The Soil of Love
Second Sunday of Easter (Low Sunday). Fr Richard Finn calls on us to live by the Spirit we have received from the risen Christ.
Just as the bands that had shrouded him in death could not hold him, nor the stone seal the tomb, so now the locked doors, behind which the disciples cower, cannot bar the risen Christ. On the first day of a new week, he begins the new creation. The Spirit given out at the death of Jesus from the Cross is here breathed upon his disciples to free them from the old order of sin and its mortal cruelties. All lies open to him. He makes all things new.
Jesus comes to where his disciples are hiding in fear from evil, wherever that is, wherever evil has closed in on us, where sin has closed each of us in upon ourselves. He comes as liberator with the Spirit’s gifts of peace, forgiveness, and faith. This liberation is exemplified in the resolution of Thomas’s doubts.
Is it surprising that Thomas doubted what he heard? Jesus had died a shameful and humiliating death. He was not spared the agony. Thomas’s adamant refusal to accept the sure word of friends and fellow disciples perhaps measures his sorrow and loss of heart at this cruel death. Bitter despair is then what keeps Thomas from their company on the first occasion that Christ visits them.
But the isolating despair of this one man does not have the last word. The risen Christ comes to him marked with the wounds of his passion, and thereby gives him faith in the good company of the disciples. The latter’s presence is no accident. As St Thomas Aquinas comments, God reveals himself to those who live by a common charity. Hence the faithful in today’s reading from Acts, live together, share their goods, and devote themselves with one mind to worship in the temple.
It seems that the love we exchange in manifold ways as Christian communities enables our belief in the love of God who creates the one Christian community of the Church. So, as a Church we preach the Good News, spread the faith, not simply by the rehearsal of our creed, but in a common life from which hope may spring to belief. It has often been traditional to sing the Creed as to sing the other great prayers and doxologies of the Mass. We do so because our voices are to express the life, the tempo or fire, which inhabit our beliefs. As the Evangelist clarifies the objective grounds for faith in the apostolic testimony of the Church to the risen Christ, so he also reveals the subjective grounds of belief, the soil of love.
Like Thomas, we, too, may find faith in the wounds of the risen Christ. We come to faith in accepting the witness of the apostles, in experiencing the love shared within the Church, but also in the encounter with the crucified and risen Lord whose body and blood becomes our Eucharist. At the altar we are united with Jesus in his dying and rising.
With the other disciples, we are then sent into the world by Christ, just as the Father first sends his Son. It’s not simply that his mission and ours are alike, as a postbox and a traffic light are both red. Discipleship is our share in Christ’s mission, the unfolding work of the new creation. And as the Father sent his divine word into the world through the incarnation, the one person of Jesus Christ, so our discipleship comes through incorporation into the one Body of Christ, and adoption in Christ as sons and daughters of the Father. The new creation of the risen Christ is our sanctification through participation by grace in the Trinitarian life of God.
All this is as it should be. Yet, it is not without difficulty. While the power of Christ to make and renew the Church is unfailing, her members remain capable of sin. At once, how close and far are our own communities from the Church presented in the opening chapters of Acts? Many have lapsed into isolation from the Church in disappointment, through some kind of despair. If we have received the Spirit, we had better live by it this Easter, whereby the Christ may bring new hope and faith to others.