Divine Mercy: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Second Sunday of Easter (Year A)

He showed them his hands and his sideWritten as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline for the Second Sunday of Easter (Year A), April 27, 2014, (1) provides insights into the Sunday Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

Central idea: Divine Mercy. Doctrine: Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ. Practical application: Renewal of Parish Life.

To view the Lectionary 43 readings, click here.

Central Idea: Divine Mercy

Reading 1 Acts 2:42-47

They devoted themselves
to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life,
to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone,
and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
All who believed were together and had all things in common;
they would sell their property and possessions
and divide them among all according to each one’s need.
Every day they devoted themselves
to meeting together in the temple area
and to breaking bread in their homes.
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 a picture of the Church in its pristine form, just after Pentecost.
  • It is centered on the “teaching of the apostles,” which is the teachings of Christ, and on the Eucharistic liturgy, “the breaking of bread and . . . the prayers.”
  • The words of the Gospel announced and the grace of the Sacraments imparted the mercy of the Father, which was accomplished in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the Son, and which was poured out on the Church at Pentecost by the Holy Spirit.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24

R/ Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting. Or: R/ Alleluia.

Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His mercy endures forever.”

I was hard pressed and was falling,
but the LORD helped me.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
The joyful shout of victory
in the tents of the just:

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.

  • God is merciful to sinners and to anyone in need who calls out to him.
  • Jesus Christ is the completely innocent one who called out to the LORD, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
    • He is this “stone which the builders rejected” which “has become the cornerstone.” He was rejected by mankind yet has become the basis for and the head of this new and wonderful reality for mankind, the Church.
    • The “day” or era of the Church has begun due to his victory over sin and death. This is the new “day the LORD has made” that we can “be glad and rejoice in.”

Reading 2 1 Pt 1:3-9

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 imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,
kept in heaven for you
who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith,
to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time.
In this you rejoice, although now for a little while
you may have to suffer through various trials,
so that the genuineness of your faith,
more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire,
may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor
at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Although you have not seen him you love him;
even though you do not see him now yet believe in him,
you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,
as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

  • The early Christian converts that Peter addresses in his epistle are those “Blessed . . . who have not seen and have believed.”
    • Those words also apply to us. Like them, we do not see Christ, yet we love him, and we experience an inner joy because we see our own salvation coming about.
  • Like these early Christians, we suffer “various trials” and these give us a chance to prove that we really do love Christ.
    • One part of this proof is “to give convincing evidence” by our behavior that we love Christ. Because we love Christ we do what Christ wants us to do and we do not do what he does not want us to do.
    • Another part of this proof is like the proof to which the refiner subjects his gold. When the refiner begins, he has ore that contains gold and impurities. His fire reveals the gold and burns away the dross. Similarly, when Christ begins with us, we are a mixture of virtues and vices. The “various trials” reveal and strengthen the virtues and root out the vices. Seen in this light, we can say, thank you for these “trials.”
  • Therefore, there can be an exchange between Christ and us. Christ can say to us, “See what I have done for love of you,” and we can say to him, “see what I have done for love of you.” This contributes to “an indescribable and glorious joy” we can experience.
  • In his mercy, God not only stoops down to the very bottom to save us, but he also draws us up as high as we can go to make us children of God.

Gospel Jn 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

  • St. John, the author of this Gospel, was also an eyewitness of the Resurrection.
  • While Jesus’ greeting, “Peace be with you,” was a common one for Jews to make to one another, here it has a most profound meaning, because Christ has true peace to give. That is, he has removed any grounds for enmity between God and men. He has also made possible the healing of the alienation man feels inside himself, and which he experiences with other persons and with nature. The war is over. Deadly dangers are fled. Death is no longer stalking. Everything is forgiven.
  • The Risen Christ commissions the apostles to spread these glad tidings. Just preaching the Gospel could be enough for a lifetime’s work, but Christ commands them to do even more: The apostles have the power to forgive sins.
    • In normal circumstances, the Sacrament of Penance is the way Christ offers and we receive God’s mercy through the forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism.
  • We are among those “Blessed . . . who have not seen and have believed.” Yet we, too, like doubting St. Thomas, need evidence that Christ has risen from the dead. We have the word of the Apostles and their successors that this is so.

Doctrine: Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ

  • “The tomb in which Jesus was buried was discovered empty by a group of women on the Sunday following the crucifixion.” It is common for people to venerate the tomb of a great man, as John the Baptist’s disciples did. Even today people visit the tomb of Abraham Lincoln. From the time these women discovered no remains and John and Peter confirmed this, no followers of Christ have made the remains of Christ an object of veneration or even implied there were remains to be found.
  • There was no expectation in Judaism that the messiah would rise from the dead and none of Jesus’ disciples suspected he would. Yet, “Jesus’ disciples had real experiences with one whom they believed was the risen Christ.” He appeared to Mary Magdalena at the tomb, to the disciples in the upper room and in Galilee, to 500 disciples all at once, and last of all to Paul on his way to Damascus.
  • “As a result of the preaching of these disciples, which had the resurrection at its center, the Christian church was established and grew.”[1]  The Resurrection of Christ is at the very heart of the Gospel message that the apostles and disciples both preached and laid down their lives for.

Practical Application: Renewal of Parish Life

  • In Acts, St. Luke paints a picture of the newborn Church. Are our parishes like that? Isn’t it true that there is a problem in our parishes?
  • Do we know the teaching of the apostles? Do we really have any communal life as a parish? Is there this exquisite charity in our parishes in which those in need are cared for? Do the people out there see our happiness and the good that we do and want to join our number?
    • We return to the Church in its pristine form when we hold fast to the teaching of the Magisterium, which is the “teaching of the apostles” handed down, developed, and extended by the pope and the bishops. Do we hear the Gospel preached and do we really have enough catechesis in this parish?
    • We return to the Church in its pristine form when we take part in the Sacrifice of the Mass. Is the Eucharist really the heart of our parish life? Is the Eucharist at the heart of our own lives?
    • We return to the Church in its pristine form when there is a communion of love among the believers. Is there real love and concern among the people of this parish?
    • We return to the Church in its pristine form when we care for the needs of our fellow Christians and anyone else in want. Is this parish really a center of practical giving of time, talent, and treasure for each other and the rest of our community?
    • We return to the Church in its pristine form when we draw others to the faith by our words and deeds and especially by our happiness in being followers of Christ. Do we do apostolate?

[1] These three quotes are from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection. The commentary is my own.

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