Second Sunday of Easter
As is so often the case in the Easter season, the Acts of the Apostles furnishes the Liturgy of the Word with its first reading.
Acts claims to be, and scholars assume it indeed to be, the work of the Evangelist who penned St. Luke’s Gospel. In fact, Acts may properly be seen as a continuation of the story presented in Luke’s Gospel. The Gospel closes with the Ascension of Jesus. Acts begins at this point.
Then, Acts traces, for some years, the progress of the infant Church and the plight of its first members. In the process, it provides a fascinating insight into the formation of the Church’s structure, as well as a powerful lesson in the basic beliefs that so compelled absolute loyalty and devotion from the early Christians whom Acts praises.
So, this weekend’s reading from Acts describes the early Church. Its members were “of one heart and one mind.” Love, and common adherence to the Lord, were central to their lives. The Apostles bore witness to the Resurrection of Jesus. They had been the Lord’s special followers and students, whom Jesus commissioned to continue the work of salvation. They literally had seen the Risen Lord.
The first Christians revered the Apostles. Love within the community, and care for others in the model of Jesus, were more than platitudes or ideals. The early Christians assisted the poor. Indeed, they sold their property or houses and donated the proceeds to assist the needy.
St. John’s First Epistle supplies the second reading. It defines the Christian, as this definition was understood in the first eentury.
Each believer fully gave self in love to God, through trust and faith in Jesus. As a result of this commitment, and of the Lord’s redeeming acts, each Christian was a child of God. This term meant much more than merely earthly creation. It meant eternal life.
Baptism in water symbolizes this absolute commitment.
The Gospel reading for this weekend is from St. John’s Gospel. It is a Resurrection Narrative, and it is a story with which most Christians are quite familiar. Recall the dismay among the followers of Jesus when they found the empty tomb? Where had the body of the Lord been taken?
This reading answers the question. The body of the Lord has been taken nowhere. Jesus lives! He is risen! The encounter with Thomas, a story so well-known for so long among Christians, affirms this fact.
Resurrection from the dead is stunning in itself, but Jesus further acts as God. He confers the very power of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. He grants the same Apostles the authority of forgiving sins, a divine privilege as sins affront God. Finally, risen to a new and eternal life, no longer confined by earthly space and circumstance, Jesus passes through locked doors to meet the Apostles.
Greeting the Apostles with “Peace be with you,” Jesus makes clear that peace only is in God.
This weekend, the Church calls its people to have faith and to rejoice. Resurrection, and Redemption in Jesus, are not memories to be commemorated, but living realities for us to experienced here and now.
It is a time to find consolation and strength in the fact that Jesus lives for us here and now. Thus, we observe Divine Mercy Sunday on this date. In and through Jesus, the Risen, the Son of God, divine mercy is with us, inviting us to repent and to come to God.
While sin and human limitation present difficulties in our progress toward God, the Lord left us the Apostles, and their successors in the Church, as our guides and the bearers of divine mercy, literally, as they stand ready, and empowered, to forgive our sins.
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