My Lord and My God!
Rev. Fr. Luke A. Veronis
What does this statement imply when we say it with faith. “My Lord and my God.” Thomas the Apostle, whose memory we celebrate today, was the first to proclaim these words a week after our Lord’s Resurrection. We heard his story in the Gospel reading of today. First, the Risen Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb, then to Peter and 10 of the 12 disciples in the upper room, as well as to Cleopas and Luke on the road to Emmaus. Jesus had truly risen from the dead, and numerous people had encountered the Risen Lord, much to their astonishment and delight.
Yet Thomas wasn’t one of those privileged few on that first Easter Sunday. For some reason, Thomas was missing, and when he heard all ten of the disciples enthusiastically share that they, along with Mary and the others, had seen the risen Lord, he remained quite skeptical. We could say that he was a man after the hearts of many in our contemporary world – skeptical and doubtful. “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
That doesn’t sound like a faithful disciple. Remember, it was only a few days earlier that this same Thomas said that he was willing to die with Jesus, when all the other disciples were worried about going back into Judea because of death threats. Now, not only did he NOT die with his Lord, but he remained unbelieving despite the witness of all his friends.
Maybe seeing the horrific death of Christ, as well as having their messianic dreams squashed, combined with the irrationality of a dead person rising from the dead all added up to Thomas’ doubt. He surely didn’t believe at first, and yet he did not maintain a stubborn or arrogant doubt. His doubt was sincere, honest and open.
Thus, a week later, when all the disciples gathered together again, the Risen Lord came in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said specifically to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring you hand and put it in my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe… Blessed are those who have not seen but have believed.”
Following this incredible encounter, Thomas cast aside all his doubts, and became the first disciple to proclaim Jesus as, “My Lord and my God!” What a powerful example how sincere doubt, if it is a doubt that humbly remains open to God’s ways, can be transformed into dynamic faith.
“My Lord and my God.” A powerful statement, and yet what did Thomas mean when he said it? What do we imply, if we repeat those words and say to Christ, “My Lord and My God?”
Well, first of all, this statement implies not only an acknowledgement of Jesus as the divine-man who is the one true God, but just as important, it reveals how Jesus is the Lord of my life. To be the Lord of our lives means He is our Master. Our lives revolve around Him. His ways become our ways. Our worldview should become one with His worldview. When we accept Christ as our Lord and God, we accept Him as the driving and central force in our lives – in every part of our lives. By professing such faith, we commit our lives to His ways completely – to His ways in our personal life, in our family life, in our workplace, in our hobbies and pastimes, in every aspect of our existence. Proclaiming Jesus as “My Lord and My God” means that my life is not my own anymore, but my life is His life. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
How many of us in this Church are willing to make such a bold, forthright statement of faith? Before saying yes, however, BEWARE, for we must realize how this radical statement runs totally contrary to our modern, American mentality. We Americans are quite proud of our individualistic spirit. “My life is my own,” we often say, “And no one can tell me what to do!” We don’t want to be bound to any institution, to any hierarchy, to anyone over us. Yet, if we willingly say “My Lord and My God” to Christ, this means precisely that we lay aside our own rights, we relinquish our self-centered desires, and we willingly and joyfully become servants to the divine ways of God. We obediently accept His commands, no matter how difficult they are, and no matter where they lead us.
Look at the example of St. Thomas. Although he initially doubted the Resurrection, he recovered his faith and proclaimed Jesus as His Lord and His God. He then proceeded to obey Christ’s command, “As the Father sent me, so I send you” and Thomas traveled as far as India proclaiming the Good News and offering a witness of Divine Love to others. He willingly traveled dangerous roads, suffered under extreme conditions, traversed places he never dreamed about, and ending his life as a martyr, all because he realized his life was not his own. His life was His Lord’s and His God’s.
As contemporary Orthodox Christians, if we claim that Jesus is our “Lord and God,” we need to follow this radical call of the Gospel. To become a true follower of Jesus often means acting differently than other people in the world! This doesn’t imply that we’re crazy or fanatic, but it does mean imply that we love our enemies, forgive those who hurt us, and act as a peacemaker. We willingly deny ourselves and put Christ’s desires before our own. We joyfully carry the Cross of Christ. We live under the light of the Resurrection, and never fear death or anything that life may spring upon us. We honor the day of the Lord each and every week and worship Him regularly. We set aside the first portion of our possessions to glorify God. These are but a few of the ways we walk according to the drumbeat of “our Lord and God,” and not according to society’s whims, or even according to our own desires and pleasures. Of course, some non-Christians may practice the virtues we live by, but we do it all because we love “our Lord and God,” and we walk as Jesus walked, imitating His life of love, sacrifice, humility, holiness and perfection.
Let me give one small example that I think is relevant on this topic. In our secular society, we often hear people say “faith is a private affair.” Religion and politics are the two things we’re not supposed to discuss in a public setting. And yet, how do you think St. Thomas and the first apostles would have responded to such secular advice? The early Church was all about proclaiming the Good News of our Lord and God to all people everywhere – making disciples of all nations! For a Christian, faith can never be a ‘private affair” because love compels us to live and share our faith publicly. Of course, we must share our faith by respecting the freedom of others to accept or reject our message. We utterly refuse ever imposing our faith on others in a coercive manner. The essence of sharing God’s love and Good News to the world around us is fundamental to who we are as the Church and as Christians. The statement “My Lord and My God” has universal implications! And yet, how many Christians today have unconsciously accepted the secular attitude of faith being a “private affair?”
By proclaiming Jesus as “my Lord and my God” we commit ourselves to His way of life. We choose to walk in Christ’s light and life. We see the world through His lens. We commit to following His way of life. Our life is not our own. It is our Lord’s and our God’s!
Christ is Risen!