Children’s Homily on St. Thomas Sunday

The Maiden and the Unicorn
Domenichino
c. 1602
Fresco
Palazzo Farnese, Rome
photographed by vittorio vida (via Flickr)

Gospel Reading for St Thomas Sunday

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.”  Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.

John 20:19—31 (Revised Standard Version)

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Homily

The night after Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples were all together in a room with the doors locked. They were afraid. Even though they’d been told that Jesus was alive, they hadn’t seen him, and they didn’t understand what had happened. While they were all together in the room with the doors locked, Jesus appeared. He showed them his hands where the nails had been, and his side where the roman soldier had stabbed him with a spear. Then the disciples understood that he was really alive.

This all happened on Pascha.

One of the disciples, named Thomas, wasn’t with the rest of them that night, so he didn’t see Jesus. When the others told him what had happened, he said, unless I see it with my own eyes, and touch his hands and his side, I won’t believe it.

When I was five years old, I was sure that the creature that looks like a horse with a horn sticking out of its head was called a unihorn. My parents told me it was unicorn, but it’s got one big horn, so it should be a “unihorn”. Right? I mean, it doesn’t have a corn cob on its head. Calling it a unicorn made no sense to me, and I wouldn’t believe it.

Then, I learned to read, and I saw that it really was called a unicorn. Guess what: My parents were right, and now I believed them because I’d seen it with my own eyes.

The disciples’ story didn’t make sense to Thomas. It seemed impossible to him that a person who was crucified and had been buried could come back to life.

The next Sunday—eight days later—all the disciples, including Thomas, were in that same room. Again, Jesus appeared. He didn’t wait for Thomas. He told Thomas to touch his hands and touch his side—and Thomas believed.

Then Jesus said, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” He wasn’t criticizing Thomas. Jesus knew that there would be people like us who wouldn’t get to see him in the flesh like Thomas and the other disciples did. He knew that we would have to believe without seeing.

The writer of this Gospel passage tells us that this Gospel is written so that we can believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and so that we can be part of his kingdom. Reading the Gospels is one of the ways that we can “see” Jesus. If you’re old enough to read, find out what the readings are for each Sunday and read them on Saturday or on your way to Church in the morning. If you’re not old enough to read, ask your parents to read them to you. You might not understand everything, and that’s okay. The Church is here to help us understand and believe.

Thoughts

There’s a lot going on in this passage, much that can be said, and many directions to take a homily based on this reading. I really wanted to include something about Thomas’ declaration of Christ as God, but I think the audience of little kids that we have would find it hard to track if I went off on a tangent. Plus, these children’s homilies have to be short. I try to keep them under 500 words.

Do to a combination of factors, I didn’t do any children’s homilies during Great Lent or for Palm Sunday. Mostly, it was a tough time for me and my family, and something had to give. People at the parish have been encouraging regarding the homilies. One woman has expressed that she really likes when I give “homework”. I prefer to think of it as a “call to action”. I was struggling a bit on the call to action for this homily, until my wife suggested the idea about reading the Bible as a way to “see” Jesus.

As a side note, today I learned the unicorn is a medieval symbol of Christ, and the virgin and unicorn is a common depiction of the Mother of God. It really has nothing to do with St. Thomas Sunday or this passage, but it’s interesting to note.

Sources

Jesus allows for the fact that the human spirit needs credible grounds for belief before it can make the act of faith. It is right that we should know how to convince others that our faith, even if it goes beyond reason, is not, in itself, unreasonable.

The Year of Grace of the Lord — by a monk of the Eastern Church

An Old Believer Sermon, based mostly on the writings of St. John Chrysostom and Blessed Archbishop Theofylact of Bulgaria, among others, explains that the expression “My Lord and my God” indicates the dual nature of Christ. As a man, He is called Lord, as an earthly king might be, and also is God.

The Aposticha for the Vespers service echoes this idea:
“O strange wonder, / unbelief hath given birth unto steadfast faith! / For Thomas said: / Unless I see, I shall not believe. / And when he touched the side of Christ, / he spake with divine authority / concerning the Incarnate One Who is the very Son of God, / and recognized Him as the One Who suffered in the flesh. / He proclaimed the Risen God, and cried with a radiant voice: // O my Lord and my God, glory be to Thee.”
When Thomas proclaimed “My Lord and My God”, he was saying something wholly unique, never said before. This was the first time Jesus was explicitly called God by one of His disciples.


Questions and Answers on Thomas Sunday
Fr. Seraphim Holland

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