Tuesday, April 18, 2017

2nd Sunday of Easter (Sunday of Divine Mercy)

He is risen, Alleluia, Alleluia!  Contrary to popular opinion, the joy of Easter didn’t end this last Sunday, it’s only beginning!  After spending 40 days in reflection of our Baptism through prayer, fasting, and alms-giving, we’ve only just begun the 50 day celebration that is the season of Easter.  During Lent the focus of our readings was remembering our Salvation History… how we became a chosen people by God.  Now, during Easter, our focus shifts from the past to the future…how do we live out the Gospel message.


Acts 2:42-47
Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31

Normally our first comes from the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament), but during the season of Easter our first reading comes from The Acts of the Apostles.  Why the change?  Because this book tells us the story of how we became Church.  Acts is the sequel to the “Greatest Story Ever Told.”  After St. Luke completed his Gospel, he realized 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 second part of his Gospel, The Acts of the Apostles.  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’s passage gives us 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 Psalm reflects the joy they must have felt as we sing, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.”

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;” it’s 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.

Final thoughts:

The second Sunday of Easter is celebrated world-wide 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 show mercy 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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