Second 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 begins at that 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 as great examples of unqualified faith and, obversely, 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, whom Jesus commissioned to continue the work of salvation, had literally 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. They sold their property and donated the proceeds to assist the needy.
St. John’s first letter supplies the second reading, defining what being a Christian means.
Each believer must give self 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. Do you 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 because sin affronts 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.” He 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 rejoice in God’s mercy. It defines mercy. God has redeemed us. Further, it recalls the great compassion and charity of the first Christians. They imitated Jesus, the Son of God. God is love.
When we observe Divine Mercy Sunday on this date, we remember that in and through Jesus, the Risen, the Son of God, divine mercy is with us. The memory, however, is dynamic. It summons us to follow the Lord’s example in our attitude towards others, our active compassion for one and all.
Finally, we are not alone. 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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