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With deep faith and faith-filled excitement, the Church continues the celebration it began a week and a day ago of Easter, the Lord’s resurrection and final victory over death and sin.
As is the case in almost every Mass of this season, the first reading this weekend comes from the Acts of the Apostles. Acts originally was seen to be a continuation of St. Luke’s Gospel, and still these books should be considered as being in sequence.
Together, they tell an uninterrupted story of salvation in Jesus, from his conception in Mary’s womb to a time years after the Ascension.
This weekend’s reading reveals to us what life actually was like in the time shortly following the Ascension. The first Christians, most of whom likely knew Jesus, are seen reverently following the Apostles, being together in a most realistic sense of community, eagerly caring for the needy, praying and “breaking the bread,” a term referring to the Eucharist (Acts 2:46). Peter was clearly the chief of the Apostles.
Most importantly, Jesus lived and acted through the Apostles and in the Church. The sick were cured. The deaf heard. The blind saw. No one was beyond the Apostles’ concern.
For its second reading this weekend, the Church offers us a passage from the First Epistle of St. Peter.
Obvious and inspiring in this reading is the early Church’s intense love for and faith in the Lord. It was a faith that hardly went unchallenged. The culture in which Christianity was born and grew in almost every respect either rejected the ideals of the Gospel or held them in outright contempt.
So the mere presentation of these beliefs in this epistle show how steadfastly the first Christians held to what Jesus had taught.
St. John’s Gospel provides the last reading. It is one of the beloved and most familiar of the resurrection narratives.
In this reading is the story of the reluctance of the Apostle Thomas to accept that Jesus indeed had risen from the dead. Then, as all recall, dramatically Jesus appears on the scene. He invites Thomas to believe. In awe and the uttermost faith, Thomas declares that Jesus not only is his teacher and redeemer, but indeed that Jesus is God.
The Lord then confers upon the Apostles that most divine of powers, the power to judge what is sinful and to forgive sin.
This weekend is Divine Mercy Sunday, a breathtaking contrast to evil. Coincidentally, this day also is for people in Israel, and for Jews everywhere, the day to remember the millions who died in Adolf Hitler’s savage persecution of Jews.
Springtime brings these two events together. The last, the hideous policy of Adolf Hitler’s dictatorship in Germany that slaughtered millions, stands on one side as an example of how terribly sin and disregard of God and God’s creatures, human beings, can bring terror and death into the world. Humans can do awful things.
Opposite all this is God’s loving mercy for us. God sent the Lord Jesus in his mercy. Christ’s humanity, life, death and triumph over death provided our access to divine mercy.
The Apostles and their successors bring us this mercy, especially in the sacrament of penance, connecting us with Jesus, with God, and the hope of being forgiven, just as they brought it to Christians recorded in Acts.
The Church always gathers around the Apostles. We become part of the Church through God’s mercy and by, with the help of God’s grace, modeling in our hearts the faith of the first Christians and of Thomas.
Through this faith, in the Church, with the Apostles, we experience the mercy of God. †