Easter 2nd Sunday – POWER OF BELIEF

Easter 2nd Sunday

Acts 5: 12-16                            Rev. 1: 9-11a, 12-13, 17-19                   Jn. 20: 19-31

POWER OF BELIEF

Theme:

Resurrection is possible when we dare to die what is limited.

———————————————————————–

Frightening Yet Attractive:

Diogenes was a famous wise man and philosopher in Greece. He broke all taboos of his society and lived a care-free life. He was found naked at times, did not have anything as his possession. He was so wise that he transcended many of the things an ordinary person considers to be important. His very life was a threat to the people who were self-centred, amassing wealth, glory etc.. It is said that Alexander the Great, who was the contemporary of Diogenes, to whom Diogenes did not give much regard, was both threatened and attracted by the personality of Diogenes. Diogenes’ simplicity, unassuming way of life was in sharp contrast to the way of life of  Alexander who had a perverted notion of success and glory. This made Diogenes a threatening figure to Alexander. However Alexander was also attracted towards Diogenes since Diogenes had a charisma and higher level of happiness which Alexander missed in his life. Once Alexander said, “If I had not been born as Alexander, I would have wished to be born as Diogenes.”

Christianity too is both frightening and attractive at the same time. It is threatening because it invites us to question many of our assumptions, and  comfort-seeking life. It invites us to die to ourselves. However it is attractive because it promises a higher level of happiness/fulfilment a person would have by dying to oneself. The words of the Son of Man in the first reading, “I was dead” points to this threatening aspect. However the following words, “I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades” point to a higher level of life. It was because of this threatening aspect “none of the rest dared to join them (i.e. the early Christians).” However that ‘the other Jews held the early Christians in high esteem’ shows that the fellow Jews were attracted towards Christianity (the first reading).

One important thing that we notice in the gospel of John and in the book of Acts is that both of them present the extraordinary events of healings, exorcisms etc., not so much as miracles, but as signs. The very first sentence in the first reading is “Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles.” Miracles invoke awe and wonder, and nothing more. Signs point to a greater possibility and a better life.

Jesus and the disciples, using all their miracles and extraordinary acts as signs, communicated the message that life can be lived at a much higher level. In order to enjoy a better life of greater possibilities, it is important that we are ready to die to what is limited and narrow. The death and resurrection of Jesus is all about dying to the limited in order to embrace the unlimited. Though the aspect of dying to the limited is frightening, yet the aspect of a greater possibility of life is very inviting.

Courageous Yet Doubtful:

Looking at the gospel, we can say that St. Thomas was a very courageous person. For example, when Jesus learnt about the death of Lazarus at Bethany, he was getting ready to go to Judea. However the other disciples were unwilling, citing the reason that the Jews were trying to stone at him (Jn. 11:8). At this juncture, it was Thomas who said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Morever, while, after the death of Jesus, all the other disciples shut themselves within a room out of fear of the Jews, it was Thomas alone who had guts to go out, and it was because of this reason he was not with the disciples when Jesus appeared.

Though courageous, St. Thomas had his share of limitations too. Unbelief was one of the limitations he suffered from. The gospel reveals that Thomas was sceptical of the resurrection of Jesus. He was not ready to believe it. There could be more than one reason for his unbelief in the resurrection of Jesus. May be he had a very logical and rational mind that he could not believe anything that was beyond the everyday happening. Or it may be because he wanted to have a personal and direct experience of the Risen Jesus. Or, seeing the disciples being cowardly and spineless even after witnessing the resurrection, Thomas would have come to the conclusion that the disciples were just lying to him. Whatever it is, his unbelief had a positive side too. He was privileged to have a direct experience of the Risen Lord. Much more he had the advantage of touching and feeling the Risen body.

The resurrection-experience completely transformed St. Thomas. He continued to be the same courageous Thomas, yet the only difference is that the courage was now begun to be used for the sake of the Kingdom.  He was the one who travelled the furthest to preach the gospel to a country which was different in all the ways – culture, language, climate etc.. Needless to say that he risked his life more than other disciples.

Here it has to be noted that the unbelief was not exclusively the problem of St. Thomas alone. It was the problem of early Christian community. Among the early Christians, there were people who were ready to assign greater importance to the historical Jesus, and reluctant to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. It was to this group, St. John quotes the words of Jesus “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

About the Author