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 regarded as a continuation of the story presented in Luke’s Gospel. Luke’s Gospel closes with the Ascension of Jesus. Acts then begins at this point.
As it progresses, Acts traces for some years the development of the infant Church, describing the plight and behavior of its first members. It provides a fascinating insight into the formation of the Church’s structure, as well as a powerful lesson in the basic beliefs of the early Christians.
Acts also gives great examples of unqualified faith, and 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. They met for the “Breaking of the Bread,” an ancient term for the Eucharist.
Love for others, in the model of Jesus, was more than a platitude or vague ideal. The first Christians assisted the poor so fervently that they sold their property and donated the proceeds to help the needy.
Since Jesus had called the Apostles and had commissioned them to continue the work of salvation, and because the Apostles literally had seen and heard the Risen Lord, not surprisingly, the first Christians revered the Apostles.
The first Epistle of Peter supplies the second reading, defining what being a Christian means.
Through Christ, God has given us a “new birth” and reason for hope. Considering our human limitations, and the consequences of our sins, it is a most wonderful gift.
Each believer, however, must receive and confirm this gift, by loving completely, by trusting and by being faithful to, Jesus.
The epistle is frank. Even many of the first Christians never saw Jesus in the flesh. We have not. We must ask for strong faith.
The Gospel reading for this weekend is from St. John’s Gospel. It is a Resurrection Narrative, a story with which most Christians are quite familiar, recalling 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! The encounter with the doubting, demanding Thomas affirms this fact.
Resurrection from the dead is stunning, but Jesus further acts as God by conferring the very power of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, granting them the authority to forgive sins. 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.” Jesus makes clear that peace only is in God.
This weekend, the Church calls its people to have faith and to rejoice. Resurrection, and redemption in Jesus, refer not to memories of times long ago, but living realities for us to experience here and now.
It is time for us now to find consolation and strength in Jesus, the crucified and risen, living still.
We observe Divine Mercy Sunday on this date. In and through Jesus, the risen, the Son of God, divine mercy is with us. It gives us hope, purpose, and strength.
While sin and human limitation present obstacles, often considerable, in our progress toward God, the Lord left us the Apostles and their successors in the Church. The Lord lives! He lives today, where we are, for us all, and for each of us individually.
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