Divine Mercy: Second Sunday of Easter – Year C

Caravaggio's "Supper at Emmaus"

Caravaggio’s “Supper at Emmaus”

Central idea: The Resurrection. Doctrine: The reality of Christ’s Resurrection. Practical application: Gift and response.

To view Lectionary 45, click here.

Central idea: The Resurrection

Reading 1 Acts 5:12-16

Many signs and wonders were done among the people
at the hands of the apostles.
They were all together in Solomon’s portico.
None of the others dared to join them, but the people esteemed them.
Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord,
great numbers of men and women, were added to them.
Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets
and laid them on cots and mats
so that when Peter came by,
at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.
A large number of people from the towns
in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered,
bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits,
and they were all cured.

  • The very first Christians faced serious opposition by the Jewish religious authorities: they could imprison them, punish them by flogging, or even have them put to death like they had done Christ. This motivated ordinary Christians (“the others”) to keep a low profile.
  • But the apostles fearlessly proclaimed the Gospel publicly.
  • Their preaching was accompanied by “many signs and wonders,” which meant mercy for “the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits.”
  • The “signs and wonders” gave people motivation to accept the apostles’ testimony and believe the Gospel.
  • People need health in body and mind but even more fundamentally they need life, a life that cannot be taken away, forgiveness and healing from their sins, and friendship with God and other persons. So what the apostles offered the people was not just a message but the reality of God’s mercy.
    • The healings the apostles performed were acts of God’s mercy accomplished through them for those particular unfortunate persons.
    • But the entire Gospel which they preached was the announcement of God’s mercy for all of unfortunate humanity.
    • The Sacraments they celebrated (baptism, the breaking of bread (the Eucharist), the laying of hands (Confirmation), and so on) were the actual application of God’s mercy to those who accepted it.
  • Not many of us can perform signs and wonders, but all of us can witness God’s mercy with our words and with our lives. God is real to us because we have experienced his goodness and mercy personally. God is real to us because we live according to the Gospel. This provides a motivation to others to trust our testimony so that they might have the same experience.

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 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.

  • The Church suggests that we look at the responsorial psalms in the liturgy as “poems sung by Christians who have died with Christ and now share with him in his risen life” (HD 50).
  • God’s mercy “endures forever.”
    • His mercy is there at the beginning, even “before” creation. The reason God creates is his completely free and generous decision to share his own beatitude with beings that otherwise would never exist.
    • God’s mercy continues in that he sustains the entire creation in existence at every moment. He is always creating creation.
    • Then, he shows his mercy in creating new persons, each one of us, when he wants us to be, giving us rational, immortal souls that he will sustain in being forever.
    • Then, in this world of trouble, he shows his mercy in calling humanity back to himself in friendship, first the Jews, now us, the Gentiles.

Reading 2 Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19

I, John, your brother, who share with you
the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus,
found myself on the island called Patmos
because I proclaimed God’s word and gave testimony to Jesus.
I was caught up in spirit on the Lord’s day
and heard behind me a voice as loud as a trumpet, which said,
“Write on a scroll what you see.”
Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me,
and when I turned, I saw seven gold lampstands
and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man,
wearing an ankle-length robe, with a gold sash around his chest.

When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead.
He touched me with his right hand and said, “Do not be afraid.
I am the first and the last, the one who lives.
Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever.
I hold the keys to death and the netherworld.
Write down, therefore, what you have seen,
and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards.”

  • K. Rowling dubbed her fictional hero “the boy who lived” because the diabolical Lord Voldemort not only could not kill the baby Harry Potter but he wounded himself in the process.
  • Jesus Christ is really “the one who lives.” The devil, sin, and death could not finally kill the Lord but wounded themselves in the process.
  • Our Lord’s words here are some of the most gladdening every written. “Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld.”
  • “The one who lives” can save us from death and he wants to.
  • As John Donne put it in his sonnet, “Death be not proud,”

One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

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.

  • The disciples were afraid: the authorities had just brutally killed their Lord.
  • Jesus appeared to them in his glorified body. He could pass through walls yet he retained the marks of his Passion in his hands and side.
  • “The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” Imagine the joy we will feel when we see him!
  • “Peace be with you” is a Jewish greeting, but here the words accomplish what they signify. The Resurrected Christ can give peace because he is peace. He is the reconciliation of God and humanity.
  • Christ gives the apostles the mission to extend this peace. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” As we know, he sends them to the ends of the earth.
  • Christ gives his apostles the power to apply this peace to the members of his Church: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” This is the origin of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • Our Lord gave the apostles visible proof that he was Resurrected from the dead. We rely on their testimony and so, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” We are they.
  • The signs Jesus did are recorded “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.” The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became man so that through him we could live now and forever.
    • Because Christ fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament and performed miracles—especially his greatest miracle or sign, his Resurrection—we put our faith in him and in all he has revealed.
    • Then with the help of his grace, we begin to live accordingly.

Doctrine: The reality of Christ’s Resurrection

  • Some people erroneously teach that Christ’s Resurrection was not a physical reality. They say that the disciples experienced some kind of “mystical exaltation.” In reality, the apostles were not prone to believe in Christ’s Resurrection, as we see with Thomas. The disciples were utterly shocked by Christ’s Passion and death on the cross, even though he had foretold it. They were demoralized, sad, and frightened. Some of the disciples regarded the women’s testimony as an “idle tale.” Jesus even “upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.” (CCC 643)
  • Jesus touches his disciples and eats with them so they will recognize he is not a ghost. His body still “bears the traces of his passion” in which he “had been tortured and crucified.” “Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills.” (CCC 645)
  • Though Christ raised some persons from the dead during his public ministry, his own Resurrection—and our future resurrection—was radically different. They returned to normal earthly life. But, “in his risen body [Christ] passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space. At Jesus’ Resurrection his body is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: he shares the divine life in his glorious state, so that St. Paul can say that Christ is ‘the man of heaven.’” (CCC 646)
  • Just like the members of the first community of believers, our faith in Jesus Christ and in all he revealed rests on the witness of Peter and the apostles and other “concrete men known to the Christians and for the most part still living among them” that they saw and were with the Risen One. St. Paul “speaks clearly of more than five hundred persons to whom Jesus appeared on a single occasion and also of James.” (CCC 642)
  • Thus we are living in a new era, the era of God’s life and mercy offered to human beings through the instrument of his Church.

Practical application: Gift and response

  • Our creation and our salvation are gifts. The value of these gifts is infinite.
    • What greater treasure could we have than to exist?
    • We don’t just exist but have many, many good things.
    • The only greater fortune would be to exist forever in possession of infinite happiness with God and His friends.
  • Our proper response to these gifts must be gratitude.
  • In turn, the grateful person finds it very easy to give. The things we have to give are the things we are given. As good stewards of God’s economy, we gratefully and generously can give our time, talents, and treasure, making a sincere gift of self in which we reach out toward our definitive fulfillment.

Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, “that all may be one. . . as we are one” (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God’s sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. (Gaudium et spes 24)

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.)

This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)

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