Second Sunday of Easter Homily Year B

Cosmic Union & Christic Communion

“The believers were of one heart and soul

and had everything in common” (Acts)

            In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi narrates how, as student in South Africa, he read the Bible and was fascinated by the person of Christ. He believed that Christianity was the best antidote for the caste system in India, and even considered converting to Christianity. However, on one of his visits to a church, he was shown the door and told that he could only attend Mass in a church reserved for blacks. He left, never to return.

            Even though Christianity preaches love and equality, we have built churches dividing whites and blacks in South Africa and so-called ‘high’ and ‘low castes’ in India. But, is there any ‘model church’ we can emulate in designing Christic communities for our times? The first line of the first reading tells us: “The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed for one’s own use anything that one had, as everything they owned was held in common.”

            Christianity has often considered Communism as archenemy. However, the ideals expressed in the Communist Manifesto and the Acts of the Apostles seem similar – owning property in common, ensuring that nobody is in want, selling of excess property, pooling in resources into a common fund, and finally, distributing surplus wealth to the poor. While accepting the similarities, we must point out that ‘Christian Communism’ is not some economic doctrine but an Outflow of Christian agape (love) creative of koinonia (communion), seen in diakonia (service), leading to marturia (witness, even unto death).

            The love (agape) in the first reading is developed in the second reading from the first letter of John, where he stresses that Christian faith can “overcome the world.” Here, ‘world’ stands for sin, unbelief and darkness. Opposed to this, belief in Christ entails living in love as God’s children, obedient to God’s will. Christians are thus called to witness to Him “who came by water and blood.” While ‘water’ refers to baptism, ‘blood’ refers to atonement through Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

            The gospel speaks of ‘witness’. The disciples experience the Risen Lord in the absence of Thomas, and once again, when Thomas is present. Thomas is justified in asking for ‘proof’ of Jesus’ resurrection. But, the Lord wants Thomas – and you and me – to go beyond sensual experiences and logical thinking to belief in faith: “Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe!” This encounter so totally transforms Thomas that he becomes a ‘blood witness’ the first Christian martyr on Indian soil.

            Today’s Church comprises BCCs and SCCs (basic/small Christian communities), It is heartening to see groups of believers coming together to pray, read Scripture, partake of popular devotions and so on. These groups also cater to the ‘material needs’ of caring for the poor, visiting the sick and educating of orphans. The ‘communion’ we receive (Eucharistic host) thus becomes symbolic of the larger ‘communion’ that all believers are called to foster. Such communion is only possible if one is ready for martyrdom.

            Martyrdom does not only refer to a ‘bloody sacrifice of one’s life, but also a daily dying to oneself and a living for others. A mother feeding her children, a father labouring to support his family, and a soldier defending his country are all martyrs (witnesses) in their own way, since their self-sacrifices promote Life.

            Every Christian is called to enter into communion with everyone and everything. In tribal Gujarat, as elsewhere, when the Host is raised at consecration, believers proclaim loudly, “My Lord and my God!” This communion with the Risen Lord must take us outward in love and service of all of creation. In his book ‘The Divine Milieu’ Teilhard de Chardin writes: “May the Eucharist invade my Whole life. May it be sacrament of my life – of my life received, of my life lived, of my life surrendered?” Indeed, only when life is surrendered will the Church realize a ‘union of hearts and souls’.

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