Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle
Citizenship as Gift

Readings: Ephesians 2:19-22; Psalms 117:1bc, 2; John 20:24-29

The cover of a recent issue of Time magazine depicted a smiling Caucasian family complete with blue eyes, blond hair and golden retriever. But the cover story was surprisingly entitled Singapore’s New Look. The point was well made. Singapore’s population is becoming ever more cosmopolitan. And it is true that, in its concern to remain plugged into the global economy, our tiny island-nation is trying its best to attract foreign talent to its shores. And yet it remains no less true that becoming a Singaporean is not as easy as one might expect. There are requirements to be met, stringent requirements of relationship or residence, especially if one has neither the oodles of talent nor the bundles of cash to attract attention. Citizenship in Singapore doesn’t come cheap.

Can we expect it to be otherwise for God’s household? On this feast of St. Thomas our first reading reminds us that we are all citizens of a divinely instituted economy. And perhaps this is something we tend to take for granted, even as we live the routine of weekday work and weekend worship. But even in God’s household, citizenship has requirements, or at least one central requirement. This is the same requirement we see Thomas satisfying at the end of the gospel reading today, when he exclaims to the crucified and risen Christ: my Lord and my God! To be a citizen of God’s kingdom, one must have the faith to profess Christ as Lord. And we know, of course, that such a profession involves far more than mere lip service. It requires that one align one’s life on Christ, that one make the life, death and resurrection of Christ the cornerstone of one’s daily existence. As it is in Singapore, so it is in God’s household. Citizenship has its requirements.

But there is one crucial difference. The faith that is the central requirement for being a member of God’s household is not something one can simply acquire through hard work or inherit from rich parents or stumble upon via a happy coincidence of circumstances. Rather is it a personal gift from God, a gift that needs to be gratefully received and generously lived out. Isn’t this Thomas’ experience too? Even though the other apostles have come to believe in the resurrection, Thomas needs to experience the risen Lord for himself in order to receive the same gift. And Jesus does not disappoint. He satisfies Thomas’ requirements and gives Thomas what he needs to believe. He presents Thomas with the gift of faith. And tradition has it that this gift led Thomas to preach the gospel even in faraway India.

How have we received, and how are we living out, Christ’s gift of citizenship today?

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