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Sunday Scripture: Lessons in faith and truth

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

By Father Timothy P. Schehr

Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31

This Sunday the apostle Thomas takes his famous misstep in faith. He needs absolute proof before he will believe his brother apostles have seen the Lord. It is a disappointing stance from someone who spent so much time with the Lord. He had even seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead!

But Thomas was always the straightforward and practical one among the apostles. When Jesus announced He was returning to Judaea despite its dangers, it was Thomas who proposed they might as well go with Him and die. When Jesus told the apostles they knew the way He was going, it was Thomas who made the candid observation they had no idea where He was going so they did not at all know the way.

His practical side kicks in again in this Gospel. But we should not be too critical of him. Thomas does after all make a remarkable recovery. When Jesus invites him to satisfy all the criteria He proposed earlier, Thomas responds with a candid profession of faith: My Lord and my God. This is the most explicit declaration of the Lord’s divinity by an apostle up to this point in the fourth Gospel. So we could think of Thomas as leading the way for us on the journey of faith.

There is still more positive news in this Gospel. Jesus says something that could give us all a boost in our own journeys of faith. He blesses those who have not seen and have believed. We could certainly count ourselves in that number! We have not seen the Lord as Thomas and the others did on the first day of the week. Yet we do believe. So the Lord’s blessing here extends to us.

Still another bit of positive news in the Gospel for this Sunday is the way the Lord makes the apostles into something new. At creation, God the Father breathed into clay to give life to Adam. Now Jesus breathes on the apostles filling them with the Holy Spirit, making them more than they had been before. And how will this newness be best displayed? By extending forgiveness to others. Jesus had already given them a fine example of such forgiveness in the way He responded to the doubts of Thomas. He gives them another example when He invites Peter to undo his threefold denial.

We can see the influence of the Holy Spirit in the first reading too. The community of believers in Jerusalem is living proof of what the Holy Spirit can accomplish in the hearts of humanity. Luke tells us, “The community of believers was of one heart and mind…” That is a remarkable statement. Could such a thing be said of our own communities? It shows how unique and how ideal the church was in Luke’s time. Look at their attitude towards personal property! They were willing to hand it over for the benefit of the needy. They set personal interest aside for the advantage of the entire church. In later verses, for example, we read of a man named Barnabas who sold his field to provide funds for the community of the believers (Acts 4:36-37). Sadly a later passage in Acts tarnishes this idea picture. Ananias and Sapphira are far less generous than Barnabas was (see Acts 5:1-11).

We hear about the influence of the Holy Spirit in the second reading too. John says the Spirit guides us to the truth that Jesus has overcome the world. Once we accept this truth we can never see the world the way we did before. We are in the world but not of it. That is something Thomas was absolutely certain about too!

Father Schehr is a member of the faculty at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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