How are we to live as Christians in a post-Easter world? One possible answer can be found in the Book of Acts where we read that “[T]he community of believers was of one heart and mind … they had everything in common.” And a line or two later, “[T]here was no needy person among them.”
News magazines and politicians regularly remind us that the United States of America was founded on Christian principles. Why, then, are so many in our country needy?
Another possibility is found in John’s Gospel. Jesus greets his followers with a blessing, “Peace be with you,” a reminder that he has been sent by the Father to be God’s peace in the world. Then he tells his followers that as the Father has sent him, now he’s sending them. If we call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ doesn’t that mean that he also sends us to bring peace to an anxious world? Why, then, are so many in our world afraid?
Perhaps the answer to all these questions comes later in John’s Gospel when we meet Thomas. He was not with the others the first time Jesus appeared, so Thomas had not been given the same assurances they had received during that earlier visit. Maybe that’s why he came to this gathering filled with doubt, rather than peace. Maybe that’s why Jesus made it a point to extend his blessing of peace yet again before inviting Thomas to test his wounds because he knew that the community could not be “…. of one heart and mind” as long as Thomas’ heart was not at peace. Maybe that’s why, after Jesus’ greeting, Thomas no longer felt the need to test him.
Our world is filled with doubting Thomases — frightened, needy people. “As the Father has sent me … so I send you.” Do we believe that as Christians in a post-Easter world we, now, are sent to bring peace to people locked in fear? Do we live the blessing? In the marketplace? In the polling place? Do we really live as Christians? Or do we settle for simply being citizens of a country founded on Christian principles?
Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.