April 24, 2022
Revised Common Lectionary
Psalm 118:14-29 or Psalm 150
Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24 (1)]
Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
“Trust but verify.” That expression came to be associated in the United States with President Ronald Reagan. It originated, however, as a rhyming Russian proverb that American scholar Suzanne Massie taught to Reagan. The President in turn used it to express his position on relations with the Soviet Union, especially in the area of nuclear disarmament.
Each year on the Second Sunday of Easter, we hear about Thomas, the disciple who famously declared, “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 testimony of the other disciples was insufficient. His motto was less “trust but verify” and more “verify and verify.”
The story that we hear today of Jesus’ two appearances to the disciples is rich with images and language that have become deeply familiar to Christians—the disciples’ fright, Jesus’ greeting of peace, the showing of hands and side, the breath of Jesus on his followers, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the charge to forgive and retain sin.
When Thomas at last saw the risen Lord a week later than the other disciples, his reaction was not unlike theirs. Those who were present on the first occasion “rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (20:20), while Thomas uttered another of his unforgettable sayings: “My Lord and my God!” (20:28) In both cases, seeing was believing. Verify and verify.
These two appearances of the risen One lead up to a comment from Jesus that is clearly meant for us: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (2:29). Unlike the first witnesses to the resurrection of Christ, we rely not on sight but on the testimony of witnesses. Resurrection faith is based not on verification but on trust—confidence in the continual retelling of the stories of Jesus and the generations of witnesses who attest to them.
The Gospel writer concludes this story by speaking directly to the reader: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (20:30-31).
This very important declaration sounds like it could conclude the entire Gospel. Yet by placing it here, the evangelist uses Thomas to invite us to a belief based not on sight but on the testimony of witnesses. Our invitation to faith comes not from seeing but hearing the stories of Scripture and by trusting those who have passed them on along with their own testimony.
The road to belief is not simply an individual pathway but deeply involves the community of believers. It’s not “trust but verify.” It’s “trust and trust.”
A Hymn for Today: “We Walk by Faith”
Written by British vicar Henry Alford and included in his 1844 collection, Psalms and Hymns, this text has not been widely successful or popular in the United Kingdom. It has enjoyed wide circulation in North America in recent years, however, appearing in more than 70 hymnals. Based on today’s Gospel reading, it also includes a memorable opening line from 2 Corinthians 5:7.
We walk by faith, and not by sight;
no gracious words we hear
from one who spoke as none e’er spoke,
but we believe him near.
We may not touch his hands and side,
nor follow where he trod,
yet in his promise we rejoice,
and cry, “My Lord and God!”
Help then, O Lord, our unbelief,
and may our faith abound
to call on you when you are near,
and seek where you are found:
that when our life of faith is done,
in realms of clearer light
we may behold you as you are
in full and endless sight.
Text: Henry Alford, 1810-1871, alt.
Tunes: DUNLAP’S CREEK, ARLINGTON, SHANTI, LOBT GOTT IHR CHRISTEN, ST. BOTOLPH
Image Credit: Christ shows himself to Thomas, Rowan LeCompte and Irene LeCompte, Resurrection Chapel, Washington National Cathedral
“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.
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