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God's Word on Sunday: There is a divine presence within all of us

  • April 17, 2022

Second Sunday of Easter (Year C) April 24 (Acts 5:12-16; Psalm 118; Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31)

The people of Jerusalem must have sensed and felt the power emanating from the group of Jesus believers gathered in Solomon’s Portico. Many wanted to join them but were hesitant or afraid — it all seemed so strange and new. And yet many did join them, and their numbers continued to grow.

The presence of this small but powerful group gave incredible hope, as people continued to bring the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits from far and wide. Even Peter’s shadow falling on a person in need was sufficient to bring about healing. No one went away disappointed.

This was the biggest attraction for the early Christian movement — the presence of divine power at work. People were not drawn by theological arguments or media campaigns but by concrete proof that God was alive and working on their behalf. The first generation of believers did not just believe in the Spirit — they experienced it in life-changing and dramatic ways.

This divine fire in the midst of the community must be carefully tended for it can flicker out and grow cold. This has happened many times in the Church’s history and it takes Spirit-filled men and women and a lot of dedication to get it started again. This is what will have to happen if the Church is to exert a drawing energy once again. The hopeful desperation in the hearts of many is still very present, but the visible signs of the presence and action of God are not as prominent or apparent as they could or should be. We do not have the Portico of Solomon, but we do have the image of the field hospital given to us by Pope Francis. We can only be an effective field hospital if our instruments are the Spirit and love.

This task would be insurmountable if we had to accomplish it alone and by our own powers. John’s incredibly complicated and enigmatic Book of Revelation does give us a few powerful and consoling images. The one “like the Son of Man” is clothed with all the signs of divine power, such as the seven lampstands and the robe with the gold sash. That was enough to send John into a faint, but the figure urged him not to be afraid.

He is both the beginning and end of spiritual history; He was dead but is alive — eternally. Not only that, but He has the keys of Death and Hades.

In other words, He is the one directing history and the journey of each human soul. We are in good hands regardless of what may happen along the way. Remember, He has the keys and is in charge, and He has already experienced our humanity.

In comparison with the noisy and flashy giving of the Spirit in Acts during the feast of Pentecost, John’s version is subdued and low-key. Jesus greeted the shocked apostles with “Peace be with you.” It is more than a pleasantry or even a blessing. He had promised that He would gift them with the peace that the world cannot give, and this was it.

Peace — shalom — means wholeness, completeness and health. Jesus filled the emptiness and incompleteness that exists in every human heart and soul. He breathed on them, filling them with the divine Spirit.

The Spirit is given to all and is not the privileged possession of a select few.

This is the same divine breath or Spirit that swept over the face of the deep in Genesis. Humanity was created anew with this gift of the Spirit. And it’s fortunate, or we could not accomplish the mission He gave His followers: “As the Father sent me, so I send you.”

The mission of Jesus is now the mission of all who dare to call themselves His disciples. That mission is to reveal God as God really is and to awaken people to the divine presence within each of us.

This is the most pressing task of our time. We should not shrink from this charge, for Jesus promised in John 14:12 that His believers would be able to do even greater things than He.

The first step to making this a reality is to take the promise seriously and begin living as if it were so.