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. Acts originally was seen to be a continuation of St. Luke’s Gospel, and still these books should be considered as being in sequence.
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 for 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. Clearly Peter was the chief of the Apostles. He was special.
Most importantly, through the Apostles, and in the Church, Jesus lived and acted. The sick were cured. The deaf heard. The blind saw. No one was beyond the Apostles’ interest.
For its second reading this weekend, the Church offers us a passage from the First Epistle of Peter.
Obvious 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 Divine Mercy Sunday. Coincidentally it also is for people in Israel and for Jews everywhere the day of memorial for the millions who died in the Holocaust. Finally, for many years before the collapse of the Soviet system, it was the great celebration of communism, a philosophy that brought death and heartache to so many millions.
May 1 brings these three events together. The last two, the hideous policy of Adolf Hitler’s dictatorship in Germany that slaughtered millions and the generations-long domination of communism stand on one side as an example of how terribly sin and disregard of God and God’s creatures, human beings, can bring terror into the world. We humans can do awful things.
Opposite all this is God’s loving mercy for each of us. In mercy, God sent the Lord Jesus. His humanity, life, death and triumph over death provided our access to divine mercy.
The Apostles and their successors bring us this mercy, this contact with Jesus, with God, and the hope of being forgiven, just as they brought it to Christians recorded in Acts.
The Church gathers around the Apostles. We truly become part of the Church when we create within ourselves the faith of the first Christians, and indeed of Thomas.
Through this faith, in the Church, with the Apostles, we receive the gift of eternal life. We experience the mercy of God.
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