries of those wonders were finite.
But the benefits and the beneficiaries of the Resurrection are infinite. In Christ, God has begun the work of the new Creation… totally symmetrical in wonder and implication with the original Creation. God is remaking the world… starting with Jesus.
Clearly, the Resurrection changes everything… bringing heaven and earth together… giving purpose and perspective to our lives… making us both the beneficiaries and the legacy of the risen Christ.
We are the beneficiaries… because now life has new meaning. We are a different species altogether. We are showered with grace. We are cleansed of our sins. We are meant for eternal happiness. That’s because Jesus was not just another gentle holy man who ran afoul of the tough guys and got the chop. Sadly, history is full of those stories. But the risen Jesus is infinitely different. He is God, the Son of the Father, come to earth for our salvation, in total command of both life and death. As his legacy, our lives were never meant to be business as usual, with a religious flourish thrown in at Christmas and Easter.
You may believe in the Universal Theory of Relativity, but unless you are a practicing atomic physicist, that belief has little impact on the way you live your daily life. Not so with belief in the Resurrection. We are the living legacy of the risen Christ. Beyond private, personal belief, our lives are meant to proclaim: He is risen. Christ lives in us. He is risen in us. We are the Body of Christ …the risen Christ.
For us, the Resurrection cannot be some abstraction, only peripheral to our real lives. As Christians, the Resurrection gives us meaning and direction. It necessarily shapes our thoughts and actions. Thomas Merton captured this centrality when he wrote that Christianity gives us the power to confidently face the inevitability of suffering and death “… because the Resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of meaning.” In the risen Christ, death is not a destination. It is a passage. Beyond belief in the Resurrection lies actively living and sharing the joy of the Resurrection… both now and in eternity. And that’s as good as life ever gets. Alleluia!