Second Sunday of Easter, Cycle B (Apr. 12, 2015)

Our first reading describes how the members of the Church in Jerusalemshared everything they had. The very first line of the passage helps usunderstand what motivates their extraordinary generosity. We read, “Thecommunity of believers was of one heart and mind.” I think we are beingtold more in this line than we might realize. To say they were “of oneheart and mind” means more here than “they were all pulling together,” or”everyone was on the same page.” The meaning is more literal than that.They really are of one heart and one mind the heart and mind of Christ.Each individual is an instance of the heart and mind of Our Lord. That’swhat it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Our second reading, from 1 John, conveys something of the samemeaning. We are told that, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is theChrist is begotten by God.” Consider that last phrase, “begotten byGod.” When we hear the word “begotten,” we think immediately of theNicene Creed’s affirmation that Jesus Christ is the “only begotten” Son ofGod, who shares the very essence of the Father. In scripture too,”begotten” betokens a particular, privileged, spiritual relationship. So,when John asserts, “everyone who believes in Jesus Christ is begotten byGod,” he’s telling us that all believers share Christ’s own relationship withthe Father. Again, there’s an identity being posited between theindividual believer and Christ himself. The point is reiterated, later in thepassage, when John asks a question: “Who indeed is the victor over theworld?” The obvious answer is Jesus Christ. By his Passion, death andResurrection Christ is victorious over the world. But John’s answer is
different. He says that the one who believes in Jesus “is the victor overthe world.” The individual believer is the victor over the world. Again, anidentity is being asserted between the believer and Christ. It is theconsequence of being filled with the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit is the onewho testifies, and the Spirit is truth.”

Our Gospel offers confirmation of what we’ve already learned. Therisen Christ tells the disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”Again, more is being said here than we ordinarily hear. It’s not just thatthe Father sending Christ and Christ sending the disciples are similarbecause they are both ‘sendings’ and they are for a similar purpose. No,the implication is that when Christ sends the disciples, the same thing ishappening as when the Father sends him. The sending of the disciples is
another occasion of the sending of Jesus by the Father. And so we findanother instance of an identity being drawn between Christ and believers.

This time the connection with the Holy Spirit is explicit. Our Lord says tothe disciples, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive areforgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Now, every Jewknew that only God could forgive sins. Jesus’ claim to forgive sins duringhis earthly ministry scandalized his contemporaries because, as they sawit, Jesus was essentially claiming to be God. Now, incredibly, precisely asa consequence of receiving the Holy Spirit, the disciples are being
endowed with this hitherto divine prerogative. Henceforth, when theyforgive or retain sins, they will be acting as Christ.

The Holy Spirit is the perfect love between the Father and the Son the very love that creates and sustains the universe. When, in baptism,we receive the Holy Spirit, that love becomes part of us. From God’sperspective, it’s the most significant thing about us, so when the Fathersees us, the Father sees the Son. That is the ultimate source of theidentity we have found in our readings between the individual believer andChrist. This, in the end, is what Easter means for us. Little wonder theseason fills us with inexpressible gratitude, deep humility and profoundjoy, for it is no longer we who live, but the risen Christ who lives in us.(See Gal. 2:20)

Fr. Charles Gordon, C.S.C.

Rev. Charles B. Gordon, C.S.C., is co-director of the Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture at the University of Portland. He writes and records a regular blog called “Fractio Verbi.”

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