The bare essentials

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Reducing things down to their bare essentials is something we do all the time.

Baseball players reduce their swing down to its essentials, golfers search for a simple stroke. Cooks use heat to reduce the contents of a sauce pan to its essential ingredients. In our relationships, we try to get down to the basics: “What is important here, what really matters?”

As we continue to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, a familiar Easter Gospel is that of the so-called “doubting Thomas.” Thomas is not present when Jesus appears to the gathered disciples and he questions whether Jesus has truly risen and has appeared to the other apostles.

The next time Jesus appears, Thomas is present. In this encounter Thomas is both humbled and awed, and he expresses his faith in the simple statement, “My Lord and my God.” It is this simple but bold profession that reduces the Christian faith to its barest essential.

Thomas’ declaration of faith is addressed to a man who had been mortally wounded, and it is the wounds themselves that lead Thomas to make his avowal. There is more here than meets the eye. Something much more complicated than a baseball or a golf swing, something that raises the question, “What really matters?”

“My Lord and my God.” Note the pronoun “my.” Not just any Lord or any God, but the Lord of my life. As Lord, the carpenter’s son from Nazareth is the determining factor in the direction and destiny of my life.

The choices I make from day to day and from year to year are inspired by the example of his life, his moral teaching and the gift of his Spirit. He is Lord of my life.

Jesus shares not only our human nature, but the divine nature of the Father and the Spirit. People are inspired by the stroke of Arnie Palmer, the swing of Babe Ruth and the recipes of Julia Child. People are moved by the music of Elvis and Beyonce, but nobody claims that these people are God. That unique claim is made by and given to Jesus the Galilean, and with Thomas it is also acknowledged by billions of people.

Life has its own way of boiling things down to the essentials. As we get older, life has a way of saying, “You really don’t need all that of stuff you have stored in the garage; give it away.” When we lose someone who is a keystone in our lives, life invites us to reassess and determine what is really important.

We may be moved by a beautiful movie, a piece of music, a work of art, that leads us to say, “I need to change my perspective on life; I’m missing a lot by being too busy.”

For Thomas, the world had come crashing down with Jesus’ crucifixion, and now in the resurrection it all became so clear and so vital. What really mattered? “My Lord and my God.”

The Rev. Fred Nijem is pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Warner Robins.