In the readings for this Sunday, April 8, the Apostles receive the Holy Spirit and Thomas gets a bum rap.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
The readings for this Sunday, April 8, tell the story of the early Christian community. They were of one mind, all having received the Holy Spirit, are allowing themselves to be led by it. Their priorities were right; everyone who needed anything got what they needed because everyone was willing to share what they had without reservation. In John’s letter, we’re reminded that to love Jesus is to keep his commandments, which were to love God with your whole self and loving your neighbor the same way. The early Christians did just that. Jesus alone gives us the ability to do that, and if we open ourselves to him, we can do it, too. Then, when Thomas was out, Jesus appeared to the other Apostles, gave them the Holy Spirit, and told them to accept their mission of being “sent out” (that’s what “apostle” means). Thomas didn’t get any of that, so when they told him about it, how could he have understood it? They didn’t without that divine assistance. But, when Thomas is given the same as everyone else, he’s ready to run with it, too. We’re given a challenge–to accept Jesus’ help without being able to see him the way the Apostles did. Can you do it?
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
1 John 5:1-6
In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments.
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
Poor Thomas. He did a lot, you know. He was brave. When everyone else was trying to convince Jesus not to go to Jerusalem to die, Thomas’ response was, “Let us go and die with him.” All of the Apostles were hiding in the upper room and afraid—except for Thomas. He went out. While everyone else was hiding. After the Resurrection, while preaching the Gospel, people took umbrage at what Thomas had to say, and he was martyred. But, all we remember is “Doubting Thomas”. That just doesn’t seem fair. I wouldn’t want to be judged by my worst day, and Thomas doesn’t deserve that, either. Plus, he wasn’t asking for anything that the other Apostles didn’t already receive.
What we can learn from Thomas is his response after he saw Jesus alive. “My Lord and my God!” When I was in grammar school, our Filippini principal told us that at the Consecration of the Body of Christ, we should repeat silently Thomas’ words, “My Lord and my God.” And at the Consecration of the Blood of Christ, “My Jesus mercy.” That prayer that Thomas offered in that time of revelation was a bigger step that the other guys had been able to make without having received the Holy Spirit—Thomas missed that. God is really kind. He pays way more attention to what we do right, than what we do wrong. And, if we make a mistake and are willing to make it right, the mistake is forgotten entirely (by God—we love to remember every hurt).
We hear in the first reading that the Christian Community was of one mind and that they shared everything so that no one had any need. Being of one mind means that we discern our actions with the mind of Christ. This is Christianity in its purest form; that all of us would be so connected with Jesus that we’d put our egos aside and let our decisions be ruled by his teachings. As with the first reading from Jeremiah a few weeks ago, I invite you to imagine what our world would look like if we actually did that.
The Apostles shared everything they had with one another to make sure that everyone had what they needed. Would you be willing to share everything you have with others?
We are the “those who have not seen and have believed” that Jesus was talking about. Do you think it’s harder for us today to believe than it was for the Apostles? Why?
Would you have handled the news that your dead friend was alive any better than Thomas (remember, they didn’t truly understand that Jesus was God yet)? What prevents you from recognizing Jesus as being truly alive in our world and in your life? What would be the equivalent for you to Thomas’ experience of Jesus’ wounds?
Bonus Question for all three groups:
Choose something that your family can share with another family and share it.
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”