2nd Sunday of Easter
With deep faith and faith-filled excitement the Church continues the celebration it began a week and a day ago of Easter, the Lord’s Resurrection and final victory over death and sin.
As is the case in almost every Mass of this season, the first reading this weekend comes from the Acts of the Apostles.
Originally Acts was readily seen to be a continuation of St. Luke’s Gospel. Obscuring this fact for centuries has been the insertion of St. John’s Gospel in all the translations and renditions of the New Testament between Luke’s Gospel and Acts.
Nevertheless, the Gospel of Luke and Acts should be seen as unified. Together they tell an uninterrupted story of salvation in Jesus, from Mary’s conception to a time years after the Ascension.
This weekend’s reading reveals to us what life actually was like in the time shortly following the Ascension. The Church was very much geographically in the place where it first formed, where Jesus lived, died, rose and ascended.
The reading describes the first Christians, most of whom likely knew Jesus, as reverently following the Apostles, of being together in a most realistic sense of community, of eagerly caring for the needy, of praying, and of “breaking the bread,” a term referring to the Eucharist.
Acts notes that each day new believers entered this community.
For its second reading this weekend, the Church offers us a passage from the First Epistle of Peter.
Clear and inspiring in this reading is the early Church’s obvious and intense love for, and faith in, the Lord. It was a faith that hardly went unchallenged. The culture in which Christianity was born and grew in almost every respect either rejected the ideals of the Gospel or held them in outright contempt.
So, the mere presentation of these beliefs in this epistle show how steadfastly the first Christians held to what Jesus had taught.
John’s Gospel provides the last reading. It is one of the beloved, and most familiar, of the Resurrection Narratives.
In this reading is the story of the reluctance of the Apostle Thomas to accept that Jesus indeed had risen from the tomb. Then, as all recall, dramatically Jesus appears on the scene. He invites Thomas to believe. In awe, and the uttermost faith, Thomas declares that Jesus not only is teacher and Redeemer, but indeed that Jesus is God.
The Lord then confers upon the Apostles that most divine of powers, the power to judge what is sinful and to forgive sin.
This weekend is special in the Church. In Rome, Pope Francis on Sunday solemnly will canonize Blessed Pope John XXIII and Blessed Pope John Paul II. It will be of interest to many people, since very many remember John Paul II, and many still remember John XXIII.
Much appropriately can be said about each of these extraordinary leaders of the Church. Together they give us the images of ordinary human beings for whom Jesus was a living, loving personal, close friend.
Their sense of Jesus reminds us that the events liturgically commemorated at Holy Week and at Easter were not stale historical references to things past.
Rather, they celebrated the fact that Jesus still is with us. So, the mercy of God, offered us in Jesus, still is available.
This mercy reaches us in very visible ways. It is through the Apostles. The Apostles and their successors bring us this mercy, this contact with Jesus, with God, and the hope of being forgiven.
Through faith in Jesus, in the Church, with the Apostles, like the faith so wonderfully shown by John XXIII and John Paul II, we meet Jesus face to face. We are saved from our own death and sin. Through our faith, Jesus lives. Jesus is real.
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