April 6, 2018

Divine Mercy Sunday / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionAs almost always in the Easter season, the Acts of the Apostles furnishes the Liturgy of the Word with its first reading for Mass on this weekend.

The text of Acts shows itself to be the work of the Evangelist, who wrote St. Luke’s Gospel. Acts, therefore, may properly be seen as a continuation of the story presented in Luke’s Gospel. Luke’s Gospel closes with the Ascension of Jesus. Acts then begins at this point.

As it progresses, Acts traces for some years the development of the infant Church, describing the plight of its first members. In so doing, it provides a fascinating insight into the formation of the Church, as well as a powerful lesson in the basic beliefs that so compelled absolute loyalty and devotion from the early Christians whom Acts praises.

It also gives great examples of unqualified selfishness, the idea that might makes right, human ignorance and treachery.

In this weekend’s reading, Acts presents the first members of the Church as being “of one heart and one mind” (Acts 4:32). Love for and adherence to the Lord were supreme for them.

Central in the story were the Apostles, the Lord’s special followers and students, whom Jesus commissioned to continue the work of salvation. The Apostles had seen the Risen Lord, so the first Christians revered them.

Love for others, in the model of Jesus, was more than a platitude. The early Christians assisted the poor. Indeed, so much so that they sold their property or even their houses to obtain funds to assist the needy.

St. John’s First Epistle supplies the second reading, defining what being a Christian means.

All believers must give themselves fully in love to God, through trust and faith in Jesus. Because of this commitment, and because of the Lord’s redeeming acts, each Christian is a child of God. This term means much more than merely earthly creation. It means eternal life.

Baptism in water symbolizes this absolute commitment.

The Gospel reading for Mass this weekend is from St. John’s Gospel. It is a resurrection narrative, a story with which most Christians are quite familiar. Recall the dismay among the followers of Jesus when they found the empty tomb? Where had the body of the Lord been taken?

This reading answers the question. The body of the Lord has not been taken. Jesus lives! The encounter with the doubting, demanding Thomas affirms this glorious fact.

Resurrection from the dead is stunning in itself, but Jesus further acts as God by conferring the power of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. He grants them the authority of forgiving sins, a divine privilege as sins affront God. He sends them to the four corners of the world to bring redemption to all humanity.

Passing through locked doors as if doors were thin air, Jesus greeted the Apostles with “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19). Jesus makes clear that peace only is in God. The living Lord is the sole source of peace.

Reflection

This weekend, the Church calls its people to have faith and to rejoice. The resurrection and redemption in Jesus should not refer simply to an event in history, but to living realities for us to experience here and now.

It is time for us to find consolation and strength in Jesus, crucified, risen and living still.

We observe Divine Mercy Sunday on this day. In and through Jesus, the merciful Son of God, divine mercy is with us here and now.

While sin and human limitation often present considerable obstacles in our progress toward God, the Lord left us the Apostles, and through them and the Church they assisted in forming us. We find forgiveness, the light to see the way to follow Jesus, hope, peace and life. †

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