April 23, 2017 — Second Sunday of Easter (Sunday of Divine Mercy)
Although Easter Sunday was a week ago, Easter is far from over. The Easter season or Eastertide is a 50-day period (counting Easter Sunday) from Easter to Pentecost Sunday (June 4 this year). Today is thus the Second Sunday of Easter. Eastertide means literally Easter time. “Tide” in Old and Middle English meant time, and it has maintained that meaning in some church terms we use (e.g. yuletide and Eastertide).
Pentecost comes at the end of our Easter season, and we often call it the “Birthday of the Church.” There is a good reason for that. Our First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles relates life in the early Church. In fact, today’s reading from Acts 2 follows immediately after the narrative on what occurred on Pentecost, which is found in Acts 2: 1-41. Acts, of course, follows the Four Gospels as the Fifth Book of the New Testament. It is clear that it is a continuation of the Gospel of Luke. Luke traveled with St. Paul and quite likely may have met many of the original Apostles. Thus, his narratives about Pentecost and the early Church are first hand in many ways.
There is much on which we might concentrate in this reading offering us a glance of the early Christians, but note in particular two things: their sense of joy and satisfaction along with the fact that their numbers kept growing. Both of these facts are demonstrated in this First Reading: “They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
This is in effect a reflection of stewardship. Stewardship is a jubilant, God-centered, way of positive living. That is what the most effective evangelization is. People want to be a part of that, and they wish to experience that. If our parish community can capture that and maintain it, we, too, will grow both spiritually and in numbers.
The First Epistle of Peter (1 Peter) presents us our Second Reading, and it might be considered to be closely related to the First Reading. In today’s scriptural passage, St. Peter offers us a perspective on what it means to be saved, and what it means to live as someone who is saved. (The First Reading closed with the phrase “those who were being saved.”) For Peter, and this is the point for us, Peter refers to the followers of the Lord as people who experience a “new birth to a living hope.”
The evangelical church is quite fond of using the term “born again” as if it is something that occurs once. As Catholics we are “born again” every day and especially when we receive the Eucharist. It is because of this hope that we practice stewardship, and because of this hope that our outlook should be bright, regardless what circumstances we may find or may face in our lives.
The Second Reading closed with these words, “…you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” The Easter season is especially a time we need to experience and feel that wonderful happiness.
The Gospel Reading from St. John is what gives us that phrase “Doubting Thomas,” as St. Thomas the Apostle does not experience the real visit from the Lord, and expresses what seems to be a doubt. However, the real focus should be on that same sense of happiness found in the first two readings. “The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” This is the same rejoicing to which Peter refers in the Second Reading and that described by Luke in the First Reading.
In spite of what is viewed as an expression of doubt. St. Thomas who is present when the Lord visits again, and even though Jesus invites him to place his hand in His wounds, there is no indication Thomas ever does it. He proclaims “My Lord and my God,” and Jesus answers “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” That refers to us. We are blessed with these holy accounts of those who witnessed and proclaimed and found the happiness that comes from believing. We must take this Truth, embrace it, and live it out in our lives by sharing it. That, too, is Easter.