Reflections on the Readings for the 2nd Sunday of Easter 2021
Every so often, as the story of the early preaching of the Gospel message unfolds in the Acts of the Apostles, in between recounting events involving the main apostles, St Luke gives us an insight into the community of believers. In this extract it is portrayed as the true Israel, living in harmony and sharing their worldly goods in such a way that no one went without. Faithful adherence to God’s covenant with Moses were meant to be such things as harmony between members of the community and looking out for the needs of others. At times in the Old Testament we see the People – often in the person of their king – failing to live up to these ideals. Now a new community is seen, replacing the old, and being faithful to its ideals as the message of the Resurrection is preached.
1 John 5:1-6
On these Sundays of Easter each year our Second Readings comes from one of the later books in the New Testament. This year we are offered extracts from the First Letter of St John. The letters attributed to St John were written at the end of the First Century – amongst some of the latest writings in the New Testament, and almost certainly not written by St John himself but rather one of the community of disciples which he had formed. This First Letter is not so much a letter as an extended homily urging people to remember Jesus’ teaching, especially about the commandment of love. The readers are invited to be faithful witnesses, truly God’s children, by observing the commandments given by Jesus.
Today’s Gospel is the same for all three-year cycle of Sunday Readings. The story of “Doubting Thomas” has many rich elements to it: Spirit, sin and forgiveness, doubt and faith. It also includes what appears to be the original ending of this Gospel, outlining its purpose as being written, “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” Belief leads to life – a constant theme of this Gospel.
To take just one of the various elements of this passage… We recall that the Hebrew word for spirit – ‘ruah’ – can also mean ‘breath’. In the opening verses of the Book of Genesis we are told that the spirit/breath of God hovered over the waters at the beginning of Creation. Here God’s spirit/breath hovers over the apostles as a new creation is about to begin, a new Israel. This is the first appearance of Jesus to the Apostles in St John’s Gospel and it marks a new departure, a new community being formed and given the mission to share the message of the Risen Christ.