An Assured Hope – Br. Lain Wilson

Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle

Habakkuk 2:1-4
Hebrews 10:35—11:1
John 20:24-29

What would it mean for you to have proof?

This question is in the background of P. D. James’s novel Death in Holy Orders. A theological college holds a papyrus that purports to disprove the Resurrection. Surely, if this document proves to be authentic, the inspector asks one of the priests on staff, if it is hard proof about something that had until then only been a belief, this would surely be relevant to your faith. “My son,” the priest responds, “for one who every hour of his life has the assurance of the living presence of Christ, why should I worry about what happened to earthly bones?”[1]

Earthly bones very much worry the apostle Thomas, whom we celebrate today. Bones and flesh, blood and wounds—the physicality of Jesus’s body, the fleshly reality of his friend and teacher. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (Jn 20:25) Jesus lets Thomas see and feel his body, giving him the proof he seeks. But not without a rebuke: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (Jn 20:29).

Believing without seeing, “the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1)—this is how the letter to the Hebrews defines faith. We cannot receive the same confirmation that Thomas did. Whatever our desire, we cannot reach out and put our fingers into the nail wounds. We cannot encounter Jesus in the same way that Thomas did. That encounter with the risen Christ changed him.

But the fact of that encounter gives us hope that the ways we encounter Jesus are every bit as real, every bit as trustworthy, and every bit as likely to leave us changed. The experience of the apostles with the risen Jesus invites us to trust, trust in the living presence of Christ, in every hour, in every minute, of our lives. The witness of the apostle Thomas is an assurance that what we hope for, what we trust in, is not in vain.

Hope is why we persist in trust, in belief, in faith, despite whatever our eyes may not see, despite whatever our hands may not touch. Hope drives us to stand at our post, as did the prophet Habakkuk, and keep watch. We keep watch for the coming of our Lord, knowing he will surely come. He will surely come, and he is already here, a living presence in every hour of our lives.

What more proof do you need?

Amen.


[1] P. D. James, Death in Holy Orders (New York: Random House, 2001), 245.

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