A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
Our Christian tradition identifies Luke, the disciple of Paul, as the author of the Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke intended Acts to be a continuation of his Gospel to let people know what was going on in the first Christian communities. Today’s reading gives us a picture of what was important in the lives of our spiritual ancestors.
“They devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” It sounds wonderful, and so it was.
This was the very beginning of our Church, our faith. Most of these Christians were Jews, so they met for prayer “in the temple area,” but notice that they were “breaking bread in their homes.” They did not dare to break bread in the temple, because it would have caused a riot. They were trying to be good Jews and faithful followers of Jesus at the same time. All of this was during dark times in the shadow of the Roman rulers who had murdered Jesus and were already murdering the Christians. It was a fearful, challenging time, but it brought the believers together in a unique way to grow and protect one another in the face of continual danger.
(Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24)
“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting.” How are you experiencing God’s love during this most treacherous time? How can you share God’s love with those who you are with every day and those whom you talk to only on the phone or online?
A reading from the First Letter of Peter
The Resurrection is not only something that happened to Jesus two thousand years ago; it is something that we live every day. We were raised with Christ. There is new life for us, not only in eternity but starting now. We can live in the Spirit because the Spirit has been given to each of us. We do not live alone. We live in the Spirit and the Spirit connects us to one another. We are brothers and sisters in the Spirit. Let us rejoice in that, even on this day—especially on this day.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John
This is the story of the man we call “Doubting Thomas,” but it is also a story about the Holy Spirit. “Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you…. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”
Notice the progression of mission and power: from the Father to Jesus and then to the disciples and, of course, now to us. It all comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is in the power of the Holy Spirit that our sins are forgiven. The Holy Spirit is present in each of us. Amazing! We are never alone but especially not in times of danger and stress.
But Thomas misses all of this, and when he is told, he refuses to believe: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” So, there it is—a man who was with Jesus as a trusted disciple refuses to believe. Perhaps there were others who doubted, but here we have one true story of disbelief.
We know the rest of the story. Jesus invites Thomas to put his finger into his hand and his hand into his side “and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas doesn’t touch Jesus but simply says, “My Lord and my God.” Then Jesus says something so powerful that it reverberates to us today: “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” We have not seen, but we do believe. How is that possible? Because we have the very Spirit of God living within us—always, every moment of every day. We did not earn it. It is a pure gift from our all-loving, all-merciful God.
Painting: "The Incredulity of St. Thomas" by Michelangelo Merisi (Caravagio). Sanssouci Picture Gallery, Potsdam, Germany. Public domain.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.