The scriptures for the Easter season describe a people raised to new life in the presence of their Risen Lord. As such, they reach out to the whole Church, to every parish and each individual, challenging us to model ourselves on the pattern of the early Church.
This early community reflected the Christ who had claimed nothing for himself, who had become poor so that we might grow rich in his presence. They were, in the words of Acts, united in heart and soul. No one was allowed to languish in want. Possessions were not selfishly guarded, but generously surrendered to the service of the poor. We would struggle to see this pattern reflected in a consumer society, a society that can so easily protect its wealth and exclude the very poorest.
During these days we are encouraged to reflect on our own personal relationship with the Risen Lord, and what such a relationship might mean in terms of our own attitudes and values.
Describing the first encounter of the Risen Lord with his Apostles, St John highlights a spirit of peace and forgiveness as the most distinguishing characteristics of those who seek Christ. “Peace be with you. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven.”
Pope Francis, in calling the whole Church to a Holy Year of Mercy, beginning this December, has concentrated on the compassion revealed to us in Christ’s death and Resurrection. We are, above all else, a people forgiven and brought to life in Christ. We, who have learnt in Christ the meaning of compassion, are called to become a welcoming and compassionate Church.
As the narrative continues, Thomas, who had refused to believe, was not excluded for his doubt. Instead, he was embraced with compassion, and it was the gentle reassurance of his reception that won him over. We must never allow doubt, hesitation and uncertainty to cloud a compassion that reaches out to all. Above all, we ourselves must become the bearers of Christ’s peace, compassion and forgiveness. “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.”
The First Letter of St John is, in many ways, a meditation on the power of the Resurrection in the hearts of believers. “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten by God; and whoever loves the Father that begot him loves the child whom he begets.” These words understand our lives as the fulfilment of the promise made to Nicodemus, that in Christ we would be born again. Our strength to love, to forgive and to live in peace is no longer our own: it is the presence in us of Christ who has overcome a world of sin, violence and rejection. “Anyone who has been begotten by God has already overcome the world. This is the victory over the world: our faith.”
This article first appeared in the latest edition of the Catholic Herald magazine (10/4/15).
Take up our special subscription offer – 12 issues currently available for just £12!