Reading I: Acts 4:32-35
Each year readings from the Book of Acts replace Old Testament
readings during the Easter season. These readings show the
continued work of the risen Christ in his Church.
This passage features
two aspects of the life of the new community: the sharing of
all things in common and the apostles preaching of the resurrection
with great power (dynamis, a word that calls attention
to the charismatic nature of the early Christian preaching).
section is anticipated by the picture of the life of the earliest
community given in Acts
2:42-47. Indeed, there is
something to be said for the view that the author has combined
two different accounts of the same thing from two different
As we pointed out in series A, this so-called early Christian communism was not
based on an economic doctrine but was a spontaneous expression of Christian agape,
necessitated by the move from Galilee to Jerusalem.
In New Testament times it
was not treated as a law for all the churches. Paul gave the same principle a
different expression in his collection for the Jerusalem church.
later Benedictine monasticism was yet another expression of koinonia.
whatever form it may take, in any given society there must always be some expression
of this principle in the life of the Christian community if it is
to retain its integrity.
Responsorial Psalm: 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
We have said before
that Psalm 118, with its reference to the rejection of the
stone and its subsequent elevation to be the chief cornerstone,
was perhaps the earliest Old Testament passage that the primitive
community applied to the death and resurrection of Christ.
was the basic Old Testament passage for the “no-yes” interpretation
of the death and resurrection: the death of Jesus as Israel’s
(and all humanity’s) no to Jesus, and the resurrection as
God’s vindication of him, his yes to all that Jesus had said
and done and suffered during his earthly life.
Reading II: 1 John 5:1-6
This reading overlaps with the traditional epistle for the old
Low Sunday, which was 1 John 5:4-10. By beginning with verse
1, the reading latches on to the paschal theme of baptism: “Jesus is Christ
(Messiah)” was a primitive baptismal confession, and it is in baptism that
believers become children of God.
This carries with it the responsibility to
love God and neighbor. Then, in the typical “spiral” style of the Johannine
school, the author reverts to the theme of baptismal rebirth and adds a new point,
namely, that through baptism we overcome the world.
“World” in Johannine
thought means unbelieving human society organized in opposition to God and subject
to darkness, that is, sin and death. The writer then makes the tremendous statement
that Christian faith overcomes the world.
As he immediately makes clear, the
faith he is talking about is not a dogmatic system but an existential trust in
Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the revelation of God’s saving love. Such faith
points beyond itself to its objectthe saving act of God in Christ. That
is the real victory that triumphs over unbelief.
This point is reinforced by the final paragraph, the perplexing passage about
the three witnesses: the Spirit, the water, and the blood. A clue here is that
the statement has a polemic thrustit refutes those who say that Jesus Christ
came by water only, not by water and blood.
“Came by water” is probably
a reference to Jesus’ baptism: “came by blood,” to his crucifixion.
There were false teachers in the environment of the Johannine Church who asserted
that Christ was baptized but not crucified.
This may refer to a Gnostic teaching
that Jesus was a mere man on whom the divine Christ descended at his baptism,
then left him before his crucifixion. A modern analogy would be those who base
their whole theology on the incarnation and ignore the atonement.
Gospel: John 20:19-31
The traditional Low Sunday gospel is used every year on the
second Sunday of Easter. It contains two appearances.
is that to the Twelve, a tradition that goes back to 1 Cor 15:5
and is developed in various forms in Matthew, Luke, and here
in John 20. Perhaps the appearance to the seven disciples in
John 21 is another variant of the same tradition.
John 20 locate this appearance in Jerusalem. Matthew (see Mark 16:7)
in Galilee, while in 1 Cor 15 no locality is given. Galilee
seems to be the earliest tradition of its location, though this
is much disputed.
The second appearance, resolving the doubt of Thomas, is peculiar to John and
represents a manifest concern of the subapostolic agehow is it possible
to believe in the risen Lord if one has not seen him? The answer is that even
to see him is no guarantee of faith (consider Thomas).
Even the disciples had
to make the leap of faith when they saw him. It is therefore possible for those
who have not seen him to make that same leap.
This does not mean that seeing
the Lord was not necessary for the original witnesses. They had to see him precisely
in order that they might become witnesses, and through their witness enable those
who had not seen him to believe.
Reginald H. Fuller
Copyright © 1984
by The Order of St. Benedict, Inc., Collegeville, Minnesota.
rights reserved. Used by permission from The Liturgical
Press, Collegeville, Minnesota 56321
Preaching the Lectionary:
The Word of God for the Church Today
Reginald H. Fuller. The Liturgical Press. 1984 (Revised Edition)
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