On Thomas Sunday, it’s an odd scene in the Gospel reading (John 20:19-31). After Christ’s joyous resurrection…after His conquering of death by death…the disciples spend the end of Easter Sunday hiding behind locked doors. What gives?
“Today is the summary of our salvation!” Those are the very first words in the Apolytikion hymn for today’s Great Feast of the Annunciation. “Today is the summary of our salvation…and the revelation of the age-old mystery.” Well…what is this mystery that’s being revealed to us- today... …this age-old mystery?
The world has done its best to convince us that fleshly pleasures bring us happiness and that sin has no consequence. The world (who thinks that sin is a made-up legal problem instead of something that steals life from us) says, it’s not really sin if it gives you pleasure…if it makes you happy! However, this Saint, who had a salacious beginning, challenges us to take a more realistic look at these things and at ourselves.
Both, our Gospel reading this morning (Mark 9:17-31) and the icon of St John’s Ladder of Divine Ascent draws our attention to something that we should really come to grips with at this point in Lent. Our belief in God is much more fragile for us broken human beings than we often realize…and yet, in spite of this, there’s enormous hope in the promise that we can still find salvation through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
A few years ago, when Presvytera and I lived in Arizona, we moved into a house whose backyard had a conspicuously bare patch of ground. Nothing ever grew there. The Arizona desert is famous for illustrating every imaginable shade of brown. So, as I began to make good use of our back yard for grilling and entertaining guests, it wasn’t long before I was longing to see some color on that bare patch of desert soil.
This Sunday marks the crux of Lent…the midpoint of these 40 days. Here, our mother, the Church, offers to us The Cross to meditate upon, “to strengthen and refresh us.” But, a cross is a strange symbol from which to gain such reinforcement. Why would we believe that this implement of death could so strengthen us? Is there more to this symbol of the cross than we may realize?
It’s funny, what we’ve come to think of as “the first Thanksgiving.” Although it’s historically fabricated, many of us were brought up to envision an idyllic scene from the autumn of 1621. As the story goes, friendly local Native Americans had swooped in to teach the starving English Pilgrim Colonists how to survive.