Tuesday, March 29, 2016

2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)

Living in “Hollywood” we are very familiar with sequels.  When you have great characters involved in a great story, you almost naturally want to continue the journey… to see what happens next.  The same was true for Luke’s gospel.  After giving us the story of Jesus, perhaps the greatest story ever told, the people wanted to hear more.  So what does every author do when he knows he’s got a hit?  He gives us a sequel:  The Acts of the Apostles.  And one of the beauties of the Easter season is the opportunity we have to explore this story in place of the usual Hebrew Scriptures for our first reading.

Acts 5:12-16
Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
John 20:19-31

In our first reading from Acts, we see Peter and the Apostles gathering in the Temple are (Solomon’s Portico).  None of the religious establishment dared to be present, but the people held them in great esteem.  The crowds continued to grow as they learned of the Apostles ability to heal their illnesses, just as Jesus did.  But like Jesus the Apostles didn’t do this for show, they did this out of love and mercy, thoughts reflected in our Psalm as we sing “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting.”

Similar to how we will be spending the entire Easter season with the Acts of the Apostles as our first reading, our second reading for every Sunday this season under  Cycle C will be from the book of Revelation.  With its apocalyptic style, the book of Revelation can be difficult to understand and is often misinterpreted, so let us enjoy this opportunity to get a better understanding of its glorious message.  In this week’s passage, we start near the beginning of the book.  John, our author, is in prison on Patmos Island for having preached openly about Jesus.  While there he hears a voice “as loud as a trumpet” telling him to write down his visions.  He turns to see to whom the voice belongs to discover the glorified Jesus, who asks him write down what he is about to see.  No doubt this is going to be a wonderful and fantastic tale.

Our Gospel, this week and throughout the Easter season will be from John.  This week’s passage will sound familiar to many as we hear the story of Thomas, frequently referred to as “doubting Thomas” because he is the Apostle who refused to believe that Jesus had risen without seeing it for himself.  Jesus appears to the Apostles, who are gathered in the upper room, but for some reason Thomas was not with them.  As the others recount their experience to Thomas, he refuses to believe.  The following week the Apostles are gathered again in the upper room, but this time Thomas is among them.  This time when Jesus appears he approaches Thomas so that he may see for himself.  This story is one of our favorites because it resonates so deeply with us on two levels.  On the first level we are like Thomas.  As human beings we have an innate desire to see things for ourselves.  Yet Jesus says to Thomas, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”  On the second level this is our reality of Christ… that we believe even though we have not seen.  Not everyone can or is willing to make that leap of faith.  We as Christians are willing to accept the testimony of those that came before us, and are charged to continue spreading that message to the next generation.

Final thoughts:
The second Sunday of Easter is celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday.  It originated in the year 2000 in honor of the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska.  Sr. Faustina, from Poland, was a Christian mystic and nun who experienced apparitions of Jesus.  She is known as the “Secretary of Divine Mercy” based on her writings that centered on the mercy of God, to trust in the abundant mercy of Christ, and to sho mercy to to others.  Her visions and her devotion to Divine Mercy is captured in a painting by artist Eugene Kazimierowski, which was painted under the direction of Sr. Faustina.  A version of this painting hangs in our own church in one of the North side altar shrines.  God’s mercy is what brought Christ to us, so it seems only fitting that we celebrate His divine mercy on this 2nd Sunday of Easter.

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