Acts 4, 32-35
- Today I am restating, along with thousands of other lectors
in every land, the faith of the first community of believers. And what
do I believe about the report?
- I remember that these words were written many decades after
the dynamic they narrate. More than history is involved here, in my opinion:
Luke was judging the churches of his own time when he wrote his generalities. And
we? In all honesty, could we apply the same benchmark of generosity to our churches? In other words, shall we be strict constructionists?
My answer to these questions will affect my interpretation of the passage: as either a piece of nostalgia or a wake-up
call to my affluent congregation.
- Are any of the words I declare relevant to our congregation? Examples: One heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions
was his own. How did we come to defend private property so fiercely, wrapping
legal stockades around our material heritage? Apparently that was a problem for
the communities as the first believers passed away. But there are the words in
our inspired scripture: They had everything in common. And we?
- Great favor was accorded them all. This refers to the esteem in which they held the apostles. How do we restore that level of respect to their successors, our own shepherds? Do we offer it gladly only to those who prove deserving of it?
- No needy person among them. Today we discuss justice in our nation in regard especially to those
who cross our borders undocumented. And I will let a slight inflection come from
my voice: How do we measure up?
- Even the lector can learn something from the apostles. With power they bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. How powerful do I witness?
- Climax: One heart and mind.
The passage opens with it, and it suffuses everything that follows. Whether
I am talking about possessions or preaching, I am dealing with a broad outreach. No
one is excluded, and the Lord is among such people.
- Message for our assembly: How do we measure up? Or are we merely reciting words today?
- I will challenge myself: To take seriously what I am saying, so that
my listeners will also take it seriously.
I John 5, 1-6
- I begin reading from the first letter of John. Everyone
who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God.
- There are some verbs that on first hearing sound disconnected: believe,
love, obey. This literal translation does not help to clarify but at least it does not obscure either. I will need fifteen or so readings to make it run smoothly.
- I have a sense that all these phrases, which will sound disjoint in the voice of a poorly prepared
reader, recapitulate in many ways our life together in community. First there
is community of the Father and the one
begotten by him, then of God and the children of God. It is a message about
the community of faith, where love of God reveals love of neighbor. They are
for all intents and purposes the same thing! We know that we love the children
of God when we love God.
- It sounds almost like a litany. The believers are begotten by God and
they conquer the world. We love God and God’s children, so we keep
God’s commandments, especially the greatest commandment of love. Above
all, we believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
- In a time of doubt we know. I want to make John’s short phrase my own today.
- When I read the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, I am looking ahead to today’s Gospel passage
and the Lord’s words to Thomas. I pray as I read that my church will have
its own faith reinforced.
- Then come the final words: The one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ. If I speak them decisively my listeners will recall the water and blood that issued from his side at his
death. I notice that the apostle insists on both: not by water alone but by
water and blood. Let me just insist on this distinction, and let the homilist
interpret it further for the assembly.
- Climax: The victory that conquers the world is our faith.
- Message for our assembly: Be encouraged by the warm words of the apostle. When he says: not burdensome, he means ‘not overpowering’
or ‘not impossible.’ And he repeats the phrase conquers the world three times to show that our life in Christ is a life of possibilities. Why am I reminded of those hard sayings of Jesus?
- I will challenge myself: To take my time as I make the necessary connections between commandments,
love, faith, overcoming, and the Spirit who testifies.
Gospel. John 20, 19-31
- The spreading of the Good News began on the first day of the week, just
as we are doing today. Jesus is present to his disciples and they are in a festive
- Once again the church is one. Wherever and whenever the
church is together Jesus can come quietly and repeat his Shalom to us: Peace be with you.
- First there are the disciples who have seen the Lord. Then there
are the disciples today who have not seen and have believed. Let me bring
out this contrast.
- “Doubting Thomas” reminds us that seeing is not necessary to believe.
There were all those people demanding a sign from Jesus and missing the point.
But let me focus more on Jesus and the lesson the church wants to pass to us through this disciple.
- Climax: Jesus came. Jesus himself, destroyer of death, gives us the Spirit
of communion and makes communion possible.
- Message for our assembly: Here is a blessing that must console us all today: that we have not seen and yet believe. Our faith is not based on visions, apparitions or wonders of nature, but on the death
and life of Jesus.
- I will challenge myself: To evoke the fear that reigned in that upper
room until Jesus brought the Good News to his disciples. And then I want especially
to evoke the release and outburst when they knew that he is alive and indeed with them.
These events should accompany our church, too, especially the heart filling with joy.