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My Lord and my God!

On April 18th, 2004 - the Sunday after Pascha (Easter) traditionally known as "Thomas Sunday", our beloved assistant pastor Fr. Thomas Davis delivered what was to be his last public message to our congregation. The Gospel read on that day commemorates the appearance of the Risen Lord to his Apostles, with special emphasis on the words and actions of the Apostle Thomas. In his homiletic message, Fr. Thomas provides insight into the bold and courageous faith of the one who has been often dismissively labeled the "doubter".

For several years, Fr. Thomas had suffered from an illness which had sapped his energy and strength and caused much bodily pain... yet he did not let it dampen his faith in the Lord or his desire to purse the Orthodox spiritual life to its fullest. In this homily, as Fr. Thomas spoke of the struggles, the trials, and the martyrdoms of the Saints, one could see in his face and hear in his voice that it was the witness and intercessory prayers of these Holy Ones that gave him the strength and confidence to deal with his own personal hardships.

Eleven days later, on April 29th, Fr Thomas died peacefully in his sleep at home at the age of 56. In the last years of his life, Fr. Thomas had dedicated himself to supporting and serving at the women's monastery of St. John the Forerunner in Goldendale, WA. He was the first one to be buried in the cemetery located on the monastery grounds.

The words below reflect the life and ministry of this humble priest. May his memory be eternal!

John 20: 19-31
CHRIST IS RISEN! Indeed He is Risen!

So we say. So we believe. This is our faith.
Today is the second Sunday of Pascha, which in the Church's calendar is called the "Sunday of Thomas". Clearly the Church wants to draw our attention to the attitude of St. Thomas the Apostle, an attitude that was provisionally disbelieving, but subsequently, profoundly believing.

As we have just heard in the Gospel reading today, Christ appeared to the disciples after His resurrection but St. Thomas was not present with them. The disciples then related what had happened, what they had seen, to Thomas and he would not believe it, at least not without more proof.

Now before we cast too many aspersions on this "doubting" disciple I'd like to point out a few things: This is the same Thomas who we are told about as Jesus started off to Bethany to raise his friend Lazarus. You see the apostles all knew that the scribes and Pharisees were out to get Jesus and that going to Bethany, which is quite near Jerusalem, was just asking for trouble. It was Thomas, though, who then said to the others, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him." Thomas was not a coward! Remember that when "Jesus came and stood in the midst" of them, the other disciples were behind closed doors "for fear of the Jews". And these disciples had heard the report of Mary Magdalene that she had seen the Lord, but they did not believe it. Thomas is not the only doubter in this crowd! Ultimately though, perhaps we could even say, incredibly, they all came to profound faith, faith even unto death.

"The faith that saves is complete faith: not just the mind believing and the tongue confessing, but the whole man trusting in the living God...Our faith grows and affects our actions, or it dies. 'Faith alone' (by itself, v.17), static faith, does not save...[As St. Maximos the Confessor points out], 'Do not say...that faith alone in our Lord Jesus Christ can save you, for this is impossible unless you acquire love for Him through your works. As for faith by itself, 'the [demons] also believe and tremble.'" (Orthodox Study Bible, p.543) This faith, the faith that we hope we have in us, is the faith that sustained many thousands of martyrs, including the holy Apostle Thomas, throughout the ages.

The Holy Martyr Crescens was an honored and eminent nobleman, of the city of Myra in Lycia, who for his open confession of Christ and derision of lifeless idols was killed by the pagans. When this holy martyr was taken for trial, the judge put great pressure on him to worship idols. Being utterly unsuccessful in this the judge finally said to Crescens: "Only let your body bow, but cleave in your soul to your God." To this the honest Crescens replied: "The body can do nothing independently of the soul, which gives it movement and guidance." And so for his clear Christian confession against this deceitful form of equivocation (the temptation to hedge our bet rather than confess our true faith) Crescens was burned to death.

As Christians we have the responsibility to serve our Creator with our bodies also, not just with our souls. By their holy lives and deaths our fathers and mothers in the faith have clearly refuted the false position of some Christians who live in the flesh as pagans and meanwhile congratulate themselves on their belief in and love for God in their souls. For when we deceive ourselves in this way we in essence cut ourselves in half and enter the service of two masters - something the holy lips of Christ Himself have stated is impossible.

So if we have times of doubting that Christ was crucified and raised from the dead for us, then perhaps we need to do something. Perhaps we need to do something that is costly for us. Perhaps we need to truly act out our faith in concrete and sacrificial ways. When we sacrifice ourselves, or that which we have, for others, we testify of our faith. It is when we act that we receive the grace to do the act. It may not be given to us to see Christ's Blessed Face constantly, but when we reach out with compassion to others then He is revealed.

When the holy Apostle Thomas touched the wounds of the Lord Jesus, from the depths of his soul he cried: "My Lord and my God!"

When Mary Magdalene heard the voice of the Risen One in the garden, she exclaimed in her soul: "My Lord and my God!"

When Saul the persecutor saw the light and heard the words of the Risen One, he acknowledged: "My Lord and my God!"

When pagans beheld how innumerable martyrs endured their sufferings with joy, and asked them who was this Christ, they answered: "My Lord and my God!"

When mockers ridiculed the great company of ascetic monks, and asked them who it was for whom they laid on themselves such strict asceticism, they all had only one reply: "My Lord and my God!"

When mockers ridiculed holy maidens who had vowed virginity and asked them who it was for whom they forgo marriage, they all had only one reply: "My Lord and my God!"

When lovers of money asked rich men, in disbelief, for whose sake they had given away their riches and become poor, they answered one and the same thing: "My Lord and my God!"

Some saw Him, and said: "My Lord and my God!"

Some touched Him, and said: "My Lord and my God!"

Some perceived Him in the fabric of events and the destinies of peoples, and said: "My Lord and my God!"

Some came to know Him by some sign, either to themselves or to others, and cried out: "My Lord and my God!"

And some came to hear of Him from others, and believed, and cried: "My Lord and my God!" And indeed, these last are the most blessed.

And so let us also cry with all our hearts, however we have come to the discovery and knowledge of Him: "My Lord and my God!"

And to Him be all glory, honor, praise and worship for ever. AMEN

CHRIST IS RISEN!