Here is my sermon preached this morning at the Chapel of Bethany Convent, Order of St. Anne, Arlington, MA. I got many comments in appreciation of sharing my thoughts, and subsequent use of Thomas’ reply to Jesus, “My Lord and My God” as a prayer of affirming faith.
Bethany Convent, OSA, Arlington, MA
[John 20:19-31] The faith of Thomas
The Gospel Reading for this Sunday tells us about the first two appearances of Jesus to his Apostles after his Resurrection. Thomas, who was not there the first time, was with them the second time. We can learn something from this second time.
Thomas is often referred to as “Doubting Thomas”. I don’t think that is an appropriate way of referring to him. Doubt implies a negative way of looking at life. Thomas was not really negative. He had a literal way of thinking about things.
He had to visualize some concepts–to see some proof—before they could fully be accepted. The reality of the Resurrection was one of those concepts. Thomas could not accept the truth of the Resurrection simply on the word of those who had witnessed Jesus’ risen presence.
When Jesus appeared to the disciples that second time he greeted all of them, “Peace be with you,” as he had the first time. Then he addressed Thomas directly, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Without a pause Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!” (vv. 26-28)
I share the opinion of Abp. William Temple on this, that Thomas did not touch the marks of the wounds– did not need to. The sound of Jesus’ voice and the sight of Jesus’ wounds confirmed the faith of Thomas. He believed! (Cf. Wm. Temple, Readings in St. John’s Gospel, p.390).
The day before my ordination as a priest, fifty-six and a half years ago, Bishop Spence Burton, SSJE, took me into the Chapel at the Monastery for a prayer of preparation. That year, 1958, December 21 was the Fourth Sunday of Advent. In other years St. Thomas’ Day is observed on December 21. As I knelt before the High Altar Bp. Burton gave me a blessing.
Then he gave me those words of Thomas’s reply to Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” He suggested that I pray them silently at Jesus’ words of institution in the Eucharistic Prayer, as my own prayer of affirmation. I have done this down through the years. More recently I say them in my other liturgical languages, Cantonese and Japanese. No matter what language is used, these are words that come out of faith–as affirmation of faith. It is affirmation of faith as Thomas affirmed his when he saw Jesus and heard his voice. Let them be that for you, no matter what words you use!
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