Weekly Scripture

FIRST READING: Acts 4:32-35

During the Easter season the first reading is always from the Acts of the Apostles, sometimes called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit or the first History of the Church. The first readings from Acts during this season illuminate for us the mystery of the Church as it developed from its beginnings after Pentecost Sunday. On the second Sunday of Easter each year, the lectionary places before us one of three very similar summary statements of the life of the early Christian community. The statements are most likely an idealized portrayal of the first community of believers.

This week’s reading speaks about the unity and spirit of sharing which characterized the early believers. “They were of one mind and one heart,… they shared all things in common…. and not one was needy amongst them.

SECOND READING: 1 John 5:1-6

The second readings during the B cycle are always taken from the first letter of John, an epistle written towards the end of the first century to a church undergoing traumatic internal struggle around the questions of right faith and right behavior. At issue was a proper understanding of the person of Jesus and his role in salvation, as well as a commitment to communal living according to the demands of Christian fellowship. The author insists that true faith recognizes Jesus as the incarnate Son of God and that right behavior is reflected in the mutual love among community members. When we are “begotten by God” we hold fast to this faith and “testify” to the truth by a life in which “we love the children of God.”

GOSPEL: John 20:19-31

During the Easter season in all three cycles the Gospel readings are nearly all from John. This week’s Gospel is a story of mission, forgivenesspeace and faith. It is also sometimes called “John’s Pentecost” because, in it, Jesus imparts his Holy Spirit to those present. In the first scene, Jesus comes to a group of fear-filled, guilt-ridden and depressed disciples. He stands in their midst and offers them four gifts: peace, joy, the Holy Spirit and the power to forgive sins. Because they had abandoned Jesus in his hour of need, the Apostles, most likely, felt a great need for “shalom”, i.e., God’s peace and reconciliation. The joy at seeing Jesus replaced the depression caused by his absence. The gift of the Holy Spirit empowered the Apostles to go forth and preach the Good News, casting aside all fear. The power to forgive sins enabled them to impart to others the saving power of Jesus. In time, this text would be looked upon as the Church’s basis for the sacrament of reconciliation. Sins would be “retained” or not forgiven if people were not truly sorry for them or were unwilling to embrace Jesus’ teachings.

By sharing with the disciples his wounds (“he showed them his hand and side”), Jesus is showing them that it is really him and not some ghost. Also, he is teaching them that there is no Easter glory without Good Friday pain. Jesus may also, be saying to us: Community is built when the participants learn to share their wounds.

In the second appearance, Thomas, who expressed disbelief in Jesus’ resurrection, is present when Jesus tells Thomas to place his hands in his wounds. He is accepting Thomas where he is and inviting him to faith. Thomas makes a wonderful profession of faith in Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus says, “Good, Thomas, you believe because you have seen. A time is coming when people will be called to believe without seeing.” The “doubting Thomas” story was also important for all those who, in future generations, would struggle with faith questions. Thomas would be their “patron saint”.

“The community of believers were of one heart and one mind”. What facilitates this oneness in families and parishes and what hurts it?