Theme: The Easter people
During the Easter season we relive how a young community of believers grew and miraculously developed into a viable Church because the Spirit of the risen Christ. It was this Spirit that enabled ordinarily individuals to be of one heart and mind, holding all things in common and providing for the needy. This Spirit empowered them to continue Jesus’ mission of forgiveness; strengthened their faith and sustained their efforts to devotedly keep the commandments they had been given.
Similarly, in response to the blessing of the risen Lord we are challenged to imitate them by acting exemplary through touching thousands of persons ostracized by society’s fear of anything demanding such as influx of refugees, the homeless, mushrooming lonely elderly poor and all who can not afford them the basic necessities of life.
First reading: Acts 4:32-35
These unique words that “the whole group of believers was united heart and soul, no one claimed for his own use anything that he had, everything they held was held in common” Acts 4:32 are here to challenge our life style. This portrait of the nascent community represents the ideal toward which each believer ought to work and pray since it is a description of harmony and charity that characterize the community of believers in the risen Lord. Their friendship was so real that all seemed to bear ‘one soul and hold all things in common’. The mutual sharing and care also alludes to God’s promise; “When the Lord God blesses you in your land, there will be no needy person among you” Deuteronomy 15:4. The conditions for receiving this blessing were obedience to the voice of God and keeping the commandments cf. Deuteronomy 15:5. This being the case; the early Church portrayed the messianic community that should be our desire even today.
We need to notice the central role played by the Apostles; as the authoritative witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus, they bore powerful testimony of the same with a fire in the belly such that people were compelled to listen and act. This same enthusiasm and conviction continues to be expected of each one of us in the process of being transformed by Christ. Laying their goods at their feet, the believers entrusted the apostles also with their spiritual needs. The pertinent but delicate message here is that these goods were distributed to everyone according to need and not on the basis of what one deserved. In its indiscriminant care of the needy, today the Church is called to reflect a similar non-judgmental generosity from all of us.
Second reading: 1John 5:1-7
Despite the harmonious interaction and mutual sharing which constituted the early Church, there were occasional wrinkles which at times developed into blatant disagreements threatening the fabric of the community. The writing of 1John was occasioned by such a disagreement that had provoked a schism between two groups at odds. The Apostle was being opposed by a group that claimed to be correct and enlightened interpreter of the gospel. These dissidents refused to acknowledge the importance of incarnation; diluted Christian ethics, declared themselves free of sin and failed to translate their professed love into actions. They disputed eschatology and ignored the Holy Spirit. 1John refutes point-by-point all these fundamental errors and affirms the belief in the efficacy of Jesus’ saving and sacrificial death on the cross.
Although the statement about Jesus’ coming “through water and blood” 1John 5:6 has been variously interpreted as referring to the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist; it is as it is stated, death on the Cross “the reason why I have come into the world” John 18:37, this is what sustains our faith. Through his blood poured out for the sins of many and by the water that flowed from the side, all humankind has been saved. Just as John challenged his adversaries to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God and to live accordingly, so also does he urge us to ambles an authentic faith that is translated into committed Christian living today.
Gospel: John 20:19-31
Where was Thomas? Where was this man when one of the greatest opportunities in his life took place? The other disciples had experienced the risen Jesus; he greeted them with Shalom, and breathed into them the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. He commissioned them to continue his work of extending God’s forgiveness to sinners. But Thomas wasn’t there! Although St. John offers no information as to the Apostle’s whereabouts, the fact of his absence speaks volumes about the importance of each individual’s participation with and in the gathered Christian Community. This leads me to ask this question, how much must many miss who make only an occasional, spasmodic, irregular appearance at moment of worship. Nevertheless, Thomas was afforded another opportunity because God of mercy, who was so vividly revealed in the person of Jesus, is a God who comes, not just once but repeatedly, to save sinners from themselves. The testimony of the other disciples had left Thomas unconvinced. But Thomas needed to see and touch and know for himself.
Through Thomas, John leaves room for doubt and the necessity of questioning one’s faith. Thomas’ incredulity should not be understood only as stubbornness but as a valid human effort to struggle with the difficult issues. The goodness and love of Jesus for hardheaded people is too evident here reassuring that the Lord will reveal himself and grant an unmistakable sign to those who want to believe and who do not shun the fellowship of believers even though they have grave and serious doubts. In Thomas we learn that even doubts can eventually be resolved if one does not avoid the community. Through the cooperation of the Spirit-filled assembly, authentic faith is easily discernible and capably lived.
Thomas’ profession of faith is the ultimate Christological proclamation of John’s gospel. My Lord (Kyrios) and my God (Theos) reveals the first Church’s realization that Jesus was equal to the one eternal creator of the universe and of all humankind. Thomas’ proclamation gave voice to the community’s growing awareness of the mystery of incarnation. The great God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the God who redeemed Israel, first from Egypt and then from Babylon, the God of the covenant, had become flesh in readiness to redeem people from sin and death. This awareness and all the other insights into God’s plan of salvation became clearer as the growing Church cooperated with the abiding presence of the Spirit. The promised advocate, consoler, encourager and sustainer was already on the task of teaching and reminding the disciples of all that Jesus had told them cf. John 14:26.
Today the doubting Thomas teaches us to become an Easter people ready the challenges that go with seeing and touching Jesus. When Jesus invited Thomas to place the finger into his wounds, the disbelieving and hesitant disciple responded in adoration saying my Lord and my God even if he still demonstrated unqualified faith. Here, Jesus pronounced a blessing on those who had not seen him and yet believed. Being heirs of that blessing; we are also descendants of Thomas. While we may not be able to see or touch the wounds of the risen Christ, we are encouraged by our love to see and to touch the wounds of the suffering and needy members of our society and disciples of welfare, peace and forgiveness.
Sharing what we have and who we are is what Easter Spirit requests from each one of us. To believe that Jesus is risen means to love our neighbors and to keep God’s commandments. Our faith is all that matters for us to experience the risen Lord every day; like Thomas we have to see Jesus as our Lord and God and touch him in those who suffer; the sick and the needy. May the Spirit of Easter be visible and active within us.