Second Sunday of Easter, Year B, RCL
If we go back a few decades you may remember the TV show “At the Movies with Siskel and Ebert.” Robert Ebert and Gene Siskel were movie critics. They would talk about the moving while showing a clip or two demonstrating what they had been explaining. Each one would give the movie a thumbs up or down. If they both liked the movie it would receive two thumbs up; a phrase that they coined. Many movies just had one thumb for only one of the critics liked it. Based on our personal preferences, we tended to agree with one critic’s views more than the other. I tended to enjoy more of the movies Ebert recommends even if Siskel didn’t like it as much. The thing you could bet on, was that if both Siskel and Ebert were in agreement you could count on their rating. Two thumbs up and you know it was a great movie. Two thumbs down, don’t even bother with it. In the case of these movies critics, we can reflect on their opinions and have faith as to where we will spend our time and money. Another thing I liked about their TV show was that it left me feeling that I actually experienced the movie without actually having watched it.
There are times when people other types of experiences, unbelievable experiences that we have to experience it for ourselves. I have had friends who have been to Hawaii. They talk about the incredible sunsets; the beautiful beaches and waves; even the marvelous hikes up the volcano. They speak about Hawaii in an almost utopian, dreamlike way that it is hard to believe. Their experience leaves me with doubt because I have had similar experiences. I’ve seen sunsets and ocean beaches which were unimaginably beautiful. Are my experiences not just as good? But the only way I will know for sure, is to experience Hawaii myself.
Much in the same way, Thomas did not experience the risen Christ; a tall tales of him physically being amongst the others. This was not a ghost, but a story of a person who could actually be touched. This is an interesting paradox that makes the story so unbelievable. Jesus can enter a locked house, suddenly appearing in the midst of the disciples, like a ghost, but he also has a physical body; one that can be touched; one that can eat and drink food with the disciples. I wonder if Thomas would have accepted their story better if the experience was just a ghost story of a phantom a non-tangible body. Would that have been easier to believe? But it wasn’t and Thomas says he will have to put his finger in the mark of the nails and his hand in his side. To believe in Christ’s resurrection, Thomas has to physically touch what he believes is impossible. He has to experience it for himself.
We should notice that Thomas didn’t completely discount what they said. He has some hope in Christ’s resurrection. After all, if Thomas didn’t believe, why is he still hanging around the other disciples where he could be caught by the Roman Guard? Why didn’t he go home, back to his fishing boat and nets, like the prodigal son? Thomas was there because he had faith in Christ; even he wasn’t willing to believe his friends completely. Maybe, just maybe, Thomas’ reaction isn’t a sign of his doubt for what his friends said, but a hope of having his own personal encounter with Christ again.
How many of us, at some point in our lives, have said something to the effect of, “God if you help me out of this, I will turn my life around or I will go to church every Sunday.” Remember, Thomas is still grieving the loss of Jesus. He is looking for reason within his grief. He is almost challenging Jesus to appear to him. And like so many of our prayers, they are not answered instantly. Thomas waits and it is a week before Christ comes to him. Christ comes, not in glorious splendor, perfect and radiant; but as he was last seen, with a body wounded and scared. Thomas says he would not believe any other way. This is a time of healing for Thomas. He could begin to put his doubts behind. Christ is both wounded and whole and now through Christ, Thomas’ woundedness, his doubting, allows him to be whole.
We are not that much different. Much like Christ, we have our wounds and scars; some of them may still be very sore and sensitive. Through our wounds we may want to avoid letting people into our life; avoid letting people know who we really are. When we are ashamed of our wounds we put up walls and it is hard for us to trust others. We put on masks that prevent others from seeing us the way we really are. Through building mutual trust, we can expose our wounds to others, allowing people close to us into the parts of our lives that we would rather avoid. When we accept our wounds we may be able to advocate for others who are wounded in similar ways.
This is part of authenticity. When we remove our masks, and others see us for who we are, we are more authentic. We are allowing others to believe in us by letting them touch our wounds. This is also a sign to others that we are resurrected people. It is by our wounds that we are brought to the place where we are today. It is by our wounds that we often allow Christ into our lives. It is when we are authentic, sharing our stories of woundedness to others, that we become credible witnesses to our experiences. By being who we are and removing our masks, we build trust and authenticity allowing others to know Christ through us. It is also through Christ that our woundedness is transformed into wholeness. Through Christ, we can understand that we are perfect and complete just the way we are. Are wounds make us individuals but they also bridge the gap of difference allowing us to empathize and understand others more deeply.