The Prelate’s Sermon, Sunday, April 24
Today, the 8th day of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the Armenian Church calendar is called the New Sunday. A newness which streams from the Empty Tomb and the Risen One, whose sacrificial love renewed Creation, and reconciled God with mankind. By naming this Sunday “New”, our church Fathers focus on a phenomenon which is the normal procedure of Mother Nature set by the Creator as the prime principal of Creation to produce continuously. As such, by renewing ourselves rooted in the Creator’s Love, we refresh our identity and mission, and bear fruit as His authentic children.
Today according to the post-Resurrection chronology provided by Saint John, Jesus again appeared to His Disciples. On Easter Day itself, Thomas was absent when the Risen Jesus appeared to the disciples in the Upper Room (Jn 20.19). Thomas doubted the testimony of the other disciples concerning the Resurrection and seeing their beloved Master in person.
The doubt of Thomas was not exceptional, for when Mary Magdalene shared with the Disciples the good news of having seen the Risen Jesus and talked with Him, they themselves doubted the validity of her story. What was unusual in the case of Thomas was his bold statement: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in His side, I will not believe” (Jn 20.25). The Creator of the Universe, humbly welcoming the challenge from one of His chosen disciples, appeared again in the Upper Room, and on this occasion, Thomas, ashamed of his unbelief, exclaimed: “My Lord and my God!” Jesus says to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn20.26-29).
On this occasion, I would like to share a few thoughts from this episode which mirrors the human attitude toward Divine Love, and reciprocally the Divine understanding and forgiveness toward human weaknesses.
Almighty God, by creating us human beings in His own image, embellished us with rational and spiritual gifts. Unfortunately, since the Fall, we have lost the privilege of communicating with our Creator, who is Spirit, and have limited ourselves within the circle of the senses. The visible things surrounding us have become the only reality. Thus, the divinely implanted seed of Faith, the sole means of interconnection with the Creator, being diverted from its authentic goal, bears fruits through worshiping earthly and celestial creatures.
Despite the ungrateful behavior of the carrier of God’s image, the Loving Father throughout centuries rekindled that magnificent linkage with Mankind revealing Himself first through the Prophets, the Giving of the Laws, and the sacrificial priesthood, and in these latter days, tearing up the condemnation, He sent His Only Begotten Son who ransomed Himself for our sake. For a while, it seemed that the original, direct communication was fully restored between the heavenly Father and His children. Alas, it was confounded by the Cross. Despair, doubt, and uncertainty again exiled them from the Paradise: the privilege of enjoying the presence of God, yet the providential care did not orphan them but anchored them in Truth. Physically appearing to the Disciples, through the senses, opened their spiritual sense to see and to enjoy the True Life and with His Holy Spirit empowered them not to be deceived but defeat the Deceiver.
Since then, the Faith of the Disciples was built neither upon human wisdom nor upon miracles, but upon the Living Rock. Thus, all the storms of doubt and earthly temptations, as much as they blow yet are unable to damage their foundation (Mt 7.24-27), or to separate them from Him (Rom 8.31-39). The fruit of temptation presented to them was no longer good for food, neither was it a delight to the eyes nor desirable to make one wise (cf .Gen 3.6), for they had experienced the Renewal and the joy of walking in the Spirit by eating and drinking the life- giving Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, by seeing and touching the Invisible and the Untouchable, and by being showered with the Grace of Divine Wisdom.
Today while the Voice of the Eternal Truth echoes in our ears “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” without being trapped in the snares of doubt like Thomas, let us all confess like Thomas “My Lord and my God!”, the Risen Jesus, and praise the All-Holy Trinity. Amen.