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Homily for 4/15/07 - Thomas Sunday - Gifts of Love

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  • Fr David Moser
    John 20:19-31 My brothers and sisters, see how great is the love that our Lord Jesus Christ has for us. In these brief paragraphs, the Evangelist recounts for
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 15, 2007
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      John 20:19-31

      My brothers and sisters, see how great is the love that our Lord Jesus
      Christ has for us. In these brief paragraphs, the Evangelist recounts
      for us just a few of the events that occurred following the
      Resurrection. These things he tells us so that we too might have no
      doubts but that we might believe and that our faith might be made strong.

      After the crucifixion, the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ were
      fearful. They still did not know what to think or what to do. They knew
      that the rulers of the people, the Pharisees and the council of the High
      Priest had succeeded in the bold move of arresting and crucifying Jesus
      Christ. The apostles were afraid that they were next and so scattered
      and went into hiding. Then on the third day, the incredible news of the
      Resurrection came to them. First the women who had gone to the tomb to
      embalm the body came back with an amazing story of an empty tomb and a
      vision of angels. Mary Magdalene claimed to have seen the risen Lord
      with her own eyes. The disciples did not know what to make of this, but
      hope began to build in them that all was not lost. Peter and John ran to
      the tomb and found it just as the women had said, that the stone was
      rolled away and the tomb was empty. They began to dare to believe that
      Christ was risen from the dead. Then Cleopas and Luke arrived and told
      how Jesus had journeyed with them on the road and was known to them in
      the breaking of bread (one of the first reminders that from the very
      beginning the disciples kept the Lord’s supper as He instructed them).

      From these events the disciples began to believe that Jesus was indeed
      the Son of God, that He was indeed risen from the dead and that all was
      not lost. But still, they were afraid of the Jews, for they had not yet
      received the boldness and courage of faith that was given to them by the
      coming of the Holy Spirit. In order that they might not be captured,
      they came together but secretly behind closed and locked doors. On the
      same day that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, after Peter and John had
      run to see the empty tomb themselves and returned with the seeds of
      hope, Jesus appeared to the gathered disciples. Though the doors were
      locked, He was suddenly in their midst and they were afraid, disturbed
      at this miraculous appearance of the Lord. And His appearance is the
      first of these gifts that He gave to us out of His love. He saw the fear
      and doubt of His beloved children and so He Himself came to them to
      alleviate their fear and to put to rest all their doubts. And then He
      gave to them the second gift of His love, for seeing their disturbance
      at His appearance, He said, “Peace be unto you”. His peace, which passes
      all understanding was given to the apostles that they might have no
      confusion or disturbance in the presence of their Lord and Master. Then
      He gave a third gift to them and to all the Church saying again to the
      disciples, “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” In this he
      commissioned them as apostles going to the whole world to share the
      Gospel of the Resurrection and to bring the Church to all men. And in
      order to empower them to do this, He breathed on them – just as at the
      Creation He breathed the breath of life in Adam so now He breathed the
      breath of the new life into the Apostles. See here is a fourth great
      gift, the Holy Spirit, Whom the disciples received here as a seed
      planted in them and Who would come upon them in power on the day of
      Pentecost. This was the fourth gift. And the fifth gift of love followed
      again immediately when He said to them, “whose sins you forgive, they
      are forgiven; whose sins you retain they are retained.” This power to
      forgive sins, which up until now only He had held in Himself is the
      power of life. Sin separates us from God, sin is death to the soul, but
      the disciples were given the power to eradicate sin and so bring life to
      the soul again. They were not given at this time the power to physically
      raise the dead (although that gift did indeed come to them at the
      descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost) but they were given the more
      important gift of the power to give life to the soul which was dead from
      sin.

      Just in this short visit to His disciples, our Lord gave us these five
      gifts of His love. However, He was not finished, for Thomas, one of the
      twelve, was not with them that day. He had not yet returned to meet the
      others after they scattered after the Resurrection. When he did arrive,
      he expressed doubts – the same doubts that the others had initially had.
      And again, eight days later, on the first day of the week – one week
      exactly from our Lord’s previous visit – He came again to them in the
      upper room. He knows the hearts of men and before Thomas could even
      express his doubts, before he could even say a word, Jesus came to him
      and offered His hands and His side saying to Thomas “be not faithless,
      but believing” This is another great gift of love that our Lord pours
      out upon us – it does not matter how weak we are, it does not matter how
      often doubts assail us, it does not even matter if we say ridiculous
      things as Thomas had said about putting his finger in the print of the
      nails and his hand into the wound on the side of Christ – our Lord sees
      the condition of our heart and He Himself comes to us and relieves all
      fear, all doubt, all foolishness and gives to us exactly what we need so
      that we might not be faithless, but believing.

      All these great gifts of love our Lord gave to the disciples and to us
      in the days following His Resurrection. He Himself comes to us when we
      are afraid and confused and don’t know what to do. He offers to us the
      comfort of His peace, which passes all understanding. When we receive
      this peace, it does not matter whether we have all the answers, but
      simply that we are filled with the love of God that we no longer worry,
      for we know and trust that He will provide all that is needed. This
      simple step – to receive these two gifts, the coming of Christ to us and
      His peace – is sometimes one of the hardest for us for we perversely
      like to cling to our fears and doubts. In our pride we want to ‘figure
      it out myself’ and so we often do not notice the coming of Christ and we
      resist His peace by placing our trust not in Him but in ourselves. But
      He does come to us, not once, but whenever we have doubts, just as he
      came to the apostles in the upper room not once, but twice so that they
      might all be strengthened in faith – even Thomas who still had his
      doubts. Knowing that our Lord gives us His presence and His peace, it is
      necessary for us to look for these gifts, to actively surrender our self
      reliance, our selfish control so that we might instead rely upon Christ
      and recognize and receive from Him the gifts of His presence and His peace.

      So that we might not be alone in the world, but so that we might be
      joined to one another in Himself, He gave to us the Holy Apostles to
      plant the seeds of belief and of His Church throughout the whole world.
      You and I here who have embraced the Gospel and who have entered into
      His Body through the mysteries of Baptism and Chrismation are the fruits
      of those seeds. In order to give life to those seeds the gift of the
      Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life was entrusted first to the
      apostles and then to the whole Church. It is this life of the Spirit
      which animates and fills each one of us. And that life is bestowed upon
      us by the forgiveness of sins – another gift given to the apostles on
      our behalf by our Lord Jesus Christ. Just as we receive the life of the
      Holy Spirit in the Church, so also that life is established in us by the
      forgiveness of sins, the authority for which was given by Jesus Christ
      to His apostles on this first visit following His Resurrection.

      See then, my brothers and sisters, how we are loved by our Lord. He
      Himself comes to us and gives us His peace so that our fears and doubts
      and confusion might be abolished – and He comes not once but again and
      again. He sent the Holy Apostles throughout the whole world, to all men
      that even you and I who are so far removed by time and space from the
      Resurrection might receive these gifts of divine love. He gives us the
      life of the Holy Spirit and by forgiveness of sins rescues us from the
      death of sin. How great is the love of God for us. What can we do in
      return but to love Him all the more.



      --
      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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