Acts 4: 32-35; 1 John 5: 1-6; John 20: 19-31
Poor Thomas! If there’s to be a study done on why labeling people is not a good thing, Thomas would be the classic study. Doubting Thomas as we know it and all he’s really known for because of this one passage. He was destined for such labels. I’m still not convinced that he’s even a doubter as much as he is in disbelief and grieving at this point of the story. None of us would be much better. All this and Thomas is even really a huge character in John’s Gospel. He only appears twice. The other is at the Raising of Lazarus. The other unique thing of Thomas is that he’s only one of two who’s name is also given in Greek, Didymus. Simon is called Cephas at the beginning of the Gospel, who’s Peter. Thomas is the only other so maybe the passage has more to do with his name, Didymus meaning twin or double.
The name probably describes all of them at this point of the story, living two different lives. While they find themselves in the Upper Room they’re somewhat bursting with joy in the Risen Lord but no sooner do they step out that door fear takes over. That inside is somewhat of a comfort for them, where they can be themselves but they end up living a double life. They’re not there yet. As much as they have had this experience of the Risen Lord it still has not been embodied by them. It’s still something beyond them and what they see with their eyes and not something lived. Like us, they’re good at compartmentalizing their faith at this point of the story, living a double life and not knowing what it all means, still unfolding for and in them.
It’s not until we get to Acts of the Apostles where we begin to see how that love manifests itself in the life of the early community. Like the Gospel today, we’re also good at labeling the message Luke conveys twice in Acts. We want to label it socialism or communism but it had nothing to do with creating some kind of economic structure that we’re familiar with today. That says more about us than it does them. But they can point the way, for us, to look at our own lives and what it is that moves us. That’s the real message of Luke today. It is by no means that everything was just perfect in the Early Church. Far from it if you read Acts in its entirety. But Luke will keep drawing them back to what gives life. He’s going to keep drawing them back to what it is that motivates and defines the community as one of integrity. If they’re not being motivated by love, then they need to step back and evaluate where fear is creeping in, where it’s becoming about self-interest. When we’re motivated by fear, success, wealth, self-interest, then the gap only grows, anxiety and fear take over, and we begin to live that double life ourselves.
We need to move to a place where we recognize that we never fully embody that love. As long as we are here and breathing our motivation and what drives us will become skewed. We become blinded by everything else. It’s why the wounds of Christ in the gospel are so significant and how they connect to that early community. When that gap begins to grow and they start to become closed in on themselves, locked in the Upper Room, they are once again invited to come back. As much as they are sent forward, they are also called to come back to that love. To step inside the wounds, even their own, and it will once again open their eyes. That’s the significance of the reading from Acts today. They recognize the needs of the community through their very own woundedness. Their eyes are open to the poor. Their eyes are open to members of the community in need. It’s not being motivated by economics. They’re motivated by love.
These readings on this Second Sunday of Easter challenge us to look at what motivates us at this point in our lives. What is it that’s pushing us forward and where do we put our faith. That’s John’s message in the second reading today. As much as the disciples may still fear the world beyond the locked doors in that gospel, it is only faith and love that is going to break through the locks and push them out and to embody that love that they have experienced. It’s not meant to be kept to ourselves. Then love is not our motivation. Rather, when we embody that love we know we have nothing to fear and we change the world not through fear, economics, self-interest, but rather love. Victory in the hostility of the world is not won through war but through love. That’s the message of John on this Easter Day. Nothing else.
Where have we allowed the gap between our lives and Love to ever increase through fear, self-interest, and motivations other than faith and love? Where are we locked up inside, afraid that somehow I won’t have enough and so I can’t give in love, holding on for dear life? That’s where that gap grows and like the disciples in that Upper Room, we live a double life. Faith becomes something we simply do on Sunday morning and then go about our business, often in fear, once we walk through those doors. Yes, we come to this place to be nourished and to be fed and the more we are fed and nourished in love, the more we have to confront the world when we step forward. We come and are nourished in order to be sent out to be the disciples, to embody that love, and to narrow the gap between faith and our lives. It’s an ongoing process and one that never ends but also one we don’t go at alone. We walk this journey together in order to embody that love not just by ourselves but as a community of faith.