On this Second Sunday of Easter the Acts of the Apostles sets before us a community raised to new life in the power of our Risen Lord. We are told that the faithful lived together and owned everything that they had. They shared their possessions, carefully ensuring that those most in need were not neglected. The Risen Lord, alive in the hearts of the faithful as they gathered for the breaking of bread, was the driving force of this selfless generosity.
In times of austerity we are tempted to hold on to the little we have. The poorest, in our society as elsewhere, are frequently those who pay the price for the excesses of an avaricious world. If Christ is indeed Risen and dwelling among us, then his love must be reflected in our attitudes to the poor. Governments must constantly revise their provisions for the common good, but, if Christ be truly risen, it can never be at the expense of the poorest. This was the clear and unmistakeable proclamation of that Resurrection community in Jerusalem. We are alive in the Spirit of him who came to seek out and find that which was lost, who came not to be served, but to serve and give his life for many.
If this early Church in Jerusalem reminds us how the Resurrection should mould our lives in this present moment, the Reading from the Book of Revelation sets before us the final triumph of all that faith promises. The Apostle John, now a refugee from violence and Roman persecution, was granted a vision of the final destiny that awaits all who live Christ’s death so as to share his Resurrection. “Do not be afraid; it is I, the First and the Last; I am the Living One. I was dead and now I am to live for ever and ever.”
Ours is a society that marginalises faith. The early Church had to contend with persecution. The indifference that confronts our faith is persecution of a different kind, but none the less real. We struggle to remain faithful. Easter proclaims that our struggle is not in vain. Christ, who was the First on that Easter Day long ago, shall be the Last at our final gathering.
John’s account of the Risen Lord, revealing himself to the disciples in the upper room, describes the enduring presence that equips the Church for every age. The emphasis was on Christ’s abiding peace: “Peace be with you.” From this enduring peace, Christ’s living presence in our hearts, everything flowed.
First and foremost there was a sense of urgency in bringing Christ’s love to a broken world. The first command of the Risen Lord bids us look outwards rather than inwards. “As the Father has sent me, so am I sending you.”
Like Christ himself, we reach out to our world not to condemn it, but to become the instruments of his forgiveness. “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven.”
The Church, and indeed our families and wider society, continue to struggle with the wounds of sin and division. Let us celebrate Easter by becoming the living signs of Christ’s forgiving presence.
At times we might well struggle with the thought that Christ is alive in our world. Thomas doubted, insisting that he place his hand in the wounds of Christ. He finally found peace in the surrender that abandons itself to God: “My Lord and my God!”