2nd Sunday of Easter – Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Blessed Are Those Who Believe Without Seeing!”
The words of Jesus, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing,” are quite appropriate for us modern people. ‘Blessed are those who can recognize the voice of the Master’. These words of truth resound every Sunday in our community celebrations.
Generally people will not be satisfied just with preaching. Like the people at the time of Christ, they want to see among us ‘signs’. Concrete signs that will prove beyond doubt that the Spirit of Christ is at work in the world.
The first and second readings tell us that our ‘love for each other’ is the ‘Sign’ that will best show unbelievers that we have real faith in the Risen Christ.
We meet the Risen Lord in the Sunday gathering of the people. If we cannot see the Risen Lord, there is something else we can see: the community which, through its life, is evidence that Christ is alive and with us.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
The Greek term ‘koinonia’ means ‘the bond of responsibility believers in the Gospel share toward one another’. Religious communities strive for it; parishes within each diocese commit to it; families, the most fundamental of society’s institutions, are bound to it.
The new life of the community of the first Christians compared to the way of life of all other people had two extraordinary characteristics: it’s members were united in ‘heart and soul’ and no one claimed ownership of any possessions, as everything they owned was held in common. A community founded on these principles, so different from those commonly accepted, could not go unnoticed, and in fact they were accorded with great respect.
In a worldly society founded on pride and selfishness, Christians appeared as citizens from a different world. Pagans and Jews alike asked themselves: “Where can this extraordinary life come from?” The reply was spontaneous: we live like this because Christ has risen! After Jesus’ ‘Ascension’ the risen Christ was not visible, but the community born of his Spirit was there for everybody to see.
The other element of unity that the passage highlights is the central authority of the apostles. Peter and John have just defended their faith in the presence of the Sanhedrin. Now we see them bearing witness through miracles in the midst of the community. The material gifts brought to the community were placed at their feet, a gesture that acknowledged their power and authority. They oversaw the ‘oneness’ of the community.
The situation today is not very different from the time of the apostles. There is often ruthless competition; from early childhood people have been taught to and are keen to dominate others, imposing their ideas, opinions and preferences on members of the community. Everybody seems to be out on their own to accumulate as much wealth for themselves and leave as little as possible for others. From this selfish frame of mind a new and popular adage seems to have emerged in our society, ‘If you snooze, you lose’.
There is some alms giving to the poor, but generally we all want to keep control what we have gained from our own efforts and our work. Individual possessiveness was seen by the early Christian community as incompatible with the Christian faith.
Fortunately the generosity of many of the faithful still contributes to the unity of the Church today. The continued care of one believer for another, the willingness, indeed, the necessity that people experience to be of service to those members of the community who are in need, are manifestations of the same ‘Spirit of Christ’ that enlivened and inspired the infant Church in Jerusalem.
One of the most encouraging factors of Church life in our time is the growth of stewardship. It is a matter of sharing ourselves, our time, our talent, and our economic resources with others. We are called to be Christ for the benefit and service of one another.
How can we all get back to that ‘bond of responsibility’ that believers in the Gospel have for each other? Only when we are able to form a community inspired by love, generosity and selflessness will we be able to prove that the ‘Spirit of Christ’ is truly among us.
Psalm 118:2-4, 15-18, 22-24.
The pilgrim Psalm of last Sunday is continued. All are invited to join in the praise of God. ‘Let Israel say, ‘God’s love is forever’.’ Then, however, we discover the reason for praise: ‘you pressed me hard, so as to fall’, he says, presumably to his enemies, ‘and YHWH helped me’, with the result that ‘a joyful sound of victory is in the tents of the righteous: YHWH’s right hand has exercised power’. Then comes the reminder that the singer has actually been rescued: ‘the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’ (a phrase applied to Jesus in his life-time, of course), before the song finally returns to God: ‘this came from YHWH, a marvel in our eyes – the day YHWH made; we rejoice and exult in it’. God has given victory to the one who was falling, to Christ who was buried in the tomb.
1 John 5:1-7.
The second reading’s main theme is ‘love’ for our brothers and sisters and could be summarized in a sentence that we shall be reading a few Sundays from now: “My dear friends, let us love one another, since love is from God, and whoever loves is a child of God!” (4:7).
The part we read today seems to be addressed to those who were baptized during the Easter Vigil. It tells them: you have now received the Life of God; this Life is not visible, but there is a sign that reveals his presence: whoever loves God must also love his brothers and sisters. The love of each other has its most solid foundations here, the fact that we are all God’s children, sons and daughters of the same Father irrespective of our worldly differences.
This letter was written at a time when many people thought that they could love God without bothering about other people. Sadly many still believe the latter to be true. John reminds the members of his community that true faith cannot be kept separate from life and the community.
In the Gospel, John tells how Jesus appeared to the apostles on the first Easter Sunday saying to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you …receive the Holy Spirit.” The Risen Jesus makes clear that because of his Resurrection, his followers, empowered by the Holy Spirit, were to go out to the world bearing the ‘Good News’. Thomas, one of the twelve, wasn’t present at Jesus’ appearance to the others. On hearing of it he doubted that it happened.
Most early Christians had not seen the Risen Christ. They were in much the same position as we are. So John uses the story of Thomas to assure them and us that Jesus indeed is truly Risen. Jesus says to them, and to us, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” John does not blame Thomas. In his mind Thomas represents the disciples who find it difficult to believe in the Resurrection of Christ. It is important to keep in mind that even the apostles did not find it easy to believe in the Resurrection; and this, in spite of the repeated appearances of the Lord. John wants to instruct the Christians of his communities who wanted to see before believing. He tells them about Thomas and explains that the Risen Lord lives a life that escapes our senses, a life that cannot be touched or seen. It can only be experienced by faith.
We say, “Blessed are those who saw”, don’t we? Jesus says “the blessed ones are those who have not seen”. Why? Maybe we think that it is harder for them to believe and therefore their faith is more meritorious. But it is not exactly so: they are blessed because their faith is more genuine and purer. One who sees has been given the irrefutable proof of a fact; but this is not faith. John describes how to arrive at this faith in the last part of today’s Gospel: “There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that in believing this you may have life through his name. Here then is the proof: the Gospel.
That is why we have the Word of Christ, that’s where the person of Christ is revealed and we are invited to follow him. There is no other proof besides His Word. To understand this better let us remember the parable of the Good Shepherd: “My sheep know my voice (Jn. 10:4,14, 27). No seeing is required! The voice of the Shepherd rings out in the Gospel, and the sound of his voice is recognized by his sheep.
When we call Thomas the ‘doubter’, we should remember that he stands in for all of us “who have not seen” and struggle to believe. Thomas had a problem in accepting change… in moving from knowing Jesus in the flesh to the time of relating to the Risen Lord in faith.
When we hear anyone saying ‘I refuse or cannot believe’ let us pray for faith that each one of us can answer, “My Lord and my God!”
When Christians live the message in neighbourliness is where the presence of the Lord can be seen and touched. This way of life is the most powerful ‘witness’ to the ‘Resurrection’.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. …Are we part of a worldly society founded on pride and selfishness or do we share in that ‘Bond of Love and Responsibility’ that all believers in the Gospel have for each other?
Mon. …We need to consider how best we can share our varied talents, our resources and ourselves with our community in the true spirit of ‘Koinonia’. Our parish and our diocese need our input to seal that ‘Bond of Community Fellowship’ made possible by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Tues. …Let us pray for the ‘Spirit of the Risen Christ’ that enlivened and inspired the infant Church in Jerusalem to help us transform our worldly society of today from the evils of legalized murder of unborn infants, corrupt institutions contributing to and abetting the ever-increasing level of crime and violence, the misappropriation of funds and fraud in departments responsible for uplifting the plight of the poor and desperate. We have sadly become a society catering for the convenience of the selfish!
Wed. …Theses transgressions above are clear indications that our ‘culture of greed and selfishness’ needs to be replaced urgently by a ‘culture of love’. In a culture of love, truth and honesty will always prevail because truth and love are an integral part of each other. This love will begin to grow in our hearts when we start to imitate Jesus. When seeking the ‘Right Way’ to any situation we need to ask ourselves, ‘What would Jesus do?’
Thurs. …Do we love God? The second reading reminds us that if we profess to love God, then we must love each other. John reminds his community that true faith cannot be separated from life and love for each other. It is the’ cornerstone’ of our Christian faith.
Frid. …Thomas represents all disciples who find it difficult to believe in the Resurrection of Christ. One who sees has been given irrefutable proof of a fact; but this is not faith. All Christians have been given the gift of faith. We need to pray out our faith, think about our faith, and live the life of our faith. Faith demands our active works. That does not mean that we will never have doubts; but if like Thomas we care about what we believe in, that care in time will bring us into the presence of the Living and Risen Lord. For now, we need to accept the gift of the Gospel and let its message penetrate our hearts and follow the ‘Light’ and the ‘Way’ of the Risen Christ.
Sat. …Today recall the words of Jesus, ‘His sheep know his voice and follow him’. If we are his sheep we will be familiar with his ‘Word’. (Gospel). ‘Anyone who is not accustomed to what the Master is saying will not be able to distinguish the voice from those who wish to exploit the sheep’. The voice of the ‘True Shepherd’ rings out in the Gospel. For the sake of our own salvation let us start today to become totally familiar to his ‘Word’. Let us today open up our eyes and start reading that great gift from God, the Holy Bible, which is collecting dust on our bookshelves.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we now share with Christ and help us to grow as your people towards the fullness of eternal life in Your presence.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.