3 April 2016: Second Sunday of Easter [Divine Mercy Sunday]

 

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
 Acts 5:12-16  Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24  Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19  Jn 20:19-31

 

The peace of the resurrected Lord

The Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week the readings focus on the resurrected Jesus and his gifts to the believing community.

The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles is a snapshot of the post-Pentecost believing community. “Great numbers,” says Luke, “were added to the believers.” Luke uses the divine passive (“were added”) to remind us that it is God’s action, not the believing community’s action, that brings new members. Catechumens do not act on their own–God incorporates them into the ekklesia. Faith in Jesus is a gift that builds up the community.

The second reading from Revelation is the start of John of Patmos’ vision. John sees one “like a son of man” who says “Do not be afraid” and identifies himself as “the one who lives,” who “once was dead but now is alive forever.” This Resurrected one–Jesus–holds power (the keys) over death and nothingness. Freedom from fear is another gift from Jesus to the believing community.

The gospel from John the evangelist presents two of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances: the first without Thomas, and the second that includes Thomas. We often overlook the first appearance’s gifts:

  • Peace be with you: Jesus’ shalom (“peace”) is the eschatological reconciliation between God and humans. Jesus’ blessing brings the disciples into communion with the Father and drives out the disciples’ fear. (See the second reading.) Jesus’ gift of peace completes his Last Supper prayer of not letting our “hearts be troubled or afraid” (Jn 14:27).
  • He showed them his hands and side: Jesus’ wounds show that his resurrected body is the same body that was crucified. He is forever fixed in the act of love in which he died. In the sacrament of Baptism we share this same death and are forever marked with the sign of God’s adoption; we receive the gift of membership in God’s kingdom.
  • He breathed on them: This is John’s version of Pentecost. Jesus’ breath recalls God’s creative breath that brought Adam to life (Gen 2:7). Jesus’ breath gives the believing community the gift of the Holy Spirit, who unites the disciples and us to the risen Jesus and makes us a “new creation.” This gift of the Spirit remains with us in the sacrament of Confirmation. Jesus also gives the disciples his own power over sin. As Luke did in the first reading, John also uses the divine passive (“are forgiven them” and “are held”) to remind us that it is God who acts through the ekklesia to forgive sin. Jesus’ gift of forgiveness remains with us in the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The church’s Easter season gives us six weeks to reflect on this one cosmos-changing event; the Lectionary’s readings present stories, poems, songs, and visions to help us understand Easter from many viewpoints–lived human experience, mystery, faith, sacraments, theology. Sometimes we think Easter is over when we finish the last chocolate egg. But Easter is too important and too mysterious to ever be over. The resurrected Jesus remains with us in the continuing gifts of faith, the Spirit, the ekklesia, and sacraments.

–Terence Sherlock

 

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