A new life
April 14, 2012
By Terrence Callan
Second Sunday of Easter: Acts 4: 32-5; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31
There are times when our circumstances change so radically that we feel our life has come to an end and started over again. And there are times when we wish we could make such a new beginning. The one who believes in Jesus begins a new life in this way.
The reading from the Gospel according to John describes one of Jesus’ appearances to His disciples after His death and resurrection. The reading concludes by saying that this account (and others that precede it in the gospel) has been “written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in His name.” Jesus’ resurrection is the foundation of our faith in Him, and that faith is what gives us life in the truest sense.
Earlier the reading has told us something about the nature of this new life of faith. When Jesus appeared to His disciples, He breathed on them, and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The new life of faith is one in which the Holy Spirit, the life that Jesus shares with the Father, is our life. It is a participation in the very life of God.
The reading from the First Letter of John says the same thing in different words: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God.” Faith in Jesus means beginning life again as a child of God. It is the only real life. Any attempt to do without God is death; this is what the gospel and letters of John mean by “the world.” But “whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.”
The readings also tell us that the new life of faith is not something for our benefit alone; rather it affects our dealings with others in at least two ways.
First, our new life is a continuation of Jesus’ mission in the world. In the Gospel reading Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” As Jesus is about to return to the Father, He provides for Jis work to continue by commissioning His disciples. Jesus describes their mission by saying, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them; and whose sins you retain are retained.” Just as we have overcome the world through our faith in Jesus, we are to offer others the same opportunity to believe in Jesus and receive forgiveness of sins. The most basic way we do that is by telling others, in word and deed, about the death and resurrection of Jesus and the new life that comes from faith in Him. As the reading from the Acts of the Apostles says, “With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.”
Second, our new life creates a new relationship with others who believe in Jesus. The reading from the First Letter of John says, “everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by Him.” All of those who believe are children of God. If we love God, we also love all believers. The reading from Acts describes one way in which the love of believers for one another can show itself. In the early days of the church in Jerusalem, the community of believers held all goods in common. If anyone owned property, it was sold and the proceeds were given to the apostles to be “distributed to each according to need.”
Callan is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.