Second 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 and proceeds forward.
Vitally important in the life of the community in Jerusalem was the leadership of the Apostles, with Peter as their head. The people held them in the highest esteem. After all, Jesus had called the Apostles individually, but commissioning them all to continue the work of salvation after the Ascension.
In this reading, the Apostles work many miracles. When Peter moved among the sick, merely to lie beneath his shadow was enough to be cured of sickness or infirmity. It is a very powerful description of Peter’s place in Christianity.
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 providing aid to the needy and for healing the sick.
The message is clear. Jesus did not leave the Christian body without guidance nor without access to God’s grace.
For its second reading, the Church provides a passage from the Book of Revelation. In the reading, John, the author of Revelation — assumed by tradition to have been the Apostle John — 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 what John saw.
St. John’s Gospel provides the last reading. It begins with an appearance of Jesus before the Apostles. First, the Lord brings them peace. He then empowers them literally to forgive sins.
Next comes the familiar story of the doubtful Thomas. Other Apostles had seen the Risen Lord, but Thomas had not yet seen Jesus. Thomas insisted that he would not believe until he personally could touch the wounds of Christ.
When Jesus appeared before the Apostles, Thomas saw the wounds. He proclaimed Jesus as “my lord and my God.”
The reading ends by stating that Jesus performed many other miracles. The crucified Lord lived.
This weekend is called Divine Mercy Sunday, a theme especially meaningful for the late Pope St. John Paul II.
Only a week ago, in celebrating the feast of Easter, the Church joyfully and excitedly proclaimed to us its belief that Jesus was risen. He lives! To emphasize the meaning of this pronouncement, the Church gave us the magnificent liturgy of the Easter Vigil, the summit of the Church’s entire year of formal worship.
This weekend, just a week after Easter, the Church hurries to repeat that the Risen Christ is with us still, visibly, tangibly and dynamically, through the Apostles. They represented the Lord. They continued the work of salvation.
In the second reading, from the Book of Revelation, we are told of John’s extraordinary encounter with the Risen Lord.
John’s Gospel, in the third reading, continues this process of reporting the Lord’s granting to the Apostles the very power of God itself. Jesus gave 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, not an unusual human reaction to the amazing assertion that Christ had risen from the dead. Then Thomas saw Jesus and believed. Thomas is a model for us.
To bring the lesson home to us, Jesus, healing and forgiving sins, the Son of God, merciful and good, still lives, for us, through the Church, founded on the efforts of the Apostles.
The Lord’s plan to offer salvation to all people, in all places and at all times, is in itself Divine Mercy.
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