Catholic homily outline for the Second Sunday of Easter, Year B – Mercy

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Central idea: Christ is the fullness of God’s mercy. Doctrine: Divine mercy. Practical application: Qualities of the merciful.

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the 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.)

To view Lectionary 44, click here.

Central idea: Christ is the fullness of God’s mercy

Reading 1 Acts 4:32-35

The community of believers was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common.
With great power the apostles bore witness
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
and great favor was accorded them all.
There was no needy person among them,
for those who owned property or houses would sell them,
bring the proceeds of the sale,
and put them at the feet of the apostles,
and they were distributed to each according to need.

  • The first Christians in Jerusalem, gathered around the apostles, formed a community of mutual love.
  • The source of their love for one another was joy in the resurrection of their Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Their Lord’s vicars—the apostles—directed the life of the community. One consequence of their love was the sharing of their property, so no one was in need.
  • The primitive Church lived mercy by taking care of its members who otherwise would be needy.
  • We can see in the forms of religious life that have arisen in the Church echoes of the primitive Church in Jerusalem. Religious live poverty (the individual renunciation of ownership of any property) and obedience to their duly appointed superior.

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.

  • His mercy endures forever. God is merciful to human beings. Men understandably plead for God’s mercy when they are in travail, especially when in danger of death. We should also plead for God’s merciful aid as much when we are tempted. And even more, we should plead for God’s merciful forgiveness when we actually sin.
  • I was hard pressed and was falling. In his Passion, Christ was in danger of death, hard pressed and falling, and was, indeed, utterly rejected.
  • The joyful shout of victory in the tents of the just. His Resurrection is his “joyful shout of victory.” It is ours, too, because he restores us to a state of justice by his merciful atonement.
  • The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. Jesus Christ is that stone. A cornerstone is important because it is the first stone set in a building and every other stone is laid in reference to it. Thus, Christ is the foundation of his Church and every other follower lives in reference to him.
  • This is the day the Lord has made. This cornerstone was laid on the new day of the Resurrection.
  • Let us be glad and rejoice in it. God has done something new for all time, which is a perennial source of joy.

Reading 2 1 Jn 5:1-6

Beloved:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God,
and everyone who loves the Father
loves also the one begotten by him.
In this way we know that we love the children of God
when we love God and obey his commandments.
For the love of God is this,
that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome,
for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.
And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and blood.
The Spirit is the one that testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.

  • To be “begotten by God” means to be a child of God.
  • We become children of God by believing that Jesus is the Christ, that is, the savior of the world.
  • Children of God love not only God but also God’s other children.
  • How do we love God and his children? By keeping God’s commandments.
  • These commandments are not mysterious. They are embodied in the natural moral law that can known using reason. They are embodied in the privileged expression of the natural law, which is the Ten Commandments. They are embodied in the two great commandments: To love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. They are embodied above all for the child of God in Christ’s New Commandment: To love one another as Christ has love us, which is to do what is truly good for the other even if it requires sacrifice on our part.
  • As St. John says, this is not burdensome. In fact, it is attainable with God’s help. It is what overcomes the world. It conquers the sin which is the source of the suffering that every person encounters in this world.
    • God’s mercy has come to us through the water and blood that flowed from the pierced side of Christ. It continues to come to us through Baptism and the Eucharist.Thus, God shows his superabundant mercy to us by making us children of God, victors over the sin and death of the world.

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.

  • God’s mercy, revealed in Christ, takes away something and gives something.
    • What he takes away is sin. One way Christ dispenses this mercy is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He gives his Apostles (and those who hold their office after them) the power to forgive sins. This power requires discretion, for they can either forgive the sin or not. To make this judgment, they must know what the sin is. That is why we also call this sacrament Confession.
      • The consequence of the forgiveness of sins is peace. That is why Jesus’ greeting is “Peace be with you.”
    • What he gives is life, the fullness of eternal life.
  • The signs that Jesus did were miraculous acts whose purpose was to move his disciples to believe that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief” they might “have life in his name.”
  • John the Evangelist recalls a number of these signs for our sake, that we might have the same life-giving faith.
  • We have not seen these signs with our own eyes, but by hearing about them and believing them, we are those “Blessed . . . who have not seen and believed.”

Doctrine: Divine mercy

  • Paul tells us that “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:4-5). God loves man so much that even when man is dead in sin he gives him life in Christ.
  • Pope St. John Paul II in his second encyclical Dives in misericordia (DM) uncovers the essence of God’s mercy, a mercy we should imitate.
    • “The true and proper meaning of mercy . . . is manifested . . . when it restores to value, promotes and draws good from all the forms of evil existing in the world and in man” (DM §6).
    • Thus, true mercy is not just a feeling of compassion toward someone suffering from physical evil or sin, though, for us, that is a start. It is not just doing something for someone suffering any in those ways, though that is a very good thing for us to do. Rather, it is restoring that person to his or her dignity.
    • “Understood in this way,” St. John Paul II goes on, “mercy constitutes the fundamental content of the messianic message of Christ and the constitutive power of His mission (DM §6). In other words, Our Lord’s basic message is God’s mercy toward man; his fundamental work is to restore man to his original dignity.
      • Both the message and the work of God’s mercy are revealed in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The son wrongly thought that his treasure was the material goods he would receive from his father, “but more important than these goods was his dignity as a son in his father’s house” (DM §5). The father still saw the son’s dignity, despite his sin and poverty. His heart went out to him and he restored him to his sonship when he came to his senses and returned home.
    • John Paul II goes on, “[Christ’s] disciples and followers understood and practiced mercy in the same way. Mercy never ceased to reveal itself, in their hearts and in their actions, as an especially creative proof of the love which does not allow itself to be ‘conquered by evil,’ but overcomes ‘evil with good’ (Rom 12:21)” (DM §6).
      • Thus, in his merciful love, God draws good from evil. His followers are called to do the same.

Practical application: Qualities of the merciful

  • God shares his riches with us, including his mercy.
  • Because God was merciful to them, the first members of the Church did not claim their possessions as their own but shared then with persons who otherwise would be needy.
  • Since everything we possess is ultimately a gift from God, we don’t claim anything we possess as our own either. We show mercy to others by sharing our time, talents, and treasures with our neighbor.
  • In one of his homilies, St. Josemaria Escriva gives some practical advice on how followers of Christ can live God’s mercy.
    • Christ “‘began to do and to teach’ (Acts 1:1); he first taught by his action, and then by his divine preaching.”
      • Christ began by serving others. “I really wish we Christians knew how to serve, for only by serving can we know and love Christ and make him known and loved.”
      • A vice in opposition to this mercy is authoritarianism.
    • What else do we need to serve others?
      • We need virtues, because God “normally does not build on disorder, selfishness or emptiness.”
      • We need to be understanding. Everyone does what they do for a reason they think has some good in it.
      • We need to be peacemakers.
      • We need to forgive everyone.
      • We also need truth, not to say evil is not evil.
      • We need not to repay evil with evil but rather to drown evil in an abundance of good.
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