April 26, 2019

Divine Mercy Sunday / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Acts of the Apostles supplies this weekend’s first reading. The first several chapters of Acts are fascinating since they so well depict the life of the early Christian community in Jerusalem. This depiction begins with the story of the Lord’s Ascension itself and proceeds forward.

Vitally important in the life of the Church in Jerusalem was the leadership of the Apostles, with St. Peter as their head. The people held them in the highest esteem. After all, Jesus had called the Apostles individually, but commissioned them all to continue the work of salvation after the Ascension.

In this passage, the Apostles work many miracles. When Peter moved among the sick, merely to lie beneath his shadow was enough to be cured of sickness or infirmity. It is a powerful description of Peter’s place in the early Church.

The message is clear. Jesus did not leave the Christian body without guidance nor without access to God’s grace.

For its second reading, the Church provides a passage from the Book of Revelation. In the reading, St. John, the author of Revelation—assumed by tradition to have been the Apostle John—said that on the Lord’s Day, or Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, he had a vision of Jesus. Jesus ordered John to write about what he saw.

St. John’s Gospel provides the last reading. It begins with an appearance of the risen Lord before the Apostles. He first brings them peace. Then the Lord empowers them literally to forgive sins.

Next comes the familiar story of the doubtful Thomas. The other Apostles had been gathered together when the risen Lord appeared to them a week earlier. But Thomas was not with them at the time. He insisted that he would not believe until he personally could touch the wounds Christ received in his crucifixion.

When Jesus appeared before the Apostles, Thomas saw the wounds. He proclaimed Jesus as “my lord and my God” (Jn 20:28).

The reading ends by stating that Jesus performed many other miracles. The crucified Lord lived.

Reflection

This weekend is called Divine Mercy Sunday, a theme especially meaningful for the late Pope St. John Paul II.

Only a week ago in celebrating the feast of Easter, the Church joyfully and excitedly proclaimed to us its belief that Jesus was risen. He lives! To emphasize the meaning of this pronouncement, the Church gave us the magnificent liturgy of the Easter Vigil, the summit of the Church’s entire year of worship.

This weekend, just a week after Easter, the Church hurries to repeat that the risen Christ is with us still, visibly, tangibly and dynamically through the Apostles. They represented the Lord. They continued his work of salvation.

In the second reading, from the Book of Revelation, we are told of John’s extraordinary encounter with the risen Lord.

John’s Gospel, in the third reading, continues this process of reporting the Lord’s granting to the Apostles the very power of God itself. Jesus gave them the ability to forgive sins. As sins affront God, only God can forgive sins, yet Jesus conveyed this authority to the Apostles.

Thomas is important to the story. He doubted, which is an understandable human reaction to the amazing assertion that Christ had risen from the dead. Then Thomas saw Jesus and believed. Thomas is a model for us.

To bring the lesson home to us, Jesus—healing and forgiving sins, the Son of God, merciful and good—still lives for us and all humanity through the Church, founded on the efforts of the Apostles.

The Lord’s plan to offer salvation to all people in all places and at all times is in itself Divine Mercy. †

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