Wednesday, April 3, 2013

2nd Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday

Second Sunday of Easter (Year “C”) – April 7, 2013

[Texts: Acts 5.12-16 [Psalm 118]; Revelation 1.9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 20.19-31]

The character of the Second Sunday of Easter derives from the invariable selection of Jesus' two appearances to the apostles, one without and one with Thomas present, as the gospel of the day. The risen Christ shares with his apostles the mandate he received from the Father to go into the world with the message of salvation (“as the Father has sent me, so I send you”).

Breathing on them the Holy Spirit (a text that shows the link between the resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit), Jesus missions his disciples to set people free (“receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained”).

Thomas cannot accept the Good News about Jesus' resurrection on the basis of others' reports and says so, explicitly demanding proof of the convictions he holds, that Jesus was wounded in his hands by nails at the crucifixion and in his side by a thrust from the soldier's lance.

The risen Lord, still marked in his hands and side by the tokens of his Passion (though we should understand them as somehow transformed, too, by the reality of the resurrection), invites Thomas to touch the wounds, to surrender his doubts and become a believer.

We do not know whether Thomas touched the wounds of Jesus or not; the text does not tell us about, but only of Thomas's coming to faith. In reply to Jesus’ invitation, Thomas makes the great confession of Jesus' lordship over his life, one that disciples throughout the ages have made their own, “My Lord and my God”.

Jesus then pronounced the deep happiness of disciples who have lived since the exaltation of Christ and believe him to be “the Messiah, the Son of God”, though they have no visible proofs to fall back on: “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”.

The risen Lord's appearance on the eighth day, like Easter itself a Sunday (“the first day of the week”), helped shape Christian conviction that this day should replace the venerable Sabbath (the seventh day of the week) as “the Lord's Day”.

In the passage from the Book of Revelation, the source of the second reading throughout Eastertide this year, John tells of a mystical insight he experienced when he “was in the spirit on the Lord's day”. It was a vision of the glorified Christ present within the church (“I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man”).

This symbolic representation of Christ in glory begins with a description of his priestly (“long robe”) and kingly functions (“with a golden sash across his chest”).

The rest of the visionary representation, richly evocative of Old Testament images of God and the Messiah (“His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow [symbolizing eternal wisdom]; his eyes were like a flame of fire [omniscience]; his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace [divine steadfastness], and his voice was like the sound of many waters [power and might]; in his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force [divinity]”) prepares for the seer's awe-inspired reverence (“I fell at his feet as though dead”).

As the risen Jesus had comforted his frightened disciples (“Peace be with you”), so the glorified Christ offers reassurance, “Do not be afraid”. Though John's community was undergoing suffering (“I share with you the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance”), the Son of Man makes three claims: that he is divine (“I am the first and the last, and the living one”), that he is Jesus, (“I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever”) and that he is more powerful that all the church's enemies (“I have the keys of Death and of Hades”).

Though the risen and exalted Jesus has returned to the Father, he has not abandoned his Church, but remains close to his followers for all time. This is the on-going message of the resurrection.

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O God, who gladden us year by year with the solemnity of the Lord's Resurrection, graciously grant that, by celebrating these present festivities, we may merit through them to reach eternal joys. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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