for the second Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:42-47 - 1 Pt 1:3-9 - Jn 20:19-31
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
Living by faith
Acts 2:42, [The first Christians] devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43, And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44, And all who believed were together and had all things in common; 45, and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need. 46, And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, 47, praising God and having favor with all the people.
At the beginning of her history, the Church was composed of the Apostles, a few disciples, and several thousand people baptized shortly after Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:41). Among all these people, only the Apostles, the disciples, and a few dozen others could have been said to have known the Lord Jesus, having touched him or spoken to him even a single time. All the others, that is to say the majority, had only heard speak of him, whether he was spoken of by the Apostles or by someone else. In short, most of them believed, in the strong sense of the word (that is to say supernaturally, with the help of the grace of God), that this man who had died and risen is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Word of the Father made man!
"All who believed were together." (Acts 2:44) All those who believed in Jesus the Son of God lived together in a single faith, a single hope, a single love! Detached from everything, they held to but a single being in Heaven or on earth: Jesus, the bearer of the Holy Spirit, under the gaze of the Father. So they sold their belongings, so that all men could, like them, benefit from that same unique love: that of God!
As Saint Luke writes, the faithful went to the Temple each day to pray. But for the first few weeks, for the first months, for quite long no doubt, it was impossible for them, for the most part, to gather together to celebrate the Eucharist. So in all eventualities the faithful kept the Body of Christ, which a priest had entrusted to them at a Eucharistic celebration, at home, and so they were "breaking bread in their homes" (Acts 2:46) and received the Body of Christ, in a single faith and a single love. Hidden, as it were, under the ancient Jewish custom of the breaking of the bread, the communion of all with the mystical Body of Christ - the Church - was realized and reinforced, in union with Christ Jesus, in the place where the Christian faith had just been born!
1 Pt 1:3-9
1 Pt 1:3, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5, who by God's power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6, In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, 7, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8, Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. 9, As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls.
How strong is our faith! How great is our love! How immeasurable is our hope! For there is nothing natural about it: everything is supernatural in our lives as Christians and followers of Christ Jesus! What Saint Peter says, in today's second reading, is so very true: "Without having seen [Jesus] you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls." (1 Pt 1:8-9)
Is it not extraordinary? We have been baptized, and, thanks to the Holy Spirit, we love Him in whom we believe! We love someone, Jesus, whom we have never seen! We believe in God because others, like our parents, our friends, our relatives, have spoken to us about him! Is it not extraordinary, this omnipotence of the grace of God? Is this not something that would set ablaze that heart of fire, that of the Apostle Peter? And how do we react, today, in this year 2008? Are we ready, like the Apostles, to bring God's love to the ends of the earth?
Jn 20:19, On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 20, When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21, Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." 22, And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23, If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." 24, Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25, So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe." 26, Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, "Peace be with you." 27, Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." 28, Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" 29, Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." 30, Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31, but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.
Eight days after Easter, Jesus appeared to his disciples for a very specific purpose: to make it possible for the Apostle Thomas to witness to his faith in the death and resurrection of Christ, and thus to be one of those who, after having seen Jesus, believed in him until the end. For, on that evening, there were no more than ten Apostles: Judas had hung himself, and Thomas doubted. But Jesus had wanted to leave us evidence of his great mercy: he would rescue Thomas from his doubt!
On his body, Jesus bears the signs of his Passion: the marks of the nails on his hands and feet, and the wound in his side. These signs are bearers of grace. To touch one of these signs becomes a grace, a grace of the Passion of Jesus, a grace destined for the conversion of all the men and women of the earth! As Saint John says at the end of his gospel: "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name." (Jn 20:30-31)
To live by faith, to believe in Jesus the Son of God: this is all of Christian life, this is all of our life with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the model of all faithful Christians! May the Holy Spirit help us to believe ever more in Jesus, through Mary!