Second Sunday of Easter (NAB Translation)
Divine Mercy Sunday
Welcome to the Sunday Says podcast for the Second Sunday in Easter, April 27, 2014, Divine Mercy Sunday. Thank you for taking the time to join us as we dig more deeply into Scripture in this celebration of Easter, the pivotal event in our faith, that is, the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This Sunday’s readings reveal to us how early Christian life revolved around Christian community and the Holy Eucharist in the beginning days of the Church. The Gospel brings us face to face with the challenges of doubt and certainty, the power of faith, and the Biblical basis for the Sacrament of Confession.
Our readings this week, as always, are from the New Jerusalem translation for copyright purposes.
In the First Reading, from the book of Acts we hear that “The whole community remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.” What is referred to as “the Apostle’s teachings” would probably be similar to what we today would call ‘catechesis’. The term ‘The breaking of the bread’ was used by the early Christians to refer to the making and distribution of the Sacrament of the ‘Lords Body’ later called the ‘Eucharist,’ meaning ‘Thanksgiving’. The term ‘breaking of the bread’ was also connected with the idea of a ‘banquet’, and indicated something surpassing an ordinary meal. We see how this common faith in Christ as expressed in the sharing of communion was an expression of faithfulness to his command ‘to be as one,’ It is amazing to see the mutual affection that existed at the time that even allowed people from different social classes to joyfully share meals and belongings with one another loosening their attachment to material possessions in the name of Christ. This was also a time when the community met in the houses of wealthier Christians to avoid persecution, for it was not until the third century that dedicated churches were built.
In the Responsorial Psalm, we say “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,” which is an entirely appropriate response to God’s mercy, The Psalm brings to our mind the joys expressed by those who have learned to appreciate God’s Mercy. What a great Psalm for Divine Mercy Sunday as we repeat, “His mercy endures forever”.
The Second Reading is from First Letter of St. Peter which was intended for a variety of Churches in Asia Minor or present day Turkey.
The verses presented here help set the tone and prepare our minds for the Gospel. We hear that in Christ’s mercy (remember it is Divine Mercy Sunday) Christ gives us a “new birth” as “His Sons.” Since we are his sons, made possible by Jesus’ resurrection, we are reserved a place in heaven. This is the final destination, but we, for a period of time, will have some crosses to carry– perhaps in the form of great suffering and persecution. So how do we respond to the trials and persecution? Peter, says “this is a cause of great joy for you.” Why? “Because our faith will have been tested and purified like Gold.”
St Augustine says that in the end, “faith preserves our peace of heart amid the trials and tribulations that beset us, for in all the crosses of life, faith gives us the assurance that patience and resignation will merit eternal joy.”
In our Gospel Reading we see both a physical yet supernatural Jesus. Jesus manages to appear in front of his fearful disciples without even having to unlock or open the door, thanks to his now-Glorified body. Even so, just to make sure that He is not mistaken for a spirit or ghost, He shows them His hands and His side to make it clear that His body has truly risen from the dead. He says “Peace be with you,” twice! Perhaps saying it twice was a way of reassuring his Apostles who probably felt ashamed for abandoning him during his Passion and Crucifixion. Soon Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into them and gives the Apostles the power to forgive sins in His name. It this action of giving the Apostles the power to forgive sins in his name that is the basis for Sacramental Confession in the Catholic Church. The sacrament of Confession has been preserved through the Bishops and priests as successors of the Apostles. Finally, in this passage, we face the question of faith itself and how much evidence is necessary to believe in something that seems impossible. Thomas the Apostle, reacts to the reports of the resurrection with great doubt. When he says that he will not believe unless he sees the holes in Jesus hands, he is doubting in a normal human way, but perhaps he goes too far by requiring material evidence to resolve his doubt. After all, his fellow disciples who are telling him about it have clearly been transformed by the experience. St. Gregory the Great says, however, that his disbelief was not an accident but rather a part of God’s plan, given for our benefit as we see that doubt can be overcome and transformed into faith. Jesus is merciful to Thomas and shows his wounds as physical evidence, but he also says “Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe”. Last year Pope Francis commented on this saying “This is a very important word on faith. We can call it the beatitude of faith. At all times and in all places are blessed are those who, through the Word of God proclaimed in Church and witnessed by Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the love of God incarnate, Mercy incarnate.” That’s all for this week Have a very blessed Divine Mercy Sunday and we’ll see you next week.
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