Thursday, April 28, 2011

No Christian Community is Perfect

Second Sunday of Easter Year A

When we read about the early Christian community in today’s first reading we get the impression of a perfect community – a community united by their faith in Jesus Christ – a community devoted to the Word of God, to their prayers and to the Eucharist. I am sure that every one here would dream of living in such a community. But in reality the early Christian community was not perfect. Till today no Christian community is perfect. The reason for this is that all the members of the community are not perfect. Each member of the community continues to hurt and be hurt by others.

Many people are looking for that perfect community but they will never find it. That is the reason why some people are running from one church to another. Others stay away from Church or from the BEC because these do not conform to their idea of the perfect community. Thomas in today’s gospel may have kept away from the remainder of the other apostles for this same reason. He may have gone away searching for answers. All the apostles were in crisis. Their master had just been arrested, put on trial, and finally put to death. Their faith were shaken. Yet they didn’t give up because of the support that they gave one another in the community.

The risen Christ appeared to this group of fearful disciples precisely because they remained united as a community. Jesus chose not to appear to Thomas throughout that first week. He could have chosen to appear to him at any time but he didn’t. It was not until Thomas had returned to the community that Jesus appeared again.

Sometimes we try to look for God on our own. We think that we can find him all on our own. But God lives in community. God is present in the midst of the community, no matter how broken or sinful the members of that community may be. If we keep away from the community, we keep away from God. Just like that first week of Easter, Jesus appeared to Thomas only when he was prepared to return to the community.

But living in community is truly a challenge. If it was easy to live in community, then that group of persons would not be a true Christian community. A true Christian community is made up of diverse persons with diverse interests and ways of doing things. A Christian community is made up of sinners – people who hurt us and who are also hurt by us. If this is so, we may ask: What is the difference between a Christian community and other societies and groups? The difference lies in the ability to forgive. Jesus gives the Spirit to the disciples and tells them: “For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” These words are often thought of as referring to the power to forgive sins given to priest during confession. I believe that it is much more than that. These words actually refer to Jesus commanding his disciples and all of us to make forgiveness part of our lives. At the heart of every community and family, there must be both love and forgiveness. The reason for this is that Jesus realized that the community would continue to be a broken and sinful community where people will continue to be hurt.

In this Second Sunday of Easter, let us ask Jesus to breathe his Spirit on us so that we may be able to forgive those who hurt us and ask for forgiveness from those whom we have hurt. Let us ask for the faith to be able to recognize the risen Lord in the midst of our community.

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