So to his apostle Thomas, Jesus says, “Have you believed because you have seen me?” Then comes our part. Jesus goes on, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Everyone who has followed Jesus to this point in the gospel has believed because they have seen him. They have seen his miracles. They have heard his teaching. They have met him after his resurrection. They have had some kind of direct personal contact with Jesus. And that contact has prompted them to believe. Lucky them.
But now, at the end of the gospel, Jesus looks ahead to coming generations, to those who cannot see him in the flesh but believe anyway. Jesus looks ahead to us. And Jesus blesses us. Jesus blesses us even more than Jesus blesses his apostles because we believe without seeing. Lucky us.
But what about the Thomases among us, the people who struggle with belief or who may not believe at all? What about all of us, because virtually all of us struggle with belief sometimes? Is every modern Thomas out of luck?
That is NOT what our gospel reading says.
Doubt does not disqualify Thomas as a Christian or as a member of that earliest Church. Even as Thomas refuses to believe without touching Christ’s wounds, the gospel identifies him as one of the twelve apostles. Thomas may doubt, but Thomas is still part of the team.
More importantly, Jesus, the resurrected Lord, meets Thomas where he is. Jesus comes to Thomas specifically to address his doubts. Jesus offers Thomas what he needs so that Thomas can move past his doubts to an affirmation of profound faith: “My Lord and my God!”
The lesson of this morning’s gospel is that Jesus helps people who struggle with doubt. Jesus helps people grow in faith. Jesus helps people move from doubt to the point that we, too, can say, “My Lord and my God!”
And what is most striking of all is how Jesus helps Thomas. Jesus does not engage in some mighty display of power. Jesus does not shine like the sun in clothes of dazzling white. Jesus does not invoke the witness of a voice from heaven.
Jesus did all of those things during his earthly ministry. But here, at the end of the gospel, the risen and glorified Lord helps Thomas overcome his doubt by inviting Thomas to touch his wounds. “Put your finger here . . . . Reach out your hand and put it in my side.” Feel the marks of my crucifixion, which I carry with me even into the resurrection.
Thomas learns faith by touching Christ’s wounds.
And we can too.
Of course, Jesus is not standing right in front of us as he was standing right in front of them, at least not in any obvious way.
But today, at the 10:00 service, five of our children will celebrate Holy Communion after faithfully completing Communion classes that lasted all through Lent. Today those children will share with us in the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood.
That bread is Christ’s body, which is given for us. That wine is Christ’s blood, which is shed for us and for all people for the forgiveness of sins.
Participating in the sacrament is an important way we can all touch the wounds of Christ and so nourish our faith.
But even apart from the sacrament, we are surrounded by Christ’s wounds, if only we have the eyes to see.
Because we are the body of Christ, and each of us is wounded in one way or another. If we want to grow in faith, if we need to touch Christ’s wounds, all we have to do is look around us. We can always reach out to touch the wounds—to bind up the wounds—of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can let our brothers and sisters touch our own wounds as well.
Or we can look farther afield. We can touch Christ’s wounds outside our doors, among the people of our towns and state and nation and world.
In the last week of his life, Jesus described judgment day. All the nations gather before him. And then Christ rewards those who have touched his wounds, those who gave him food and drink and clothes. Those who welcomed him when he was a stranger and cared for him when he was sick and visited him when he was in prison.
The people who have done these things, the people who have touched Christ’s wounds, will not at first know what he is talking about. When, they ask, did we do these things for you? And Jesus will answer, “Just as you did it to the least of these . . . , you did it to me” (Matt 25:31-46).
It turns out that Jesus is all around us all the time, in the form of the least among us, those who most need help, those who are most wounded. Jesus offers his wounds to us in the person of our neighbors. And Jesus commands us to touch those wounds, to bind up those wounds.
As some of you will know, our Bishop did his walk-about in our area this week. He started in Greenfield on Wednesday, and he ended in Southwick yesterday. I was able to join him on Thursday in Northampton for part of the walk.
That day began with a service at the VA hospital. We walked down Route Nine, near the Sojourner Truth Memorial which is dedicated to justice and racial reconciliation. We cut through Smith College to Route sixty six, where he walked past a home for struggling young mothers and a monument to two Irish men who were executed in an act of anti-Irish, anti-Catholic bigotry at the beginning of the nineteenth century. He stopped at the jail for prayers and lunch.
I did not even make it to the jail, and I do not know where the Bishop went after that as he continued his way through our area.
But I love what the Bishop is doing. He is taking the Church on the road, going to places where people are hurting and struggling, to places where people have suffered and have committed themselves to alleviating suffering. He is talking to wounded vets and people in jail and anybody else he meets on the road. On our behalf, the Bishop is touching some of Christ’s wounds in western Massachusetts.
We do the same in our own way. That is why we do things like the Agawam Easter Project, and a fundraising dinner for Relay for Life and Church without walls. That is why we host twelve-step programs. That is why we host community suppers.
That is one reason so many of you do so much to help others in whatever way you can, even if it is just a cheerful word or a promise to pray for somebody.
When we do those things, when we touch people’s wounds, one result is that our faith grows. When we who are ourselves wounded touch the wounds of other people, we come closer to Christ. We come closer to being able to say, with Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”
And so on this second Sunday of Easter, I give thanks to God for helping us to grow in our faith by allowing us to touch the wounds of Christ all around us.
In the name of our risen Lord and God. Amen. Alleluia!