Belief = No Needy Person Among Them
This Sunday, April 8, 2018, is called Divine Mercy Sunday. And we realize that God’s mercy and grace and just plain powerful love for us is available every moment of every day. We have followed Jesus through his betrayals, his passion and resurrection and this week through his appearances to the disciples after his resurrection. We are amazed with God’s love for us in sharing our humanity at its best and at its worst. We are amazed that death is not final and life after death is real. We are firmly impressed that Jesus the Christ is real and God is real.Our faith is not ethereal but substantial. Therefore it has real consequences in who we are and what we do with ourselves and with what we have.
This week the Gospel readings are of Jesus appearing physically and spiritually to Mary of Magdala and to the other disciples. we see Jesus imparting his spirit to the disciples and empowering them with life and love and power itself. His patience with Thomas is the Gospel reading for today( John 20:19-31). Thomas had to see for himself- so Jesus showed him that he was indeed real asking Thomas to see and to feel his actual body for himself. Thomas reaches out to touch Jesus and is blessed then with belief. Jesus says: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 19:29). And we are assured (v. 31)that through this belief we have life. We have life, glorious life, now and forever. Now that is Divine Mercy -that is the love of God for us.No matter our individual sins and faults and weaknesses, we can leave them behind, we can be and live forgiveness and have life. No matter the sins of the world that we collude with and make possible-famine, war,terror,starvation,homelessness,oppression of women and minorities,discrimination and poverty. We are offered life for our belief in God’s love and mercy through Christ.That is liberating and it opens a world of possibilities for what we can be and do. Yet, we know that to believe in Jesus is not simply to utter a belief, to say words or even feel them in our hearts- but to believe in Jesus is to follow him in keeping the commandments and in loving our God and our neighbors with all of our hearts, minds and beings. That means to join Jesus in becoming Christ to the world. That is in actively including everyone in the love of God.( First John 5:1-6-to believe is to love-God, Christ and all of God’s children. We have to be responsive to the Spirit of God. )
How do we do that? How do we respond to the Spirit, to live a life of love and how do we carry Christ forth in today’s world? The first readings this week are from the book of ACTS, the Acts of the Apostles. Through them we see the apostles in action and witness the development of the early church. We see that because of knowing that Christ lives and having
new life we create community that includes and serves all. Specifically we see that “With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection….There was no needy person among them….for they sold (what they had) and the apostles would distribute to each according to their need”. Acts 4:32-35). To believe is to live a life of love and as we do that we share what we have with those who do not have so that need is obliterated.
Clearly something has happened between the time of that early church and today for need is all around us. Even here in the wealthy USA we have not wiped out poverty or homelessness or hunger or prejudice and discrimination and its ugly fruits. For one thing, we have lost the fire of knowing that he did rise from the dead and listening to the Spirit speaking. When one reads and hears the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. we learn that most of all, and faults and warts and all, he lived (and died) to be responsive to the Spirit. In a Civil rights era Movement song from a well known Spiritual we hear: “If the Spirit says march, we march, if the Spirit say jail, we are jailed, if the Spirit says speak, we speak” And so on. If the Spirit says “share” we are to share- or “give it all away” then that is what we need to do. We can do it in our actual communities, we can do it with our money in supporting world-wide giving to alleviate misery, we can do it by breaking the silence, as so many women are doing now regarding sexual harassment and worse,and by truly knowing that all lives matter especially black and brown and poor lives and those so easily taken by powerful authority and violence. We can take political stands that may be unpopular to make sure that no one is left behind while others are affluent. we can live lives of fairness, action and risking for what is right. It will take that and more for there to be “no needy among us”.
We have somehow turned this Gospel into a “Gospel of personal salvation” and even a “gospel of prosperity”. Somehow over the years since the early church was on fire with the Spirit of the risen Christ, we have perverted it to mean if we believe we shall individually prosper, and the only sins we are to worry about are our own. We have become focused on “going to heaven” and forgotten the hell we have been a part of creating on earth-even by our silence and complicity. We have forgotten “the sins of the world” and the very real and basic needs of our neighbors. We have perverted the gospel to ME,Me Me. Only as we learn that to believe is to love our neighbors and to change the world will we do so.
My prayer on this Sunday when God’s mercy is celebrated that we receive mercy and forgiveness and then extend that mercy to the whole world by our actions.
Love and blessings,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community,
Fort Myers, Florida