God's Word on Sunday: Nothing will break those united in the Lord

  • April 14, 2023

Second Sunday of Easter (Year A) April 16 (Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 118; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31)

Unity is a source of great power and strength both for good and for ill. Totalitarian regimes of all types force their people to be as lockstep as possible. There is no room for individuality or independent thinking. We rightly fear this sort of unity, although there has been a disturbing drift in its direction in recent years.

But the unity described by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles is of a totally different sort — it is a union of minds and hearts. They have put on the mind and heart of Christ, and they lived out of that reality with one another. That does not mean that they always agreed on everything or that there were no differences of opinion. After all, they were human beings. The big difference was that they were able to navigate all those potential shoals with patience, humility and love. There was no “mine and thine” attitude in the community for they shared all that they had.

When there is little or no competition, tensions tend to ease or dissipate. They ate their meals in common — not a bolt-and-run type of meal common in our own time, but a time to relax, talk, pray and share. And to top it all off, they did so with “glad and generous hearts.” It is difficult if not downright impossible to be mean, petty and unkind while having a heart filled with gratitude and generosity. Their bond was spiritual. United in the Lord and in love, nothing could overpower or break them. The spiritual energy generated in that environment enabled many miracles and conversions.

Christianity will begin to recover and thrive only when it regains a sense of that genuine spiritual community exemplified by the early followers of Jesus. Our faith is not a religion relegated to the margins of our existence; it is a way of life.

What is the desire of our hearts? Many think that wealth, power, possessions, fame or relationships are where happiness lies. And in a limited way, that is true — but it is very precarious and often short lived. Everything can be lost in an instant. The author of the Letter of Peter encourages his community by describing the incredible joy and happiness that our heavenly inheritance brings — and it is unwavering and eternal. It might sound like a mere “pie-in-the-sky” type of promise except for one thing: we can begin to experience it now. He points out that we have never seen Jesus, but we love Him — and that love enables us to know Him. Love is another way of knowing every bit as important as the senses and the intellect. We will begin to experience our heavenly inheritance in proportion to our love and our faith.

To be deprived of breath for only a few moments can be a frightening experience. After all, our very life is at stake — we will struggle to take that next life-giving breath. But what about the divine breath — the Spirit? In both the ancient Hebrew and Greek, the word for “breath” and “spirit” is identical. Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus promised the gift of the Spirit. He breathed the divine breath into the astonished apostles, empowering them to continue His mission. His mission was to reveal the true God — not projections — and to enable believers to have a conscious relationship with the Creator.

We can imagine how Thomas felt when he returned home and discovered he had missed out on the big event. He probably felt disappointment tinged with a lot of doubt. To be honest, the story would have been a hard sell to anyone who had not been there. Jesus appeared again and invited Thomas to see and touch His wounds. That was enough — Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus then made this a teaching moment. Thomas had seen, touched and believed — but blessed are all those in future generations who will not have that advantage and yet will believe.

Although we are two millennia removed from the events of the New Testament in one sense, we are present in another sense — through faith and love. We are not at all disadvantaged — we can know Jesus and experience Him as if we were there. Jesus is alive and risen, and we can be too.