2nd Sunday of Easter – Cycle C (Divine Mercy Sunday)
Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this
discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that
On April 30, 2000, His Holiness John Paul II, in response to the wishes
of the Christian faithful, declared that “the 2nd Sunday of
Easter henceforth throughout the Church will also be called Divine
Mercy Sunday.” The desire for this celebration was expressed by
Our Lord to Saint Faustina as can be found in her Diary
(§699):”... My daughter, tell the whole world about My
inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and
shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the
very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of
graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul
that will go to Confession, and receive Holy Communion on this day
shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment...”
1st Reading - Acts 5:12-16
During the Easter season the Catholic and Lutheran lectionaries do not
have an Old Testament reading, but instead have a reading from the Acts
of the Apostles. The Episcopal lectionary offers a choice of a reading
from the Acts of the Apostles or an Old Testament reading.
For our first reading today we hear that the apostles have begun to
minister to the people in the same way that Jesus had done. They have
found that they are empowered by the Holy Spirit to bring wholeness
(health) to people in the name of Jesus. Immediately preceding
today’s reading is the dreadful Ananias and Sapphira event where
a husband and wife sold a piece of property and brought only a portion
of the proceeds to the apostles while telling them that all the
proceeds were there. Peter confronts them, telling them that they have
not lied to the Apostles, but to God and they are immediately struck
12 Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles.
The miracles featuring Peter of Acts 3:1-11 and 5:1-11 are generalized as part of a routine performance by all apostles.
They were all together in Solomon’s portico.
Solomon’s porch. On the eastern side of the Temple. The Temple is
identified as a place of meeting for the apostles in Acts 2:46.
13 None of the others dared to join them, but the people esteemed them.
Perhaps because of the Ananias and Sapphira event but it appears that
the apostles had a “zone of Godly awe” surrounding them
that kept outsiders from approaching on their own. This is in
counterpoint to the adding which God was doing to their ranks in the
14 Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord, great
numbers of men and women, were added to them. 15 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
Peter’s shadow has the same effect as the hem of Jesus’
garment (Mark 6:55-56) and Paul’s handkerchiefs (Acts 19:11-12).
This is not magic but the power of faith in the Living God.
16 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.
Not just those upon whom the shadow falls are cured.
2nd Reading - Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
The Book of Revelation is a unique book in the New Testament in that it
narrates extraordinary visions and auditions that concern things unseen
and unheard by human beings. It is the only prophetic book in the New
Testament. In the prologue of this book the author is referred to
simply as God’s servant. He does not call himself an apostle or a
disciple of Jesus. He does not even claim the title of prophet. He
authorizes his message by describing its heavenly origin. The earliest
Christian writer to comment on the authorship of Revelation is Saint
Justin Martyr (ca. A.D. 160); he identifies the author as John, one of
the apostles of Christ. Irenaeus (ca. A.D. 180-190) is the earliest
writer to say that both Revelation and the fourth gospel were written
by John, the disciple of the Lord.
The Book of Revelation is primarily a prophecy of the destruction of
Jerusalem by the Romans in September of A.D. 70. This fact alone places
Saint John’s authorship somewhere prior to this time. The
passion, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord marked the end
of the Old Covenant and the beginning of the New. The apostles were
commissioned to deliver the message of Christ and, when this message
had been delivered, God sent the Edomites and the Roman armies to
destroy the last remaining images of the Old Covenant. The number
forty, in Scripture and Hebrew numerology, is indicative of change. If
Jesus was crucified in the year thirty then, forty years later, in the
year seventy, the last images of the Old Covenant, the Temple and the
Holy City, were removed; the Old Covenant has passed away and has been
replaced by the New.
9 I, John, your brother, who share with you
John is closely related to the Christians.
Physical and mental distress, sufferings related to the crisis of the beginning of the messianic time, the end time.
The messianic kingdom established by Jesus’ sacrifice on the
cross. Access to the kingdom is only obtained by means of trial (Acts
and the endurance we have in Jesus,
In waiting for the glorious event of the entrance into the kingdom,
patient endurance remains the specific virtue of the persecuted.
Incorporated into Jesus’ body by baptism, Christians share His
passion, in order to participate in His glory (Romans 8:17; 1 Peter
4:13). New Testament doctrine, based on such Old Testament passages as
Daniel 2:31-45 and 7:13-14, is that the Kingdom has arrived in the
resurrection of Jesus (His First Coming). The dominion of God’s
people throughout the world will be the result of a progressive
outworking of what Christ Himself has already accomplished. Saint John
wants his readers to understand that they are in both the Great
Tribulation and the Kingdom. In fact, they are in the Tribulation
precisely because the Kingdom has come (Daniel 7:13-14). They are in a
war, fighting for the Kingdom’s victory (Daniel 7:21-22), and
therefore need the endurance (perseverance) in Christ Jesus.
found myself on the island called Patmos because I proclaimed God’s word and gave testimony to Jesus.
A rocky island of 16 square miles, situated some 50 miles southwest of
Ephesus. Roman authorities occasionally banished individuals to such
islands for threatening the public interest.
10 I was caught up in spirit on the Lord’s day
Sunday, the day of Jesus’ resurrection. The day when John, as Bishop, would be celebrating Mass with his people.
and heard behind me a voice as loud as a trumpet,
The trumpet blast (shofar) was a call to worship. Appearances of God
were accompanied by this sound (Exodus 19:16,19). In early Christian
literature it is often associated with the end time (Matthew 24:31; 1
11a which said, “Write on a scroll what you see.” 12 Then I
turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and when I turned, I
saw seven gold lampstands
The temple lamp, the menorah
13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man,
In human form. The heavenly being in human form alludes to Daniel 7:13
where such a figure is given dominion by God. Seen by Christians as
Jesus, the Bread of Life.
wearing an ankle-length robe,
This is the official dress of the High Priest, whose clothing was a
representation of the radiant image of God (Exodus 28:4; 29:5;
39:27-29; Leviticus 16:4; Zechariah 3:4).
with a gold sash around his chest.
Shows kingship (1 Maccabees 10:89). What we have is a priest-king like
the one described in Daniel 10:5. A priest of the order of Melchizadek;
a priest from the time prior to the golden calf. Notice what else we
have: The temple lamp, and the Bread of Life. Compare this with Hebrews
9:2 where the earthly tabernacle is described: “in which were the
lampstand, the table, and the bread of the presence.” Saint John
is looking into the heavenly tabernacle.
17 When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead.
The reaction of fear and prostration before an apparition of God or of
a messenger of God is nearly an obligation (Genesis 32:30; Exodus
33:20). Man ought to disappear before the glory of God.
He touched me with his right hand
His sword hand; there is nothing to fear.
and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last,
The Alpha and the Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek
alphabet; everything is encompassed in Him. The Lord says of Himself in
Isaiah 44:6 “I am the first and I am the last; there is no God
but me” (see also Isaiah 48:12).
18 the one who lives.
As God alone is the truly living one (Deuteronomy 5:26; Joshua 3:10;
Psalm 42:2; Jeremiah 10:10), Christ lives by the communication of the
life of the father (John 5:6). He has been raised from the dead, never
to die again; death is no longer master over Him (Romans 6:9).
Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever.
This contrast between the past and the present, between death and the
life of the resurrection possessed forever, constitutes the core of the
I hold the keys to death and the netherworld.
The symbol of authority. The possession of these keys is a consequence
of Christ’s victory over the hostile forces. Death can no longer
frighten the Christian. The Empire claimed to have all authority, to
possess the power over life and death, and over the grave; Jesus
declares that He – and not the State, nor the emperor, nor Satan,
nor the ruler of the synagogue – has command over all reality.
19 Write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards.
This command is an elaboration of the commission given by the revealer
to John in verse 11. It is a common formula describing prophecy.
Gospel - John 20:19-31
Having just heard of Jesus’ appearance to John when he witnessed
the heavenly liturgy, we now hear of Jesus’ first appearance to
19 On the evening of that first day of the week,
The first Easter Sunday, the day Jesus rose from the dead. John wants
to make it clear that this is the Apostle’s first encounter with
the risen Christ. Every resurrection account which is dated in the
Gospels occurs on a Sunday.
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews,
After what had happened to Jesus, they feared for their lives as well.
Jesus came and stood in their midst
Through the locked doors. Emphasizes the spiritual qualities of the resurrected body of Christ.
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
Demonstrates that the risen one is the crucified one. Answers the question of “where have they put him?”.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 (Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you.
Shalom (again). Also a promised gift in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
As the Father has sent me,
Jesus was sent to reconcile people with God and had the authority to forgive sins in order to accomplish this reconciliation.
so I send you.”
With the full authority of God. When you hear the Bishop, you hear God speaking.
22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them
An outward sign which is instituted by Christ.
and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit.
Grace. What we have just heard is a sacrament in one verse, according
to the definition in the Baltimore Catechism: “An outward sign,
instituted by Christ, to give grace.”
23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
This is the authority and responsibility given to the Church to
continue the judicial character of Christ in the matter of sin. This is
the origin of the sacrament of penance, though it is equally true that
the Church’s power over sin is also exercised in baptism and the
preaching of the redemptive word. In order for these apostles to know
which sins they are to forgive and those sins which they are to hold
bound, they must hear them; Jesus did not give the charism of
clairvoyance. This is the origin of auricular confession.
24 Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
The designation remains even though one of them has defected.
was not with them when Jesus came. 25 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
Doubting Thomas. How many do not believe in the Real Presence because it fails the “duck test”?
26 Now a week later
Again on a Sunday.
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.”
Christ appears under the same circumstances as before.
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
Again, a repeat of His previous appearance. Here, and in verse 20 is
the only explicit evidence from the Bible that Jesus was nailed rather
than tied to the cross. Luke 24:39 implies that His feet were also
and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving,
but believe.” 28 Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord
and my God!”
Whether Thomas actually took Jesus up on His offer to probe the wounds
is not stated but his response is the most complete affirmation of
Christ’s nature to be found on the lips of anyone in the Gospel.
The combination of “Lord” and “God” is found in
the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) to translate the name of the God
of Israel; it was also a combination used as a divine designation in
the Greek world.
29 Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have
seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
This blessing insists that all those Christians who have believed
without seeing have a faith which is in no way different from that of
the first disciples. Their faith is grounded in the presence of the
Lord through the Spirit.
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book.
Other than appearing in a room with locked doors, there are no
“signs” in this reading. This has led some commentators to
suggest that this verse was originally the conclusion to the collection
of miracles used by the evangelist. In that context Jesus’
resurrection would have been understood as the final “sign”
of His relationship with the Father.
31 But these are written that you may (come to)
believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through
this belief you may have life in his name.
This final verse summarizes the purpose of the Gospel as having faith
in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God as the source of eternal life. As
Jesus said in John 6:29 “The work of God is this: to believe in
the one He has sent”. If you trust in God and not yourself, then
you will do whatever He tells you – no matter how bizarre it may
seem (“eat my flesh, drink my blood”).
St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, MS http://www.scborromeo.org