2nd Sunday of Easter
The Acts of the Apostles supplies this weekend’s first reading. The first several chapters of Acts are fascinating since they so well depict the life of the early Christian community in Jerusalem. This depiction begins with the story of the Lord’s Ascension itself and proceeds forward.
Vitally important in the life of the community in Jerusalem was the leadership of the Apostles, with Peter clearly presented as their head. Such status of the Apostles was not surprising. Jesus had called the Apostles individually, commissioning each, and them all, to continue the work of salvation after the Ascension.
In this reading, the Apostles work many miracles. Peter moves among the sick, and merely to lie beneath his shadow was enough to be cured of sickness or infirmity. The people held them in great esteem.
The implication is clear. Jesus did not leave the Christian body without guidance or without access to God’s grace. The Acts says that the Apostles, again with Peter as the leader, came together with the community for the “breaking of the bread,” for prayer, for giving aid to the needy and for healing the sick.
For its second reading, the Church offers a passage from the Book of Revelation. In the reading, John, the author of Revelation, assumed by tradition to have been the Apostle John, tells of being in exile on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. He said that on the Lord’s Day, or Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, he had a vision of Jesus. Jesus ordered John to write about everything that John saw.
St. John’s Gospel provides the last reading. The reading begins with an appearance of Jesus before the Apostles. The Lord brings peace. He then empowers the Apostles to forgive sins, saying that if the apostles forgive, sins are forgiven.
Next comes the familiar story of the doubtful Thomas. Other Apostles had seen the Risen Lord, but Thomas had not seen Jesus. Thomas would not believe that Jesus indeed had risen, insisting that he would not believe until he personally could touch the very wounds of Christ.
When Jesus appeared before the Apostles, Thomas sees the wounds. He proclaims Jesus “my Lord and my God.”
The reading ends by stating that Jesus performed many other miracles.
Only a week ago, in celebrating the feast of Easter, the Church joyfully and excitedly announced to us its belief that Jesus rose from the dead. To emphasize the meaning of this pronouncement, the Church gave us the liturgy of the Easter Vigil, the very summit of the Church’s entire year of formal worship.
This weekend, just a week after Easter, the Church hurries to tell us that the Risen Christ is with us still, visibly, tangibly and dynamic.
He still is present with us through the Apostles. The Church clearly verifies the Apostles’ credentials. The Lord especially empowered and commissioned them.
In the second reading, from the Book of Revelation, we are told of John’s extraordinary mystical encounter with the Risen Lord.
John’s Gospel, in the third reading, continues the story by reporting the Lord’s conferral upon the Apostles the very power of God itself, by giving them the ability to forgive sins. As sins affront God, only God can forgive sins. Yet Jesus conveyed this power to the Apostles.
Thomas is important to the story. He doubted, hardly an unusual human reaction to the amazing assertion that Christ had risen from the dead. Then Thomas saw Jesus and uncompromisingly believed.
The Church is saying that we today encounter Christ through the Apostles. Through the Apostles the Lord heals and redeems us.
Divine Mercy Sunday calls us to rejoice in the benefits given us in encountering the Lord.
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