When we are closed in our homes during this health crisis, we are reminded of the Holy Apostles who were also closed in their home due to fear. Despite the closed door, God was present with His Apostles, just as He was present with you, and is present with you, in your home every time you light your candles and say your prayers as a family. Just because you can’t see Him, doesn’t mean He isn’t there with you. God is always with you.
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Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Be Transfigured, where we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We pray that this episode is a blessing to you and will inspire you to rededicate your life to Jesus Christ. We invite you to join us for worship or study at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where visitors are always welcome. We'll be back in a few moments to share some more information about our ministry.
In reflecting upon this morning's gospel, my brothers and sisters, I realized that we have something in common with the disciples. Of course, in the gospels, we always have something in common with the disciples and the believers, but I think in this particular gospel we have a special something in common. If we remember the first words of the gospel, the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews. We are, although not locked in our homes, we similarly are closed in. We have been asked by our health officials, by our leaders to stay in home as much as possible. So, in a similar way to the apostles, although they were afraid because the Jews were out to kill them. We are afraid that the virus is out to kill us. So, in a very similar way, we have something in common with the apostles in this morning's gospel because the gospel this morning, my brothers and sisters, this Sunday of Thomas is not so much about Thomas' doubt because as we know, Thomas was a man of courage.
He was the only one of the disciples that was not hiding in the house. He was out and about when Jesus first appeared and he says to the apostles, "I will not believe unless I can touch him, unless I can actually physically see with my own eyes and touch with my own hands." Thomas says, "I will not believe." And yet the other apostles were not given that test. They were closed in at home and Jesus appeared to them, peace be with you. And Jesus said, "Here, look, here I am." Why do you think this is? Because of what happens at the second half of the gospel. Eight days later, which is today, the eighth day of Pascha, Christ appeared to them again, they were closed in again in their house. And this time Thomas was with them and Christ appears. That's the story, but the essence, my brothers and sisters, for us is the dialogue that takes place between Christ and Thomas. Thomas says to the Lord, "My Lord and my God..." This is after Christ said, "Look, come touch me, feel me. I'm real."
Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed." We have not seen Christ walking the face of the earth like the disciples did, like the hundreds and thousands who saw him in those three years of his ministry. It says in the scriptures that after his resurrection he appeared to hundreds, so we are not like them. We did not see Christ walking the face of the earth and yet we believe. We believe in his resurrection. We believe in his reality even though we have not seen him and that unseeing, that inability to see God in front of us and still believe, is why we have been blessed. Even though we were stuck in our homes through all of Holy week and Pascha, it doesn't mean that Christ did not enter in to be with you that day.
Yes, we could not receive the light. Yes, we could not receive communion. Yes, we could not receive the flowers and the palms and all the other blessings that we have from Holy week, but that does not mean God was not with you in your home. Each evening when you lit your candles and lit your incense and as a family gathered in front of your TV screen or your computer screen or your iPhone or your iPad, whatever it was that you were using to live stream the services, God was with you in that moment in your home and his peace was with you. That is what got us through the past couple of weeks and that reality of believing in God even when we cannot see him, he is always with us. There is never a moment when God is not right next to us holding our hand, sometimes even holding us up, and that is the great gift of this morning's gospel.
We, my brothers and sisters, don't have the luxury of the apostles, of being able to see Jesus walk around the earth. We have to see him in different ways. We have to see him in our prayers. We have to see him in the life of the church. We have to see him in each other. When we act in love and we express the love of God to each other, that's how we get to see God. We get to see God in the life of faithful Christians. We get to see God in the life of the poor when we help them. Do we believe? Of course we do. And so, now my brothers and sisters, comes the real challenge for us as Christians, as this quarantine period continues to extend, will we have the faith to remain strong in Christ or will we give up that faith?
This time is testing our faith. This time is testing our ability to stay strong and to not let the other distractions roll right over us. You see, St. Thomas needed proof in order for him to believe. We already believe. What further proof do we need that God is with us and never abandons us? The apostles lived in frightening times, when they went out they were persecuted. We know that all of the apostles, as we'll read in the coming weeks in the scriptures, all the apostles except for one, was martyred for the faith.
So, we have something to share with the apostles. We too have to fear for our lives, but it doesn't mean that God is not with us. It doesn't mean that we are not blessed by God just because we cannot see him. We will pray and we pray daily for the recovery of this virus, so that we can in fact return into the church to receive Holy communion, to receive the sacraments of the church, to be able to venerate the icons in the church. But until then, as we are locked in our rooms just like the apostles, never forget God is always with us and he will never leave us, and his peace comes to rest in our hearts. Christos Anesti, Christ is Risen. Christos Anesti. Glory to God for all things.
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