Fr. Theodore Paraskevopoulos · April 12, 2010
On St. Thomas Sunday, Fr. Ted reminds us that if we choose not to believe, no amount of miracles will convince us otherwise.
In today’s Gospel, a week after the Holy Resurrection of Christ, the greatest feast of all feasts, after we witnessed the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we hear right away about doubting. And it’s quite natural because always there will be doubts in our hearts and in our minds because we are human beings and we are weak. And sometimes, the difficulties of life, and the fears of life get in our way, so we begin to doubt and to question, not only ourselves, but Christ himself, our faith, and sometimes even the existence of God. This is obviously something that we all must go through, and sometimes we go through it in many different stages of our lives.
And so, in today’s Gospel we hear obviously of one of the Apostles, who are one of the closest people to Christ, Thomas, who even though he saw all the miracles that Christ did, was with him during the three years of his ministry, and then saw the crucifixion, and yet could not believe in the resurrection even though all his brothers told him that they saw him while he was away. And so he had difficulty believing. The Greeks have a saying, and they call Thomas the, in English we say “Doubting Thomas,” which is actually a much better translation, a much better phrase to use for Thomas. And the Greeks call him “Non-believing Thomas,” if you translated the Greek apistia which is “non-belief.” But the more appropriate thing is “doubting,” because it wasn’t that Thomas didn’t have belief, it just meant that he had difficulty believing in some of the teachings of Christ. And so, mainly the resurrection.
And so, it’s very important to separate those two and to distinguish the difference between unbelief, which is atheism, and difficulty to believe because we, too, many times, although we consider ourselves Christian and we generally believe in a god, we generally believe in the Holy Scripture, in the teachings of Christ, sometimes we have difficulty as well during our journey, during our lives, to believe in the resurrection. To believe not only in the resurrection of Christ, but to believe in our own resurrection at the Second Coming, to believe in miracles, to believe that there is a God that can save us. And this is quite natural because we don’t see God. And because we don’t see him, we have difficulty communicating with him. And so, sometimes, it’s very hard.
And yet, in our day and age, with so much technology and so many things going on and so many different denominations and so many different religions out there, each one teaching its own thing. Again, it is very very difficult to believe in miracles. We believe that miracles are something that happened a long time ago in the biblical times and we don’t actually think that they happen today, although, that is wrong as well. Because if we look carefully we can see that there are many many different miracles that happened throughout the world everyday. And yet we usually dismiss them as maybe a fluke, or something that could be naturally explained, or simply we just refuse to believe in them. One of these examples is the miracle of the Holy Light that happens in Jerusalem every Holy Saturday, where the light comes miraculously to the holy tomb of Christ, and then is spread throughout the whole church. This has been happening for two thousand years. It is something that cannot be explained by modern-day science, and yet many people still choose, obviously, not to believe.
In the end, and as the Gospel reminds us today, belief is something that is our own choice. Because God gives us free will and he gives us the ability to believe in him and worship or to even reject him, even though he is our father. And so the belief has to start from here, not from the external. And if we don’t have that belief, if we don’t choose to believe in God, if we do not choose to believe in Christ, than it doesn’t matter how many miracles we see in front of us, we will always be able to explain them away or find some kind of excuse.
I was reading a theologian who was writing on this topic about belief and the difficulty of belief in the modern age. And he was saying that it’s actually not so difficult to understand why people can believe in something they do not see. Because, he says, it happens every day in our daily lives, but we just don’t pay attention to it, but when it comes to God, we have a big problem. And he used the example of rain falling at night. He said that, you know, you can wake up in the morning and you can open your door and you can see all this water everywhere. Everything is wet. And so we deduce from seeing the effects of the rain that obviously it rained during the night. We do not see the rain, we may have been sleeping, we may have not even heard it. And yet, we have faith because our logic dictates to us, that because everything is wet, at some point during the night it rained. This is a form of belief, it’s a form of believing in something we did not see because we witnessed the effects of it. We witness what the event has left behind.
And this author related that to the belief in the resurrection. Although we are not there, we are not there to witness it, we are not there to celebrate with the Apostles, we see the effects of the resurrection throughout the course of history. We see the effects through two thousand years of Christianity. We see it in the lives of the saints. We see it in the fathers of the church. We see it in the multiple miracles that have happened throughout the last two thousand years, and so we see that whatever Christ spoke about and taught in the four Gospels and his resurrection as well has actually been verified through the lives and actions of his followers, through the church itself. And this is why we come together. This is why we pray together. This is why have services. And we have this rich liturgical life of the church to remind us that we are the heirs of the resurrection. We are the children of the light as we said last week at the resurrection. And this is there to give us hope, to give us strength, so that in the difficult times when sometimes we don’t lose our faith but we have difficulty finding it, the church helps us find it, gives us the strength to go on, and, so that we may truly call ourselves Christians.
It’s important to remember that to call ourselves Christians, that name is based on the resurrection. There are many denominations out there which will claim that we can call ourselves Christians but we don’t have to believe in the resurrection. That is flawed. If we look at all the early Christian writing, if we go back to the earliest years of the church, we will see that the very first Christians and the very first fathers and saints of the church always affirmed that the resurrection is the center of the Christian faith. “If Christ did not resurrect,” as the Apostle Paul says, “then our faith is in vain.” Why? Because if he did not resurrect from the dead, therefore he is not God and man, therefore there is no salvation for us. The resurrection is the center of our faith, and if we do not believe in that, then we really have to revisit the idea of being a Christian and what that means for us. Amen.