SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
"My Lord and my God!"
1 Jn 5,1-6
The event and the announcement of Jesus’ resurrection appeal to the believer’s life. Whoever believes in the Resurrected One experiences a grace that orients and transforms all of his or her existence. The biblical readings of this Sunday synthesize the nucleus of the Easter experiences along two lines, that cross over and complement each other in profound unity: the horizontal dimension of fraternal love and the vertical dimension of faith and love in and of God.
The first reading (Acts 4,32-35) makes up an ideal framework of the Christian community’s life at Jerusalem. Luke takes up again the themes of concord among the community’s members (Acts 2,42.44), and of the missionary activity of the apostles (Acts 4,30-31; cf. 2,43), that he has already treated before in the book. Above all, he insists on the sharing of goods, a reality that is very dear to him and that he expresses with a language that suggests to the Greek reader an ideal of popularized social life by some Greek philosophers. Aristotle, for example, affirmed that “between friends, there are common goods thus, friendship manifests itself in communion;” Plato described the warriors of Athens’ golden age saying that “they did not possess anything on their own, but held everything in common.” The text begins affirming that “the whole group of believers was united, heart and soul” (v. 32a). The pair of terms, “heart-soul” remembers the vocabulary that in the book of Deuteronomy pointed out the entire existence of a person open to God (Dt 6,5; 10,12; 11,13; 13,4; etc.). The expression suggests that the lived communion between the believers of Jerusalem was a reality based in the faith. This communion certainly did not exclude friendship, but had its foundation in God himself and is open to all. The foundation of the binding force that unites the believers among themselves is not, however, a simple natural sympathy that flowers in friendship. Rather, faith that presupposes conversion and makes us accept those that are different from ourselves as true brothers and sisters. This harmony of hearts, work of the Spirit is concretized in the placing one’s goods at the disposition of all of the community: “no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, as everything they owned was held in common” (v. 32b). For Luke, the ideal community ought to model itself according to the exigencies of Jesus and reflect the power of life that overflows from his Resurrection. In effect, in the prolongation, in the presence, of the action by which God has resurrected Jesus and a manifestation of the omnipotence that Jesus has received from God in the moment of the resurrection. The text concludes affirming again the grace of koinonía (communion) (vv. 34-35). The phrase “none of their members was ever in want” refers to the Hebrew text of Dt 15,4 (“there must, then, be no poor among you”) and that the Septuagint LXX, translates as a promise: “there will be no need among you.” Luke sees in the community of Jerusalem the fulfillment of this promise. Realized is not only the Greek ideal of friendship, but also the eschatological grace that the LXX text of Deuteronomy promised: a social ideal of equality.
This ideal of which Luke speaks, is a proposal of life for all future communities: spontaneous, free and ordered generosity. The experience of the Resurrected One will obligate the Christian of all times to a constant search of social equality, abandoning a style of life determined by egoism, bourgeois individualism, disinterest for justice and the forgetfulness of the poorest. The ideal of which the Acts of the Apostles speaks is not that of renunciation and voluntary poverty, but that of a charity that does not accept that there may be brothers and sisters that are needy. As the known Biblicist J. Dupont has affirmed: “Ones goods are not abandoned out of the desire to be poor, but rather that there may not be poor among one’s brothers and sisters.”
The second reading (1 Jn 5,1-6) insists also in the love toward others as first irradiation of our faith in the Resurrected Lord. If we believe in Christ, we are children of God, and this ought to show itself in our care of our brothers and sisters. We demonstrate that our Easter experience is authentic when we are capable of recognizing as brother or sister whoever is at our side. John affirms: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ, has been begotten by God” (v. 1). It is the faith in the Resurrected Lord which makes us have distinct eyes to see others and overcome the narrowness of our egoism and disinterest. John calls this “begotten of God” (v. 1) or “overcoming the world” (v. 4). Rightly, he says: “because every child of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith” (v. 4). There is a profound bond between faith and love, between faith in God that has raised Jesus and love toward one’s brothers and sisters: “Whoever loves God, that gives being, ought to love all begotten of him” (cf. v. 2).
The gospel (Jn 20,19-31) presents us with the Resurrection of Jesus in terms of “meeting with the Resurrected,” to show how the first witnesses of Easter arrived at faith, and how we can come to believe as well. The composition of the text is very simply: it has two parts (vv. 19-23 and vv. 26-27) united by the explanation of vv. 24-25 about the absence of Thomas. The two parts begin with the same indication about the reunited disciples and in both Jesus presents himself with a greeting of peace (vv. 19.26).
In the first part of the text, in the block composed by verses 19-23, a temporal indication is given to us ( it is the first day of the week) and a spatial indication (the doors of the place are closed). The reference to the first day of the week, that is to say, the day following Saturday (Sunday) evokes the Sunday celebrations of the primitive community and our own paschal experience that is renewed each Sunday. The indication of the closed doors wants to remind us of the fear that the disciples had that still did not believe, and at the same time, desires to be a witness of the new corporeal condition of Jesus that makes himself present in the place. Jesus crosses over both barriers: the closed exterior doors and the interior fear of the disciples. In spite of everything, they are together, reunited, that which seems to be in the narration a necessary condition for a meeting with the Resurrected; in fact Thomas only comes to have faith when he is with the rest of the group. Jesus “came and stood among them” (v. 19). The text speaks of “resurrection” as coming of the Lord. The Resurrected Christ does not come except in coming in a new and plain form to his own (cf. Jn 14,28: “I shall return;” Jn 16,16-17) and communicates to them four fundamental gifts: peace, joy, mission and the Holy Spirit. The paschal gifts par excellence are peace (the biblical shalom) and joy (the biblical járis), that are not given for egoistic and exclusive rejoicing, but so that they are changed into universal mission. One mission only: that which the Son has received from the Father now becomes also mission of the Church for which the Lord gives his Spirit. In the text stands out the theme of the new creation: Jesus, as Yahweh when he created man in Genesis 2,7 or when Ezekiel invokes the wind of life over the dry bones (Ez 37). With the gift of the Spirit, the Resurrected Lord begins a new world, and with the sending of the disciples a new Israel is inaugurated that believes in Christ and witnesses to the truth of the resurrection. As “new men,” filled with the nourishment of the Spirit in virtue of the resurrection of Jesus, they will have to continue the mission of the “Lamb that takes away the sin of the world:” the Church’s mission that continues Christ’s work bringing about the renewal of humanity as a new creating work in virtue of the living power of the Resurrected One.
In the second part of the text, in the block make up of verses 26-27, is a narration of a similar lived experience eight days later. The first time Thomas, one of the disciples, was not present and did not believe in the testimony of the others that have seen the Lord (vv. 23-25). Unbelieving Thomas represents the man and woman of all times, that demands signs, that only believes by way of miracles. He wants to identify Jesus with the footprints of the cross. Eight days afterwards, all are together including Thomas and Jesus “came in” (v. 26). It is significant, the fact that the relation uses the verb “to come” in the present and not in the past: it is a way of saying that that experience repeats itself time and again in the life of the Church. Jesus reproaches Thomas for not having believed in the other disciples’ testimonies, and invites him to stop being apistós (unbelieving) and to come to be pistós (believing). The testimony of the others will have to have been sufficient so that he would believe. It is a call to attention for all those that in the future will come to believe, always through the word, mediation and apostolic witness of those that “came” to Jesus. To Thomas, it is not revealed in particular but in the midst of the community; there – and not in another place – Thomas will be able to see the Lord and profess his faith. After having seen like the others, Thomas believes and his profession of faith is clear: “My Lord and My God” (cf. Ps 35,23).
The text concludes with some words of Jesus that originally were the conclusion of the Gospel of John before he added chapter 21 to it: “Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe” (Jn 20,29). Paschal faith in the future will be always founded on the witness of those first disciples that “came” to Jesus and have given witness to it. This is the true paschal faith: “You have not seen him, yet you love him; and still without seen him you believe in him and so are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described; and you are sure of the goal of your faith, that is, the salvation of your souls” (1 Pt 1,8).