Reflections on the Readings
Second Sunday of Easter - Divine Mercy Sunday - April 15, 2012 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins
The Gift of Each Other
Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. - Acts 4:32
Bishop Stika reminds us to be the face, voice, and hands of Jesus to each other. A loving face is beautiful no matter how young it is or wrinkled it has become. There's something real and powerful about the face of a follower of Jesus glowing with the light of eternity. The same is true of a loving voice; a voice trained in the school of prayer speaking kindness and concern in words soaked in love. And loving hands bring healing and hope and comfort as though the nailed scarred hand of Jesus is doing the touching. Think about it. Am I the face, voice, and hands of Jesus in my family and in the community of the faithful and to my neighbor?
Jesus emphasized the 'face value' of his cause by giving a new commandment. Loving one another is a new commandment. Jesus gives us his example - the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve. This love given and received as brothers and sisters in Christ is evidence that we are his disciples. One heart and one soul is a potent description of those who made up the nascent Church.
Today's first reading is full of challenge for all of us. In the earliest days of the Church there were great needs just like today. Some early followers of Jesus experienced the loss of family and home, so the Church was the only family they had. Others were more self sustaining and perhaps did not experience the disruption in their lives as some. But given the circumstances of the day, everyone responded to each other with generosity. Great grace was upon them all because each one valued the gift of each brother and sister in Christ. Many shared what they had and what they could. No one was left out or without. In their worship they prayed together and gave thanks to God for each other. And to this day we pray: "I confess to God and to you my brothers and sisters...pray for me to the Lord our God."
The royal law of love recognizes the importance and eternal worth of every soul. And Paul thought so much about it that he invited the Church at Galatia to embrace every opportunity to do good to all men, and especially to those of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)
The greatest deficit (if I may be so bold to hold forth) in a congregation today is a selfless effort to be truly joined in heart and soul to each other. What passes as a 'fellowship of believers' is that everyone shows up at the designated times the doors open. Recognizing each other as a gift of God is profoundly more.
John the beloved writes in his first Epistle to perfect his readers in God's love: Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love...Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another...We love, because he first loved us. (1 Jo. 4:7, 11, 19)
John's words remind us of sacrifice, and tenderness, reconciliation, and what comes first. Who Jesus is rubbed off on John. He was the one closest to the Master at the table. (John 13:23-25) And then under the cross, John watched with Mary as Jesus gave the world the inexhaustible power of love. Jesus, the righteous one, looked from his cross upon his accusers and tormentors and lamented their spiritual ignorance and forgave them, for they did not understand what they were doing; the just dying for the unjust. (1 Peter 3:18) And Jesus asks us to take up our cross and follow him in that love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
Dare we seek for this depth of spirituality? Dare we live another moment without asking God to infuse us with the understanding of this faith which works through love? (Galatians 5:6) As we pray together the Holy Spirit will lead us deeper into the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There we witness the indescribable unity of the Father and the Son in eternal love. As we draw near this sacred inner court of perfect love we become more deeply aware of Jesus calling us to be one in heart and soul as he and the Father are one. In this immeasurable depth of holy love we hear Jesus say, "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another."
Jesus invited Thomas to place his finger into his nail scarred hands. "Thrust your hand into my side, Thomas. Here, right here where the spear unleashed the water and blood from my body. Don't hold back in unbelief, but believe, my son. Believe!" Thomas believed because he saw with his eyes the Lord Jesus. But blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.
The unity of the faith is revealed in the water and blood gushing from the riven side of Jesus. This great mystery adorns the living Church of God and is seen in Baptism and in the Eucharist - the water and the blood. This mystery is ours to guard and to nurture by praying that all divisions among us cease - forgiving each other as Christ has forgiven each one of us. The love that we expect from others is found in the love that we give. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back. (Luke 6:38b)
There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of us all. And in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church is this faith, this baptism, and the one name by which we are saved. The forty-fifth Pope, St. Leo the Great, in his lessons on the mysteries explains that no one is the same after they come to the baptismal font, "for the bodies reborn become the flesh of the Crucified." Not literally, but spiritually, we receive in baptism the marks of the Lord Jesus. Salvation thus understood makes us more aware of the price of our redemption and of the trophies of grace who are our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Sound of Music is on my list of favorite movies. One of my favorite scenes is when the Captain recognizes again the gift his children are to him. Maria cultivates in them the gift of music and song and brings back the joy of family and music to the house. Captain Von Trapp recognizes the precious gifts his children are and his heart is softened and learns to sing and love again.
As in any family, it's too easy to take each other for granted. But we need each other very much. We often see in families the 'family resemblance.' You know those guys come from the same gene pool. But you look familiar to me as well. I think I know why. In your face I see Jesus, and in your voice I hear the kindness of our Lord. Is that a hole the size of a nail that I feel when I take your hand? Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org His website is: www.dennishankins.com