Sunday's first reading (Acts 2:42-47) provides
us with the first of St. Luke's "summaries:" an idealistic, brief
rundown of what's going on in the earliest Jerusalem Christian community.
Obviously, everything's going well: "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
Scholars emphasize two points about these
summaries. First, they're idealistic. The evangelist is more interested in
informing his readers about how things should be, instead of how they
actually are. His eyes are focused on the future, not the past.
Second, these small recaps of the Church's
status and growth hold the Acts narratives together. It's presumed Luke had
received a series of unconnected narratives from "those who were
eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word."
He ties these stories together, making the
point that Jesus' faith is not only deeply lived by His first disciples, but
also steadily being implanted in the hearts of more and more people.
The summaries set an example for all Jesus'
followers, forcing us to ask two questions: What are we trying to accomplish
by living His faith, and what about that faith joins the disconnected
episodes of our life?
The answer to both questions revolves around
the same concept. Jesus' disciples are convinced their faith-filled actions
can change the world. They presume they are called to carry on Jesus' work.
John's newly risen Jesus informs His disciples, "As the Father has sent
me, so I send you."
Against common belief, the historical Jesus
wasn't "sent" to set up a church, initiate religious hierarchical
structures or create a series of new doctrines and dogmas. In Sunday's
Gospel (John 20:19-31), Jesus expects His followers to accomplish one task.
Having received the Spirit, they're now to understand, "Whose sins you
forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."
Above all, they are to recognize their power to
imitate God's forgiveness of people. Scholars presume no disciple of Jesus
-- imitating Him -- would ever retain anyone's sins, but we must understand
what happens when we don't forgive.
Forgiving others creates problems. The author
of the second reading (I Peter 1:3-9) warns his community: "You may for
a time have to suffer the distress of many trials."
No one can be a witness for God's forgiving
personality without suffering the same pain God's forgiving Son endured.
In both the second and third readings, much is
made of the fact that those for whom these writings are composed never came
into contact with the "historical" Jesus.
"Although you have never seen Him, you
love Him," the author of I Peter writes; "and, without seeing, you
believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible joy touched with glory because
you are achieving faith's goal, your salvation."
John's Jesus tells Thomas, "You became a
believer because you saw me. Blest are they who have not seen and have
It's the risen Jesus whom we surface in our
daily acts of faith. That Jesus becomes present among us when we attempt to
carry on the ministry of the historical Jesus.
His ministry both motivates us and ties our
separate acts of faith together.