2nd Sunday of Easter
As almost always 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 wrote St. Luke’s Gospel. Acts, therefore, may properly be seen as a continuation of the story presented in Luke’s Gospel. Luke’s Gospel closes with the Ascension of Jesus. Acts then begins at this point.
As it progresses, Acts traces for some years the development of the infant Church, describing the plight of its first members. In so doing, 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.
It also gives great examples of unquailed faith, and of human ignorance and treachery.
In this weekend’s reading, Acts presents the first members of the Church as being “of one heart and one mind.” Love for, and adherence to the Lord were central to their lives. The Apostles bore witness to the Resurrection of Jesus. The Lord’s special followers and students, who Jesus commissioned to continue the work of salvation, literally had seen the Risen Lord. The first Christians revered the Apostles.
Love for others, in the model of Jesus, was more than a platitude or vague ideal. 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, defining what being a Christian means.
Each believer must give himself fully in love to God, through trust and faith in Jesus. Because of this commitment, and because of the Lord’s redeeming acts, each Christian is a child of God. This term means much more than merely earthly creation. It means 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 the doubting, demanding Thomas affirms this fact.
Resurrection from the dead is stunning in itself, but Jesus further acts as God by conferring the very power of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. He grants them the authority of forgiving sins, a divine privilege as sins affront God. He sends them to the four corners of the world to bring redemption to all humankind.
Passing through locked doors as if they were thin air, Jesus greeted the Apostles with “Peace be with you,” Jesus makes clear that peace only is in God. The living Lord is the sole source of peace.
This weekend, the Church calls its people to have faith and to rejoice. Resurrection and Redemption in Jesus refer not to memories of times long ago, but living realities for us to experience here and now.
It is time for us to find consolation and strength in Jesus, the crucified and risen and living still.
Thus, we observe Divine Mercy Sunday on this date. In and through Jesus, the Risen, the Son of God, divine mercy is with us.
While sin and human limitation present obstacles, often considerable, in our progress toward God, the Lord left us the Apostles.
With their successors in the Church as our guides and the bearers of divine mercy, literally, we find forgiveness and the light to see the way to follow Jesus.
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