April 17, 2009

Second Sunday of Easter / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionOnce more in this Easter season, the Acts of the Apostles furnishes the Liturgy of the Word with its first reading.

Acts claims to be, and scholars assume it indeed to be, the work of the Evangelist who penned St. Luke’s Gospel.

In fact, Acts may properly be seen as a continuation of the story presented in Luke’s Gospel, which closes with the Ascension of Jesus. Acts begins at this point.

In modern Bibles, St. John’s Gospel stands between the Gospel of Luke and Acts. For this reason, this strong message of continuity between Jesus and the early Church is obscured or even lost as the faithful today read the New Testament.

Certainly, the Church officials who selected these readings for the liturgies following Easter knew well the reality offered by this bond between Luke’s Gospel and Acts. It is, more broadly, a bond between Jesus and the Apostles, and the ongoing, living community formed by those who love the Lord.

This weekend’s reading from Acts describes the early Church, and clearly describes the Christians themselves. Christians were “of one heart and one mind.” Love and common adherence to the Lord were central to their lives.

So, importantly, was reverence for the Apostles, who had seen the Risen Lord, had been the Lord’s special followers and students, and whom Jesus had commissioned to continue the work of salvation. They literally had seen the Risen Lord.

St. John’s First Epistle supplies the second reading.

It also defines the Christian as this definition was understood in the first century.

Each believer fully gives self in love to God through trust and faith in Jesus. As a result of this commitment, and 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 this weekend is from St. John’s Gospel.

It is a Resurrection narrative. Risen to a new and eternal life, no longer confined by earthly space and circumstance, Jesus passes through locked doors to encounter the Apostles. Standing before them as the Redeemer and the victor over death and evil, the Lord sends them into the world and gives them the greatest of divine power. He empowered them to forgive sins.

Of the 11 surviving Apostles present at this moment, only one apparently was absent—Thomas. He would not believe the story that the other Apostles told him about this meeting with Jesus.

Then Jesus appeared again. He showed Thomas that indeed resurrection had occurred. Overwhelmed, utterly convinced, Thomas saluted Jesus as Lord and as God.


In the Easter Vigil, and on Easter, the Church celebrated the Lord’s resurrection in the most magnificent of its rituals. Without any question, these two great moments are the most awesome occasions of worship in the entire Catholic year.

Almost immediately, as in this weekend’s readings, the Church calls its people to have faith and to rejoice. Resurrection—and redemption in Jesus—are not memories to be commemorated.

Why? The Resurrection occurred in time and place, but it transformed the world. For those who willingly turn to Jesus, conversion changes life forever. Whatever the crosses that individuals may carry, if they are one with Christ then they will share everlasting life, the greatest prize of all.

The Apostles, and the community that they formed, the Church, provide the path to salvation.

These Apostles, and those who have succeeded them through the centuries, have the power that is the most certain conqueror of sin. They forgive sins. This forgiveness and the means to attain it are the Lord’s loving gifts. Thus, we celebrate. He lives! He lives here and now! †

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