We will find a little of Thomas’ doubt in all of us

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  • April 3, 2012

Second Sunday of Easter (Year B) April 15 (Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 118; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31)

There are many passages of the Scriptures that should have a more forceful impact on us but unfortunately do not. Perhaps we have heard them too many times or the countless compromises that we have made collectively with the demands of the Gospel have deadened our spiritual and moral awareness.

For example, the simple description of the early Christian community’s way of life is both a rigourous challenge to our own society and a sign of hope. The first believers sold their property and pooled their resources. Everyone was provided for and there were no needy or hungry among them. This was definitely not charity but a new way of living. The passage from Acts insists that they were of one heart and soul. Their common life was an expression of their deep and vibrant spiritual convictions as well as the love and the unity they felt with one another. The source of the community’s strength and spiritual power was this shared and mutually supportive life.

Perhaps our own world needs a second (or even first) look at this vision. Great economic inequalities divide our societies as more people are left behind and denied the basics of life. Some parts of the world still live in abject poverty. At the same time, the market for luxury items is booming and we are surrounded by the distressing signs of conspicuous consumption. Our economic system seems to demand living far beyond our means as the price for prosperity. Unfortunately, concern for the poor — if it goes beyond the bounds of socially acceptable charity — is often viewed as politically dangerous or economically destructive. Dom Helder Camara, the former archbishop of Recife in Brazil and champion of the poor, remarked that when he gave food to the poor he was called a saint but when he questioned why they were poor he was called a communist. Governments cannot bear the total burden. Faith communities need to play their part too. In the end it comes down to what each individual is willing to share with regard to money, resources, time, space and convenience.

To return to the apostolic community, they lived this way not for political reasons or simple humanitarianism, but because they were convinced that this is the way God wants us to live: for others. We are reaching a critical point in our history.

Perhaps we will have to choose this divinely willed way of life if humanity and our world are to survive.

What does it mean to believe that Jesus is the Christ? It is not about ideology, group belonging or identity, or even “getting saved.” Believing that Jesus is the Christ means believing in and making our own what He stood for — His values, spiritual principles, way of life and His obedience to the divine will. 

John sums this up with the phrase “love God and obey His commandments.”

Elsewhere in this same epistle John insists quite forcefully that love of God whom we cannot see is inseparable from love for the very visible people in our midst. Love in the biblical understanding is very practical and is always expressed in deeds.

The same message is present in the appearance of Jesus in the Upper Room after the Resurrection. He made it clear that there would be no “business as usual” for His followers. As He breathed the divine spirit into the disciples, He repeated the words, “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” They (and we) are to continue the work of Jesus — incarnating and revealing the love of God.

Thomas’ sceptical reaction to the report of the Upper Room appearance in some respects resembles human reactions of our own time. Some scepticism is healthy and necessary, but in this case proof, certainty and assurance are all demanded before there can be any sort of commitment to faith or spiritual ideals.

Jesus blesses those who do not see but believe. In another sense the same could be said of those who respond with love to the suffering of humanity by listening to the promptings of their heart, conscience and soul — without “proof.”

The “shalom” with which Jesus blessed His disciples in the Upper Room will never be fully ours until we take to heart and live out the principles of one God, one world and one humanity.

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