2nd Sunday of Easter (Year B)

We are called to demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit, to be good stewards in the world, to be compassionate, pursue justice and show mercy.


First Reading: Acts 4:32-35

  • The Book of Acts traces the growth and expansion of the early Christian community. In chapter 4, the writer emphasizes its size and cohesiveness. Notice the use of “whole group”—the emphasis is stronger in Greek.
  • The language used in this passage echoes Greco-Roman writings on the virtue of friendship; the community of believers are described as friends united in affection and purpose. You might want to consider this in light of Jesus’ words regarding friendship with him.
  • In the second paragraph, the focus narrows from the whole community to the specific ministry of the apostles. That ministry is focused on the resurrection of Jesus, proclaimed with great power. How does this shape our ideas of ministry in today’s world?

Psalm: Psalm 117(118):2-4, 15-18, 22-24

  • The psalm passage picks up the theme of unity animated by love and attributes that love directly to the Lord.
  • The Christian tradition has read this psalm as being spoken by the lips of Christ to the Father. When read through this lens, several aspects come into sharp relief: ‘his right hand raised me up. I shall not die, I shall live and recount his deeds.’ The last part of this quotation draws our minds back to the ministry of the apostles in proclaiming the resurrection.

Second Reading: 1 John 5:1-6

  • ‘The world’ in John’s writings is almost synonymous with ‘the flesh’ in Paul’s writings; it’s the sphere of mundane activity, shot through with temptations and pitfalls for the disciple of Christ. Here, then, John asks the question: who can overcome the temptations of this life and, by doing so, attain the resurrection from the dead and life everlasting with the Lord?
  • John places the emphasis on faith: our ‘victory over the world’. How do we understand that? And what impact does it have on our evangelisation?

Gospel: John 20:19-31

  • The events of this gospel passage take place a week after the first Easter Sunday, so it’s very appropriate to consider it today.
  • Notice that the Holy Spirit is received at this point in John’s account; there is no Pentecost narrative in John. The Spirit is received by the Lord breathing on them and commissioning them with a job: to be sent as he was sent. Compare that with the account of the creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2.
  • The editorial note at the end of the passage explains the reason for all of John’s previous narratives: they are designed to encourage belief in the reader/hearer, including the narrative of Thomas’ epiphany. How much emphasis do we give to this purpose of the gospel stories? Do we look for faith as well as practical applications?


We live in a world today which is increasingly focused on the practical, almost to the exclusion of anything else. If you go on YouTube or look at the top rated podcasts on your favourite podcasting app, you’ll see mountains of content devoted to increasing productivity, developing good habits, even meticulous documentation and analysis of the ‘perfect morning routine.’

I was particularly struck by that trend for looking at people’s morning routines. One such routine has been put together by scientists and backed by data. It calls for waking up early, being active, taking a cold shower, avoiding caffeine, etc. The end result? A productive day of work, which avoids any kind of drop-off in energy during the day.

In a similar vein, philosophy is making a surprising comeback in the modern world. No longer the domain of academics in ivory towers, ethical philosophy has entered the mainstream. Perhaps you’ve seen the growing number of books and podcasts devoted to Stoicism?

This entire trend is dominated by the need to be relevant to life; to be useful to a person. Usually that usefulness is understood to be measured in terms of increasing income, being less absorbed by emotions, and ways to manage overwhelming stress. It’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon and say that our faith has a place in this conversation; we can teach people the do’s and don’ts of life.

I recently read one book in this self-improvement field which stood out to me. It’s concerned with developing habits. The author makes the point that outcomes are less important than identity. In other words, a person with an alcohol addiction, for example, who tells themselves: ‘I won’t drink that alcohol, I’m trying to give up’ is less likely to actually give up than if they said: ‘I’m teetotal.’ Notice the difference? The latter is about identity or belief; the person no longer accepts the label of someone who drinks alcohol. The author goes on to argue that behavioural changes then build up to align with that new identity, in that order.

This can be a very useful framework for looking at today’s Scripture passages.

A follower of Jesus Christ has ways of living life that are distinct and different, or at least they should. We are called to demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit, to be good stewards of the world we live in, to be compassionate, to pursue justice, to show mercy. But none of these define a follower of Jesus. They are behaviours and habits, they aren’t identity. They’re important, vital even, but they develop to align us with a deeper core of who we are: that is we are ‘begotten of God’.

In John’s language, in his first letter, the way to live a life that demonstrates all of those features (to ‘overcome the world’) is to have faith; to believe that Jesus is who he said he is, and did what he said he would do. To believe, in a word, the apostolic testimony that he is risen!

That isn’t a one time deal, though. Faith is exercised like a habit, maybe that’s why it’s listed as one of the theological virtues. Exercising that faith, that belief in Jesus day by day is like constant course corrections to make sure we don’t veer off and end up somewhere else. How is it done? There’s a little book by Brother Lawrence called ‘the Practice of the Presence of God’ – it’s simply this, go about your daily life conscious of God’s presence with you, and offer frequent little prayers like “O God, come to my aid”.

Pope Benedict captured all of this so beautifully and succinctly in a quote I constantly return to: “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” (Deus Caritas Est). Encounter first. Direction and action second.


  • The Virtues: CCC 1803-1829 (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
  • Brother Lawrence, the Practice of the Presence of God
  • Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est