April 16, 2023 — Second Sunday of Easter (or Sunday of Divine Mercy)
ACTS 2:42-47; PS 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; 1 PT 1:3-9; JN 20:19-31
The Christian steward approaches life with an “Easter vision” rooted in gratitude for and confidence in the salvation our Lord has won for us through His death and Resurrection. Today’s readings on this Divine Mercy Sunday teach us how this approach plays out in daily life and remind us that we can have complete trust in the mercy of God to lead us, step by step, to heaven.
Our first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, describes this beautiful way of life as it was practiced by the first Christians. “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” And, “They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people.” This is a snapshot of the very first community of Christian stewards living out their daily life — embracing prayer (the breaking of the bread), formation (the teaching of the apostles), hospitality (the communal life and fellowship through joyful meals together), and mutual service. What an inspiration to us modern-day stewards!
The Easter season is not the time to let up in the practice of our faith now that Lent is behind us. Rather, it is a time to live our faith with deeper joy and gratitude as we bask in the celebration of our Lord’s victory over sin and death for us. St. Peter summarizes this Easter outlook eloquently in our second reading. Our daily lives should be a reflection of this attitude: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is… kept in heaven for you.” St. Peter acknowledges that life can be difficult however, saying that “In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials.”
Certainly, it is challenging to live for heaven when the things of the earth — job stress, family crises, health troubles, political strife — loom large on the horizon. We can find ourselves becoming cynical like the Apostle, Thomas, in our Gospel passage today — until he had an encounter with the merciful Savior. We all recall the famous line from Thomas who was not present with the other Apostles during Jesus’ first appearance after the Resurrection. Beaten down by the events of the last several days, Thomas refuses to believe that the others had indeed “seen the Lord” as they claimed.
Thomas stubbornly declares he would not believe their story about the Lord unless he placed his finger into the nail marks and his hand into His side. Yet, these doubts did not repel our Lord. They actually drew Him to Thomas in an extraordinary way. Our merciful Lord saw that beneath the hubris in Thomas’ statement were pain and disappointment. Our Lord is mercy itself. And so He did not condemn Thomas, but calmed his doubts and fears, and allowed Thomas to actually touch those Sacred Wounds.
What amazing grace.
When we are tempted to give in to doubts about our faith, for whatever reason, all we need to do is seek the Lord — in prayer, in the sacraments, through the encouragement of our Christian communities — and just as He did for Thomas, our Lord will mercifully restore our Easter vision and fill us with His joy and peace.