April 27, 2014 – Second Sunday of Easter/Sunday of Divine Mercy
It is appropriate on this Second Sunday of Easter that our readings focus on the earliest days of the Church after the Resurrection of Jesus. This is in addition to Divine Mercy Sunday, as declared in the spring of 2000 by Pope John Paul II, who is canonized on this day and becomes St. John Paul II.
Although it is never specifically stated, most scholars believe that it was Luke who authored the Acts of the Apostles. Luke was a physician who lived in the ancient city of Antioch. It is conjectured that he may have been St. Paul’s doctor, but he was certainly a follower of Paul and was very familiar with the early Church as established by Christ, launched by St. Peter, and fostered by St. Paul. The first reading today points to the way the early members of the Church gathered in community. There was a practical reason for this, the main one of which was the constant threat they were under. Note that they “broke bread in their homes,” an indication that they celebrated the Eucharist in private homes, both for community and for safety.
St. Peter’s first letter, from which we have the second reading, was originally written in Greek. It is thought that someone else may have actually written it, perhaps as dictated by Peter. Verses three to nine in the first chapter, our reading for today, immediately follow Peter’s introductory remarks. Just as in the reading from Acts, Peter addresses what the early Christians must do. Peter specifically mentions that Christians/we may have “to suffer through various trials.” Yet, if our faith is true and strong, if we trust in the Lord, our faith will not fail. Stewardship is a way that we can practice our faith, live it out. However, living that way is not easy either. Living as a steward is more difficult when we face the kinds of trials Peter anticipates. Nevertheless, Peter assures us that there is great joy in following Jesus: “…you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.”
On the day of His Resurrection, Christ appears five times. The Gospel account from John is one of those occasions. You may recall that the Gospel of John is the story of Christ’s last twenty days. This Gospel account from Chapter 20 of John happens right at the end of the Gospel of John (There is one more chapter after 20.). John explains why he has written his Gospel in a brief epilogue at the end of today’s Gospel reading: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” The abiding message to us on this Divine Mercy Sunday is that faith will set us free. Christ appears to the Apostles even though the doors are closed and locked. Do we close doors to the Lord? We can be sure He is not stopped by them any more than He was in that room where the Apostles were hiding.
Luke (assuming he is the author of Acts), Peter in his letter, John, and, most importantly, Christ Himself all call us to trust, to believe, and to prepare for the promised salvation. Upon St. Thomas’ humbling statement “My Lord and my God,” Jesus kindly responds, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” We should have spent Lent trying to develop deeper beliefs, a more profound relationship with our Lord. As we enter this Easter season, that is still our goal.