8 April 2018
In the first reading from Acts, (4: 32-35) we have Luke’s view of how he thought the Church should be and which he projects on to his story of the early followers of Jesus after His resurrection. This is how history was written in those days. It is a picture not too unlike the ideal of communism or of the Jewish Kibbutz, with everyone sharing equally and no one lacking while others had more than enough. The image presents us with something to think about and perhaps to influence the way we live; though the caring described seems limited to fellow believers. Although Acts was written about 75 AD It is writing about a period very soon after the resurrection before there were churches in different places; it is the beginning of the story Acts tells of the spread of Christians throughout the world.
The Letters of John reflect a later situation for the Christians. In the First Letter, (1 John 5:1-6), the writer seems to speak authoritatively, as he (most likely a man) tries to correct the view that maybe Jesus wasn’t really a human undergoing birth and death, which are degrading and ‘worldly’ things; and he wants to stress that if we love God and are loved by Him, then the way we show and experience this, is by our relationship with the children of God (which again seems limited to other Christians). If we really believe in the humanity of Jesus then we love people – love God.
The Gospel of John, (20:19-31), has much in it for us to take in; this is because the writer packs a lot into these last chapters of his gospel; it shows the developing understanding of the churches that were the first recipients of the Gospel, in the area of Ephesus. He wants to emphasise the reality of Jesus’ resurrection by illustrating both the new mode of life of Jesus which is unlimited by space and time, and also the reality of His humanity with all its essential bodily attributes. The story of doubting Thomas is well-known, but the point of it is in the message to all others who believe without physical evidence – they are blest and happy. It is interesting to have in the three readings these witnesses of the development in understanding about the resurrection and its implications. The growth in the belief in Jesus as truly human and truly divine; the link between this belief and the consequent caring for others; the limitation of the caring to fellow believers which we have now developed beyond; and profession of faith without visual evidence. As we celebrate the transformation of humanity by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we need to live out our belief in the presence of Christ in our world, by our love for fellow humans, and by our struggle to develop the way we experience and express our faith in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.