Sermon on the Sunday of Thomas | Russian Oldbeliever Church

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Sermon on the Sunday of Thomas

Brothers and sisters, today we commemorate holy Apostle Thomas. The Gospel read during the Divine Liturgy tells us about an important and edifying event. In the evening, on the day of the Resurrection of Christ, when the doors of the house in which His disciples were gathered were locked due to fear of reprisals from the Jews, Jesus Christ suddenly appeared and, standing among the disciples, said to them, “Peace be with you!” Having said this, He showed them His hands, feet and ribs. The disciples were overjoyed to see the Lord. But when they announced that to Apostle Thomas, he answered them, “Unless I see His wounds and place my finger in them, I will not believe in His Resurrection.” Eight days later, the disciples gathered again, and Thomas was now with them. Then Jesus Christ appeared to them when the doors were shut, greeting them with the words, “Peace be with you!” Then He addressed Apostle Thomas, “See my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Apostle Thomas, convinced of the Resurrection of the Saviour, exclaimed: “My Lord and my God!” – to which Jesus Christ replied: “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and have yet believed” (Jn. 20:19).

Sermon on the Sunday of Thomas

The first words uttered by the Saviour during the first meeting with the disciples after Resurrection are very significant: “Peace be with you!” This amazing greeting of Christ helps us to understand that peace between His disciples, and indeed all people is, according to God’s plan, the highest spiritual value, that there can be no fullness of happiness, joy and prosperity without peace and love. This wish of peace is extremely necessary in our time, when strife and conflict multiply, when peace is disturbed by violence and war.

Apostle Thomas doubted the Resurrection of Christ when other disciples told Him about it. Who was the apostle Thomas, and why did he doubt? The Gospel tells for the first time about Apostle Thomas when Christ informs His disciples that He must return to Judea in order to raise His friend Lazarus from the dead. The disciples tried to persuade the Teacher to stay because of the danger of being killed, and only the Apostle Thomas said: “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (Jn. 11:16). Apostle Thomas, out of love and faithfulness to Christ, was ready to die with Him, to share His fate. You do not hear such words often, they are not forgotten either by people or by God.

The Lord appeared to Apostle Thomas, because Thomas, not yet knowing about Christ’s victory over death, had been ready to die with Him.

Apostle Thomas, who showed such loyalty to the Teacher that he was ready to share death with Him, now does not believe when the disciples tell him that they saw the risen Christ. Why? Is it not because, before the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, strengthening their faith, they remained the same timid, wavering people? How could Thomas believe that Christ was risen when the witnesses of the Resurrection hid from the Jews behind a closed door? In order to accept the news of the Resurrection, the news that God had really conquered death, Apostle Thomas needed more certainty than just joyful words, because with that message the whole world should be transformed from temporary life into eternal life. And when the Saviour appeared before him in power and radiance of glory, but with the body of the crucified Christ, which testified to the suffering and endless love of God, Thomas believed, bowed down to Him and uttered a triumphant testimony of his faith, “My Lord and my God!”

And although the Lord then rebuked Apostle Thomas, saying: “Because you have seen Me, you have believed,” did Apostle Thomas hear this reproach, was he upset because of it, when he was absorbed in the joy of seeing his Lord and God again? I think, that now he was ready to endure not only reproaches, but any suffering, just to prove his faith and love for Saviour Jesus.

Apostle Thomas, like other apostles, later showed the firmness of his faith to the whole world. Can those, to whom we, believers in the Resurrection of Christ, speak about His Resurrection, to whom we declare that He is risen, that He conquered death, believe us today? How can they believe us if at times, like His disciples who stayed behind closed doors, we can only rejoice in the news of the Resurrection, while remaining the same imperfect, unchanged people afraid of death and suffering? Bishop Mikhail Semyonov writes: “Does our life always speak of faith in the Risen One? Has this faith left a mark on our deeds? Does it make us light in the midst of the dark world? Do our deeds shine before people so that they glorify the Heavenly Father because of us?”

Therefore we, believers in the Resurrection of Christ, must become a chosen, renewed people, that is, those new people who believe in eternal life. Having partaken in the victory of Christ over death, we must live the triumph of this victory, the eternal life of the risen Christ. Then we will not be afraid of suffering and even death, we will not be afraid of anything in the world, because no one can take our life away from us. And therefore, others will see in us people who live for eternity, who have learned to love sacrificially, even if it costs suffering and death, who have learned to believe, hope and win, as our Lord and our God did in love and victory over death!

The Lord promises us bliss if we, not seeing Him, believe, if we understand that the issue of faith and unbelief is a matter of life and death. For the joy to meet Christ, to believe without proof is the pledge of the happy bliss of meeting with Him in the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore blessed is Apostle Thomas, who saw and believed; blessed are all who have not seen, but have believed, and who live in unshakable hope of meeting the Lord.

True, fiery and steadfast faith is not easily attainable; it is both the gift of God and the feat of man. Faith is the key to the Kingdom of God, the Lord says about it, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mk. 9:23). A living, heartfelt and strong faith fills the hearts of Christians with joy and, at the same time, gives great boldness in turning to God in prayer.

But on the way to faith, a person who is looking for the truth may have a doubt, distrust of someone else’s testimony, a desire to be convinced of everything from his own experience. Before meeting with the Lord after the Resurrection Apostle Thomas was such a sincere seeker of truth, but the one doubting, wavering in his faith in the Risen Christ, since that miracle exceeded the power of human reason due to its extraordinary nature. We cannot call such doubting disbelief malicious or criminal, but we must try to avoid it as a spiritual imperfection.

But there is also an embittered, deliberate unbelief. People who do not want or are unable to believe in God suffer with such disbelief, although faith sometimes clearly and persistently knocks on their souls. They demand obvious scientific evidence of faith, but when they receive it, they are not enlightened. These people can be representatives of science, dreaming to transform and make humanity happy by their research, while rejecting the truth of God’s Revelation and His being. Ten academicians of Russia showed themselves to be such mentally proud and ambitiously stubborn in disbelief, having signed an open letter to the President of Russia, warning him of the danger of a rapprochement between the authorities and the Church. The high priests and scribes suffered with similar unbelief in the times of Jesus Christ — we know what sad fate those blind leaders brought to the Jewish people. At the present time, stubborn deniers of God, who at the same time consider themselves educated and enlightened, lead to the destruction of morality and the downfall of the fatherland.

There is also frivolous disbelief. This is the disbelief of those who do not try to apply labour to grasp and comprehend the truth. They succumb to the influence of unbelievers, do not have firm convictions, they are easily carried away by false preachers and all kinds of false teachings. This unbelief, which is especially characteristic of young people, can be eliminated through good Christian education in the family and in the church.

Let us, brothers and sisters, try to turn away from any unbelief as a kind of mental illness and crime, to educate and strengthen our loved ones in faith, especially children, turning them on the true path, showing them a personal example of sincere and firm faith, without hesitation and doubt. Repeating the Gospel words: “I believe, O Lord, help my unbelief,” let us pray to the Lord to strengthen us on the path to the truth, as He strengthened the apostles, forgiving their sins of doubt and lack of faith, after which they testified “that whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins through His name” ( Acts 10:43), because for their live and active faith the Lord will favour us with His grace-filled fellowship and eternal salvation in the Kingdom of God.

Brothers and sisters, although we do not see the Saviour with bodily eyes, let us begin to look at Him with the eyes of faith, fulfilling His holy commandments. And let us hope that, as a reward for our faith, the generous and merciful Lord will lead us into the abodes of paradise, where there will be no sorrow or sighing, but eternal life and joy in unity with our risen Lord Jesus Christ!