Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2nd Sunday of Easter 2014

He is risen, Alleluia, Alleluia!  Easter is not over… it has only just begun!  While some folks might be ready to pack up the Easter decorations, many of us know that the party is just getting started!  Easter is not just one day, but an entire 50 day season!  Having traveled through the 40 days of Lent reflecting on the story of our salvation, the focus of our readings now turn to the story of the birth of our Church.

The Word for the 2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)
Acts 2:42-47
Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31

For the Season of Easter, our first reading during Mass, instead of being from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), we read from The Acts of the Apostles.  Why the change?  Because it is in this book we get the sequel to the “Greatest Story Ever Told.”  After Luke completed his Gospel, he soon came to realize that this was not the end of the story, but a beginning… the beginning of the Church.  And like every audience that falls in love with a great book or movie, the early Church wanted more, so Luke gave us the ultimate sequel with the book of The Acts of the Apostles.  In this book we begin where the Gospel ends… Jesus ascends to Heaven, and now the Apostles, hesitant at first, but then having received the Holy Spirit, boldly go out to spread the Gospel and the story of Jesus.  This week, we get a glimpse at what life was like for those first 3,000 who were baptized after Pentecost.  We get a picture of a community that has turned away from selfishness to providing for the needs of others

Our second reading for this Sunday and for the rest of the Easter Season comes from the 1st Letter of Peter.  While the authorship of Peter’s two letters may be open for debate, the revelation expressed is fitting for our Easter Season study.  In this opening greeting this week, Peter is expressing his joy to the communities over their belief and dedication to Christ.  When Peter says, “Although you have not seen him you love him;” is a phrase that touches our own souls at an intimate level.  Peter knew Jesus, and through what he saw and learned came to believe.  I think Peter marveled at the power of the Holy Spirit which inspired others to join with Christ though they, and we, had never met him in the flesh (beyond the Eucharist, of course).

This joy that Peter felt is also echoed in our Gospel from John.  We refer to this as John’s Pentecost story as this is when Jesus sends them the Holy Spirit, but wrapped around this all to brief account is the ever favorite story of Thomas the Apostle.  Thomas was absent from the group when Jesus first appeared in the upper room, so he is skeptical of what they say of that experience.  Thomas wants proof… a need that many of us have when confronted with things we find hard to believe.  Jesus appears again, this time with Thomas in the room, and all his doubts are put to rest, but Jesus also takes this moment to say that “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  Some might read this as Jesus casting aspersions onto Thomas, but let us remember, Jesus loved Thomas, as he loved all Twelve of the Apostles (yes, Judas too).  Instead he wanted to make this a “catechetical moment” for future generations.  Knowing what difficulty the Apostles would face in the days, months, and years ahead in spreading the Gospel, Jesus wanted to leave them a message of hope and inspiration.  It is this hope and inspiration that carries us in our faith, and reminding us of our own blessings as we continue through this Easter Season.

Catholic Update
Why Catholics Celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday
Messengers of God’s Mercy:  Saints John XXXIII and John Paul II

The Second Sunday of Easter is also knows as Divine Mercy Sunday.  This was instituted by Pope John Paul II in the year 2000 during the canonization of St. Fautina Kowalska.  It is an interesting story that can be read in the Catholic Update listed.  It is also a refreshing reminder that the Church is always changing, always growing.  Not all our celebrations are steeped in traditions that are centuries or millennia old.  In Divine Mercy Sunday we have a celebration that reminds us of God's eternal mercy... something we could all use, especially in these difficult modern times.

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