The Word in Peace, Divine Mercy Sunday: It is in community that we see to believe

Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)

As I mentioned in a recent post on the CTA 20/30 blog, Good Pope John XXIII is a special saint to me. As I was a lapsed Catholic adrift in a spiritual Nowhere Land, the Italian pope with a big belly and an even bigger heart taught me the much of the good that is to be found in our faith tradition. So it was something of a no-brainer for me to decide to visit the newly rededicated St. John XXIII (until today Blessed Pope John XXIII) parish in South Fort Myers to join the celebratory mass.

Both this parish and its patron saint embody that crucial component of Christian conduct: a sense of community. St. John welcomed the world with open arms, reaching out to Jews, Orthodox Christians, Protestants, even those “godless” communists. He was not posturing; the pope’s actions showed that he really saw the people of the world as his brothers and sisters.

St. John XXIII parish does much to live up to this commission. There is a dynamic pastor, numerous ministries and, most importantly, an enthusiastic congregation.

It is in fellowship with others that we as Christians have the chance to live out our faith. The First Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, tells us that the Church first establishes itself and performs its “many wonders and signs” (2:43) through communal living, sharing possessions, caring for the sick and needy of the community, and joining each other at the table (vv. 44-46).

Thomas the apostle provides us with an example of belief emerging from community in the Gospel reading. When he was away from the other disciples, Thomas is, as most of us would be, skeptical when he learned of the resurrection (John 20:25). But notice that Jesus does not go out to find Thomas to validate himself. He waits until Thomas returns, giving the apostle the opportunity to see and believe among other believes. It is at that moment that he makes that great confession of Christ’s divinity, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28)

As the Second Reading tells us, we believe even though we have not seen Jesus (1 Peter 1:8). But that does not happen on its own. We must see the image of God in every person that we encounter if we are to truly live in union with God. And we can’t do that by staying home every day. Even hermits communicate the Good News with others from time to time.

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Joy and Hope: Celebrating Vatican II

Today, January 25, is the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of Vatican II by Blessed John XXIII. The Council didn’t happen until a few years after this date–imagine the excitement and trepidation Catholics around the world must have felt as they anticipated a gathering of decisionmakers of unprecedented scope. While we all know the resounding significance of the Council to our Church’s policy and relationship with the world, it’s still arresting to view footage from the event:
So many miters moving in one direction!

If papal pronouncements ever get me down, I like to reread the documents of Vatican II, produced by the most democratic process in the church’s history. The joyful and open tone of these documents, with their encyclopedic attention to modern concerns (media! sports!) make me feel like a vital part of the Church as a laywoman, as a worker, a member of a family and a participant in the modern world. It’s a sustaining thing to remember that these welcoming, affirming works are a signal part of our theological heritage.

Call to Action groups around the country are celebrating the leadership of John XXIII and the bold vision of Vatican II today. What does Vatican II mean to you? How would your life be different without it?