TOGETHER, TO GATHER STRENGTH!
Catholic Homily / Sunday Reflection
2nd Sunday of Easter (B)
April 19, 2009
This second Sunday finds togetherness in community an important illustration of some important truth with regards to our life of faith. The first reading begins thus: “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own.” (Acts 4:32) St. John heightens this concept of togetherness and community and ties it up with faith: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God…In this way, we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments.” (1 Jn 5:1) The Gospel speaks of the gathered disciples within a locked upper room, all huddled together in community, when Jesus appeared. Thomas, who was absent previously, we are told, was now with them. He was with the incipient community of believers.
The first reading does not refer to individual believers but to a community. Faith in St. John’s description starts from a person confessing his belief, but graduates to a community professing faith and love: “In this way we know, that we love the children of God…” And Thomas was an unbeliever for as long as he was alone…absent…and detached from the rest of the community!
These details have far-reaching and important consequences about our faith. Faith is not a turning inward, and a selfish appropriation of an objective truth. It is not just a mental assent to some concept or idea, no matter how convincing, no matter how incontrovertible. Faith is not a selfish activity done without connection to a community outside of our person. Thomas the grieving and lonely searcher, perhaps disappointed about the unfortunate turn of events, could not believe, despite the enthusiastic reports of his fellow disciples… “Unless I see the mark of the nails…and put my finger into the nailmarks…I will not believe” … until he went back to the fold, until he joined once again and allowed himself to be an integral part once more of the incipient community of believers. And that was when faith bursted forth! That was when Thomas, doubting no more, dispensed fortwith with clear and certain evidences and cried out: “My Lord and my God!” The Gospel does not tell us that he needed indeed to touch the nailmarks. It was a spontaneous profession of faith, not on the material facticity of the wounds and nailmarks, but on the person of Christ, risen from the dead.
We modern people seem unable to dispense with clear and certain “evidences.” We always look for shallow signs. We look for them in bleeding statues. We run around searching for places where spectacular “pseudo-miracles” happen. We put a lot of importance on tangible proofs. In the process, we forget that the first and most important fact is that the Risen Jesus chose to show that he is ALIVE in the community, in the Church, in us all. This is to show us that faith is born, grows, and is perfected only in the context of community, not in selfish and unconnected mental rumination.
This Sunday, the day of the Lord, is also the day of the community of believers. And this gathering, this convocation, this assembly – the Church – is more than just a meaningless coming together but an opportunity to be confirmed and enriched in faith, together, to gather strength from him who says: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”