Second Sunday of Easter: “Mere Christianity”

Lectionary Readings:  (Taken from Fr. Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP’s Biblical Meditations)

  • Acts 2:42-47. A portrayal of the first Christian community at Jerusalem. The disciples held their property and goods in common, worshiped together at the temple, and broke the bread of the Eucharist in the privacy of their home.
  • 1 Peter 1:3-9. This early hymn celebrates new birth in the sacrament of baptism. A Christian can expect not only to relive Jesus’ sorrows but also to share in the supreme hope of Jesus’ glorious appearances.
  • John 20:10-30. Jesus confirms upon the apostles the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins. He also overcomes Thomas’ unbelief by beckoning him to examine the marks of nails and spear on his body.

Thoughts for your Consideration:

The second reading for this week along with the Gospel passage invites us to contemplate the true meaning of the resurrection in our lives. The second reading is an early Christian baptismal hymn that describes the basic article of faith for the newest members of the Jesus community. Through the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection they are invited to share in the glory and hope that Christ has revealed to them. This new vision of hope will give meaning to the suffering that they all endure as they accepts a life of sacrifice and trials as they become a community of the resurrection that shares all things for the benefit of one another. They sacrifice their own self interest and desire in order to share in the glory of the divine community.

Like Thomas these new candidates have not physically witnessed the resurrection of Christ but they are witnesses of the “Kingdom of God” on earth which is described in the first reading. The sacrifice of the Christian community is to live for each other and to demonstrate a sacrificial love to all God’s people in a lifestyle that can only be described as radically countercultural. Even though these candidates have not physically witnessed the resurrection their witness to the radical lifestyle of the apostolic community and the tangible hope of a society that can actually live for one another gives these candidates the ability to hope in the fulfillment of the resurrection in their own lives.

The first reading reminds me of an interesting reflection by C.S. Lewis as he considered the topic of Christian social morality in his book “Mere Christianity”. This book was developed from his radio broadcast that he gave during World War II where he went on to “explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times.” C.S. Lewis was an agnostic who came to the Christian faith after his unsuccessful attempt at disqualifying it. This book in many ways represents an outsider’s perspective to Christian doctrine and it is an excellent resource for any Christian to come to a very basic understanding of the Christian faith and its morality. In his description of social morality C.S. Lewis offers the following image of a Christian society which we read about in Acts 2:

If there were such a society in existence and you or I visited it, I think we should come away with a curious impression. We should feel that its economic life was very socialistic and, in a sense, ‘advanced’, but that its family life and its code of manners were rather old fashioned – perhaps even ceremonious and aristocratic. Each of us would like some bits of it, but I am afraid very few of us would like the whole thing.

C.S. Lewis does an amazing job in describing the challenging lifestyle that is being depicted in Acts 2. This social morality is defined by the virtue of charity. His description of charitable giving does not seem to reflect our typical understanding of charity where we are invited to offer to the poor from our own surplus. Instead C.S. Lewis offers us a definition of Christian charity that resembles the deep sacrifice and trials that we read about in this week’s readings.

Charity – giving to the poor – is an essential part of Christian morality… I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditures on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc.., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away to little. If our charities do not pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small.  

To be part of the Risen community is to uphold a socio-economic lifestyle where we contribute to one another through a radical form of charity. In offering his first social encyclical Pope Benedict XVI centered our Catholic social morality under the rubric of charity.  

Charity is at the heart of the Church’s social doctrine. Every responsibility and every commitment spelt out by that doctrine is derived from charity which, according to the teaching of Jesus, is the synthesis of the entire Law (cf. Mt 22:36- 40). It gives real substance to the personal relationship with God and with neighbor.

The first reading is one that troubles many of us within the American Christian community because like C.S. Lewis suggest it seems to promote a socialist model. Obviously the word “socialist” carries an ideological baggage that strikes at the core of the American ideology but nevertheless we are forced to confront this level of charity whereby we ought to examine economic policies that distribute resources for the benefit of the “communal life”. The sacrifices and trials that Peter describes in the second reading are not in vain. They are trails that “may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Our charitable contributions ought to challenge us to adopt a simple lifestyle so that all of us can live a sustainable and authentic human development.

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About jdgonzo73

I am a Catholic lay minister in the field of Christian ethics, Latino theology and Paulacrucian spirituality. I am currently a Doctor of Ministry student at Fordham, an ad-junct professor at Molloy College and St. John's University and the Project Coordinator with the Catholic Roundtable.
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