1st Reading – The Acts of the Apostles 2: 42-47
This is the first of 3 summaries that Luke has in Acts. Ancient Greek writers used the word, Acts, to refer to the feats of great persons: the Acts of Hercules, the Acts of Hannibal, the Acts of Alexander, etc. This book (by the same writer as Luke’s Gospel) is a rather idealized version of the early church – the first people who knew and lived the reality of the Risen Christ. It acts like a norm by which we are to measure our attempts at being church.
The Resurrection of Jesus was and is a community-evoking, community-forming event! Before the experience of the Risen Lord, these people had little impact on the world. They lived small ordinary lives. But after the resurrection, they had become a community – persons who were interrelated, interdependent, and mutually supportive. Alone, they had been almost ineffective, but together they became “a formidable presence” for good – “alone they seemed powerless, but together, united in their presence of the risen, living Christ, they began to change the way human beings look at life, at death, at God, at one another. This reading shows us the four foundations on which such a community can be built: 1) The teaching of the apostles: faith formation – bringing the implications and applications of the Gospel into the ever changing present circumstances of real life. 2) The communal life: caring for and about each other; it was a community that began to be formed “from every nation under heaven.” Despite their diversity, they gathered in fellowship. 3) The breaking of the bread: being nourished by Jesus’ presence in ritual and in word. 4) Prayers: an individual and communal living-out of a love relationship with God. (Celebration, April 2005) How are we still able to be community in the midst of our present reality? How can this reading help us?
2nd Reading – 1 Peter 1: 3-9
The author of this letter may have been a disciple of Peter, the apostle, or even an associate of Paul’s. The theology is very similar to Paul’s Letter to the Romans. It might have been written between 70 – 90 AD. It is written in very cultivated Greek, and it uses the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. There was intense, widespread persecution of Christians under the Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD). This emperor demanded that he be adored as Dominus et Deus, Lord and God. Unlike Nero’s attack on the church in the middle 60’s, Domitian caused Christians to suffer as far away as Smyrna and Pergamum. These Christians also suffered much local hostility from their own neighbors who defamed them and regarded them as ‘evil-doers.’ (Celebration, Aril 1999 and 2002)
Our new life in Christ is seen in the midst of these troubles as a precious “inheritance” – “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” – bringing us through death to a “new birth to a living hope.” Ironically, we often ‘inherit’ things through a death – but even more significantly we inherit things usually within the context of a family: “those who are birthed anew through the experience of Jesus’ resurrection belong together as a family… both in the present and in the future.” (Celebrations, April 1999, 2005)
As much as we would like it otherwise, ‘feeling good,’ ‘feeling fulfilled,’ can have little to do with true goodness and ethics. What really tests our goodness is not whether we tell the truth when it is easy or profitable, but whether we tell the truth when it is difficult, daring, even dangerous . . . Being faithful when it is easy and rewarded is one thing; being faithful when it is difficult and unappreciated is another. Faith in the Risen One is there for the good times — but it is even more vital for the times of fear, confusion, grief, and pain. Faith is not the absence of pain or sorrow; it is bearing pain and sorrow in faith – trusting that these difficulties will not have the final word. God’s word of love will. Such faith does not take away wounds, but it can transform them. (John Kavanaugh, “The Word Embodied” http://liturgy.slu.edu)
The Gospel – John 20: 19-31
What can we learn from Thomas?
1st, we see the importance of community – we can miss a lot if we separate ourselves from community. When sorrow overwhelms us, it is then that we need to see that we can “seek the heart and mind of Christ” in other believers.
2nd, Thomas was honest – and even bold. When he had doubts and questions he did not deny his doubts “by pretending that they didn’t exist.” He took them directly to Jesus. (Celebration, April 2005, and Quest, Spring 2005)
Jesus is different. In his new identity, Jesus is no longer subject to the constraints of space and time. But Jesus continues in his incarnation even after the resurrection, albeit in a different corporeal form. The incarnation did not cease with the cross and the tomb; it continues even now in transcendental glory, (M. Birmingham’s Word & Worship Workbook, A, p. 286). What does this mean for us? How do we now live out Jesus’ incarnation?
The power to forgive one another will be given by the Holy Spirit. Let that sink in a little. Does this change your understanding of forgiveness? What is your experience of Holy Spirit?