Homily for 2nd Sun of Easter

Low Sunday 2019

Thomas is known as “doubting Thomas”.   His name has passed down into our language: we say of someone who won’t believe that they are a “doubting Thomas”.   But I think Thomas is a most valuable person.   In many ways he represents many of us.   Thomas could be called a sceptic.  He refuses to believe what the others tell him: that they have seen the risen Christ.

Thomas would obviously like to believe this but he can’t.   No doubt he thinks they are mistaken.  He does not care how many of them say they’ve seen him.  Hehasn’t and that’s all that matters to him.   

Now I’m sure Thomas isn’t always like this.   That normally he will believe people who tell him things.   That he’d believe someone if they told him that Jesus body had been stolen; or that the Jews had destroyed the body.   But what he cannot believe, what he adamantly refuses to believe is that: this man who had died was no longer dead!    As far as Thomas is concerned they are all suffering from mass hallucination, or something.   We can have the same situation today when some people say they have seen an extraordinary vision, of the Blessed Virgin Mary of something, but most people don’t believe them. .   

I think we owe a great deal to Thomas.   What he is showing us is just how hard it is to believe in the Resurrection of Christ. It’s all right for us 2ooo years later. We’ve the benefit of all that history, and all those people who’ve testified to Christ’s resurrection; and some of them have even died as martyrs rather than deny this truth.   But isn’t there a danger that we all just take it for granted.    How many of us have thought it through?  How many of us have wondered what it must have been like to have been there?   How many of us can really understand why Thomas refused to believe the others?   

Some might argue that we don’t have to imagine all this.   Why should we?   We’ve the evidence and we know it’s true and we know that not only did Christ rise from the dead but he also ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father.    There’s no need to agonise about whether he rose from the dead or not?   Is there?   

I suggest that you don’t have to but it will help.   Putting ourselves into Thomas’ shoes helps us and helps our faith.   It helps us to appreciate the enormous mystery that we are asked to believe in.   And I do think that there is a real danger that we do take this for granted.   We may even be critical of Thomas for his attitude, for his lack of faith that had we been there we would have believed.  But before we condemn Thomas we need to recall that after Thomas saw Christ for himself he did believe.   Not only did he believe but it changed his life.  For the rest of his life he bore witness to the resurrection of Christ.  He even died a martyr because of this faith.   

It is good to ask ourselves: “has the fact that Christ has risen from the dead changed our lives?”  Has it changed our lives in the way that it changed Thomas’?    Or is it something that we believe, like a lot of other things, but that’s as far as it goes?    

 We need to contemplate the mystery of Christ’s resurrection.  We need to feel the awe that the others felt; we need, too, to sense the joy when they saw Christ; and experience the peace at his presence.   And if we do these things; if we pray in this way, then the resurrection will make a difference in our lives.

Thomas doubted but came to believe.   We believe but maybe we’ve got doubts; or maybe we’ve simply never thought about it; we just take it all for granted.    If the people of our secular and cynical generation are to believe then they’re going to need some convincing.   The more convinced we are, the easier it will be for others to believe through us.   Those who first saw the risen Christ and testified to that fact are now dead; now it’s our turn to tell the Good News.

5th Sunday of Lent

5thSunday of Lent ( C ) 2019

 Like the Prodigal son this gospel of the woman caught committing adultery is a wonderful example of the mercy of God. There is no question of her guilt; the scribes and Pharisees make it clear that she was caught “in the very act of committing adultery”. Notice their attitude. Notice how they make her stand there in full view of everybody; to shame her as much as possible. Then they ask Jesus “Moses has ordered us in the law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say”. They were testing Jesus. They suspected he would be soft on this sinner, and say let her go you bullies, but he doesn’t. If he had of done then they would have had him; he would have been contradicting the sacrosanct law of Moses; the law that Jesus himself upheld. They think they have trapped him. 

            Jesus, however, doesn’t answer their question, because in truth they are right. The law of Moses does say this. Jesus knows the law better than they do, instead he challenges them. He asks them a question: If there is one of you who had not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”. There must have been a moments silence; no one said anything, but they were thinking about what Jesus had said. Then, we are told, ‘they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest’.  That was remarkable. Jesus hasn’t contradicted the law, he hasn’t gone soft on sin, but he has gone soft on the sinner. Jesus who is the Son of God, who has come to tell us about the Father, is telling us that God is merciful. 

            What Jesus didn’t like about the scribes and Pharisees was their hypocrisy and their hard heartedness. Here they were condemning a sinner yet they were sinners themselves, and maybe even adulterous sinners. They should have been understanding. They should have been soft on the sinner. But they weren’t. In spite of their own sinfulness they wanted her to be punished. I hope they learned the lesson that Jesus was teaching them. 

            It was a lesson for us all. We are all sinners. So we should be slow to condemn others who have sinned. A good Christian will always be aware of his or her failings, weaknesses and even sinfulness. It’s not nice to have to acknowledge these. We would much rather be without sin, but we’re not. We struggle with sin every day and we fail.   And yet, paradoxically, our sins can be our salvation. I say this because a good Christian will always be praying not to sin, always asking God not to be put to the test, not to be led into temptation, as we say in the Our Father. A good Christian will know how fragile they can be; how pathetically weak at times. But it is this awareness that will keep them humble, keep them on their knees. And certainly, keep them from being so judgemental of others who fail. The prayer of the good Christian is “but for the Grace of God go I”. Such a Christian doesn’t throw stones.