March 28, 2008

Second Sunday of Easter / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionLast week, with great joy and hope, the Church celebrated Easter. It is too important an event, and too overwhelming in meaning, however, to be confined to one day’s celebration. So the Church continues the celebration it began a week ago literally for weeks.

This weekend’s first reading comes from the Acts of the Apostles as is the case in almost every Mass of this season.

Important to understanding Christianity, and the Church itself, is in realizing that Acts continues St. Luke’s Gospel. This fact is not that apparent since for centuries biblical translators have inserted St. John’s Gospel between Luke’s Gospel and Acts, blurring the connection between Luke and Acts.

The link shows that the redemption secured by Jesus did not end with the Lord’s Ascension nor did the Lord’s miracles or preaching. Vitally important is the fact that all these realities associated with Jesus were continued by the Apostles in the context of the infant Church.

This weekend’s reading describes the first Christians, most of whom likely knew Jesus, as reverently following the Apostles, of being together in a most realistic sense of community, of eagerly caring for the needy, of praying and of “breaking the bread,” a term referring to the Eucharist, not only here in Luke but elsewhere in the New Testament, such as in Paul’s writings.

The First Epistle of Peter provides the second reading, revealing the utter centrality of Jesus among the early Christians.

Regardless of the onslaughts of the prevailing pagan culture, divisions among themselves and finally cruel persecution, these first Christians loved the Lord above all else. Nothing was more important than to be with Jesus.

St. John’s Gospel provides the last reading.

It is a very familiar Resurrection narrative, the story of the reluctance of the Apostle Thomas to accept that Jesus truly had risen to life after having been crucified and then of the great faith of Thomas.

The Apostles assure Thomas, but he is unconvinced. Then, dramatically, Jesus appears. He invites Thomas to believe. In awe and the uttermost faith, Thomas declares that Jesus not only is 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. It is a divine power since sin affronts God. Thus, only God can forgive sin. Jesus forgave, being the Son of God. He transmits this power to the Apostles, men who will form the Church and entrust this power to the Church for all the generations to come.


This weekend is observed as Divine Mercy Sunday. It focuses upon God’s loving mercy for each of us, given in the coming of the Lord Jesus and sealed in the Lord’s humanity, life, death and triumph over death.

Two points in the readings support the theme of divine mercy. The first is that absolute love for the Lord, seen in the second reading, brings forth divine mercy. This love is much more than a pious feeling. It means being faithful to the Lord’s example of total obedience to God regardless of challenges.

The second point is that of the Apostles. They were so much more than the Lord’s companions and most frequent students. They represented the Lord. They possessed the Lord’s authority and power, and bore this authority and power after the Ascension.

Majestic among these powers was their ability to forgive sins, an ability expressly conferred upon them by Jesus.

The first reading, from Acts, tells us how well the first Christians realized the role of the Apostles. It tells us that the first Christians lived as a community, united in trust in the Lord and loyalty to the Apostles and in the Eucharist. Through the Apostles, they found divine mercy. †

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