We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
(Teilhard de Chardin)
How fortunate that Thomas wasn’t hiding out with his fellow apostles, that first day of the Resurrection. A week later, on his return, he hears that Jesus is actually alive after dying, because Mary, the other women, and then the others staying together, had seen and spoken with Him, even
eaten with Him. They believed Christ had risen from the dead because they saw Him with their own eyes. That core group of disciples described their experience to Thomas. It’s no wonder Thomas needed that experience as well. “Hey—I want to see our beloved friend too. I’ll believe my own eyes.”
We are human beings; we experience life through our physical bodies. We experience God through our physical bodies. When we listen carefully to what has been recorded in the Gospels of the Risen Christ, we see a clear pattern. The disciples have real, tangible interactions with Christ, but He always sends them beyond Himself to others. He tells the women at the tomb to tell the others. He tells those locked in the room to go out and spread the news. He tells Thomas: “Peace. Don’t worry; come see for yourself.” There is no rebuke—only tenderness and understanding. Thomas’s need is natural and those who hear about his experience will be happy and blessed. They now have the opportunity to see the Truth without needing to verify Christ’s death by touching the mortal wounds. They are you and me.
But how do we encounter Christ? How do we know God through our human physicality? Christ leaves no doubt that we meet God through each other and all creation. Through the Risen Christ we see the world transfigured in holiness. When we see the world transfigured, we experience Christ. Every Sunday, as we celebrate Christ’s triumph over death, we share the Eucharistic bread that sustains us as the Body of Christ. Christ is tangible through us—His followers. The reading from Acts (as do the Gospels) tells us that Christ is physically present through you and me, when we live in Love, as Jesus did.
Our Ukrainian custom of having a community Sviachene on the Sunday of Thomas is a perfect echo of the early Church’s experience of the Risen Christ that we hear in today’s readings. Through being together and sharing hospitality, the walls of our doubts, yearning, illness, and sorrow are shattered, and we can come into the peace of Christ’s presence among us. As we meet our brothers and sisters again, or for the first time, at Divine Liturgy and over coffee, let’s feel the Love and Peace of Christ that our togetherness brings.
“God works through life, through people, and through physical, tangible,
and material reality to communicate [God’s] healing presence in our lives.” (R. E. Webber)