REFLECTIONS ON THE READINGS FOR
THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B
Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 117:2-4,16b-17,22-24; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31
In the passage from the Acts of the Apostles today, we read one of Luke’s three great summaries of the ideal life lead by the early Church in Jerusalem ‘who were united heart and soul’ and shared their possessions, so that there should be neither rich nor poor. Such a community life of sharing had deep roots in the Judaism of its time, for example in the Qumran sect, where every member gave his property to the community. Rabbinical writings often speak of brotherly love, as in the following story: ‘A certain Abbah Judah in Antioch had lost all his property and was in despair because he had nothing left to give to the poor. Then his wife remembered that they still owned a field; joyfully he went, sold half of it and gave it to those in need.’ A midrash (rabbinical story based on a scriptural text) on v.19 (‘Open to me the gates of holiness: I will enter and give thanks’) of Psalm 117, some verses of which we read today, says: ‘In the future world, a person will be asked, “What was your occupation?” If he replies, “I fed the hungry”, then they will reply, “This is the Gate of the Lord; he who feeds the hungry, let him enter.”’ There is a ‘new’ element, however, in the words of Jesus about love: ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ [John 13:34]. The passage in Acts describes Jesus’ commandment being put into practice.
The verses of the reading today from the First Letter of John link the passage about the commandment to love which precedes them with the passage about faith which follows them. Belief in Jesus as the Christ, like love, is the mark of the one born of God: love of the begetter (God) entails love of the one begotten.
While Acts show the consequences of faith, the Gospel speaks of the absolute necessity of faith in the risen Christ. John’s Gospel dates from the end of the first century, by which time Christians already assembled on Sunday, the Lord’s Day. Thomas, in his final confession, uses the terms ‘my Lord and my God’, which the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) reserves for God alone. Here, then, John’s Gospel points towards an already more developed Christology, with the early Church beginning to understand better the divinity of Christ. The story wants to drive home the point so that later generations who had not met Jesus are not at a disadvantage. In the preaching of his word, in the celebration of the liturgy, Jesus is as truly present among us as he was during his earthly life. The giving of the Spirit is closely linked to the Resurrection, even though the Church celebrates both events at different times. In Acts, the Spirit is seen at work in the life of the community; in John’s Letter, the Spirit causes faith; John’s Gospel adds that it is thanks to the loving Spirit of God in Christ, shared by humanity – ‘he breathed on them’ – that sins are forgiven.
The response to Psalm 117 should be our ongoing, daily response to all that God has done for us: ‘Give thanks to the Lord for God is good, for God’s love has no end.’
This week’s Sunday Gospel Commentary was prepared by
Sr Margaret Shepherd, NDS, London, UK
[Copyright © 2018]
PLEASE NOTE: The weekly Gospel commentaries represent the research and creative thought of their authors, and are meant to stimulate deeper thinking about the meaning of the Sunday Scriptures. While they draw upon the study methods and sources employed by the Bat Kol Institute, the views and conclusions expressed in these commentaries are solely those of their authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Bat Kol. Questions, comments and feedback are always welcome.
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