Spiritual readings for Sunday 8th of April
02 April 2018 CGI news
Week of 2nd April 2018 (reference: readings for Sunday 8th April)
Second Sunday of Easter - Readings: Acts 4,32-35; 1 Jn 5,1-6; Jn 20,19-31
“Because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
The key word of today's readings is "faith". Jesus appears to the Apostles and ask them to believe in Him, so they can go into the world and evangelize, inspired by the power and light of the Holy Spirit. Thomas was not there and did not believe. Why is the Gospel mentioning the incredulity of Thomas?
The risen Jesus manifests himself to the Apostles. There are several interesting messages in this appearance.
First, Jesus takes the initiative. He goes to meet the Apostles that were scared and still disappointed with Jesus’ death. The initiative, as in many miracles that Jesus had performed, comes from himself, in the sense of telling them "not to be afraid". We have a lot of fear... we are afraid of our future, our limitations, of the action of evil, of taking on the mission that God entrusts to us. If we put ourselves in God's hands, He takes the initiative to eliminate these fears and make us different, replacing the uncertainty of death, with the certainty of eternal life that begins right here on Earth.
Secondly, the Gospel says that the doors were closed and Jesus appears in the midst of the Apostles. Why mention that the doors were closed? We always wonder what our life, our physical form, will be like after death, how people will see us and how to see people, especially those that we love in our life before death. Jesus gives us a hint of how that will be. Jesus appears in the midst of the Apostles without having to open the door. At first, the apostles did not recognize Jesus; perhaps they thought that it was a ghost. Seeing the fear of the Apostles, Jesus says, "peace be with you". In other words, again "do not be afraid"!
The Apostles had still not believed, and Jesus patiently "showed them his hands and his side". The physical signal had been given. The apostles saw the wounds in the hands (pierced with the nails of the cross) and the side (pierced by the spear) and, finally, "were full of joy to see the Lord". However, there is the episode of Thomas who was not with them and did not believe. Once again, Jesus, patiently, appears later and shows him the physical signal. Why Thomas was not there? Who was not there? We were not there either, and, therefore, Jesus leaves the message to us. He tells us that we are even more blessed, because "we believe without having seen!"
The closed door of the room also tells us that the hearts of the Apostles were closed: at the beginning, they had not believed. For this reason, Jesus breathes on them, giving them the Holy Spirit. The spirit that opens the heart, in spite of being firmly closed to anyone. If our response when we recognize the Lord in the events of everyday life is of faith and joy, the Holy Spirit completes them, opening our hearts, opening the door.
Thirdly, the manifestation of Jesus does not only amount to joy. He says to the Apostles that, since they had the unique privilege of receiving the Holy Spirit directly from the breath of God, they had a mission, a commitment: "as the Father sent me, I also send you". It is the same with us also. Once our fears dissipate and we open the heart to receive the Holy Spirit, Jesus asks us more: he sends us and asks us to be Himself in the middle of the world.
The complete transformation performed by the faith in Christ is very interesting. The disciples of Jesus, believing in him, moved on to share all their goods. They "had everything in common", there were no poor among them, as the first reading tells us. How special would be the world if we could go back to the time of the first Christians: they lived happy, precisely because they shared the same faith and, therefore, it was easy to share material goods.
For us Vincentians, these readings have a very special flavor. The mystique of the encounter with the Poor is also a theophany (manifestation of God). Many times, God does not wait for us to request our needs: He anticipates and manifests to us voluntarily, because he loves us and because He is continually worried about each of us. The whole relationship of the Vincentian encounter with the Poor has the same nature. We place ourselves as servants of the true and visible God in the Poor and God manifests to Him through our service and through the Holy Spirit who lives in us. We love the Poor and worry constantly with Him, both during the visit and in the Vincentian meetings. Thus, we anticipate His needs, without Him requesting to us.
This is the Vincentian spirituality that links God to the Poor and to us, and that links the visit to the Conference. All in a relationship of fraternal love, evangelical love, divine and human love. In this love relationship, we are fundamentally and essentially divine and human, and we help the Poor to be equal and worthily divine and human. How extraordinary! It is no longer necessary to be afraid, because our hearts are open to the manifestation of the risen Jesus in us.