April 16, 2020
Second Sunday of Easter | Divine Mercy Sunday
19 April 2020 • Albert McGetterick, C.Ss.R.
Introduction to the Mass
Jesus appears to his disciples on the first day of the week, Sunday. That is why Sunday is celebrated each week as the day of resurrection. In the Eucharist, we welcome into our midst Christ the Risen One. Pope John Paul II renamed this Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday. The story of the appearance to Thomas is a parable of divine mercy. Let us open our hearts and minds to receive the gift of God’s mercy in this Eucharist.
Lord Jesus, when you appeared to your disciples, you brought your peace to their troubled hearts. Lord, have mercy.
You gave your disciples your Spirit with the mission to forgive sins. Christ, have mercy
You showed your wounded hands and side to Thomas as a sign of your love and forgiveness. Lord, have mercy.
Headings for Readings
First Reading • (Acts 2:41-47). The first Christian community at Jerusalem was marked by the deep respect and friendship the members had for one another. It led them to share everything they had with their brothers and sisters in their need.
Second Reading • (1 Pet 1:13-9). St Peter encourage believers who are undergoing persecution by recalling to them the example of Christ and the consequences of their Baptism.
Gospel • (Jn 20:19-31). When he appears to his disciples at Easter, Christ gives them the power to proclaim divine mercy in the forgiveness of sins.
Prayer of the Faithful
President • With faith in God and rejoicing in the glory of the risen Lord, let us confidently offer up our prayers and petitions.
Readers • Let us pray for the Church. May the Lord keep all believers united in faith and in communion with Francis our Pope, N our bishop, and all the faithful.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. May all the members of our community experience unity with the risen Christ through receiving the Eucharist and may we proclaim God’s message of salvation by our lives.
Jesus said to his disciples ‘Peace be with you.’ Let us pray for peace in our families. May the Lord shower his divine mercy upon them and bring strength harmony and peace into our homes.
The risen Lord showed his disciples the wounds in his hands and side. May the sick and suffering find comfort and consolation in the saving deeds of Jesus Christ.
Let us pray for those who have died. May our beloved dead enjoy the glory of the Resurrection of Christ Our Lord. [We remember especially those who have died recently ...]
President • Father, the death and resurrection of Jesus freed us from the bonds of sin and death. Send your divine mercy upon us that we may be faithful to the gospel and become active disciples of your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray to know the gift of God’s mercy as we say
Invitation to the Sign of Peace
Peace was the greeting of the risen Jesus when he appeared to his disciples. Let us now offer each other the same greeting of peace.
Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances but look for what is beautiful in my neighbours’ souls and come to their rescue.
Help me, O Lord, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbours’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains.
Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbour, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.
Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbours and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks. (St Faustina)
Commentary and Reflections
First Reading • (Acts 2:42-47). Luke provides us with a summary statement of the life of the early Christian community in Acts. The other ones are found in 4:32-35 and 5:12-16.
According to this text, four elements must never be lacking in a community which strives to be the ‘salt of the earth’: (1) the teaching of the apostles: here we think of the place of tradition in our imparting of the faith, the teaching of the colleges of bishops with their centre of unity in Peter and his successors throughout the ages, along with the sensus fidei, sure lights to guide us always in troubled times. (2) Brotherhood was lived by the early Christian community to the point of selling one´s possessions to provide for the poor in their midst. One today finds many examples in Christian communities of soup kitchens, sandwich distribution, credit unions and other forms of concern for the poor which seek to embody some of this exemplary preoccupation of the early Christians with the less fortunate among them. (3) The breaking of bread: the early Christians strove to maintain the strong link between the breaking of the bread of Christ´s body in the Eucharist and the literal breaking of bread in the sharing of one´s food and possessions with the poor. (4) The Prayers: going to the temple for prayer was an important part of the Jewish and early Christian tradition. Today we are witnessing the development of prayer groups, which not only pray in church, but also in homes and other places where people gather together. Such groups undoubtedly sustain the lives of their members in much the same way as their prayer life helped the early Christians to be living signs of the presence of God with his people.
Responsorial Psalm • (Ps 117). ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the corner stone’. We celebrate in this Easter season God´s love which raised Jesus up from rejection and death to be the corner stone of our faith.
Second Reading • (1 Pet 1:3-9). On all the Paschal Sundays of this Year A our Second Reading is taken from St Peter´s First Letter. An ancient tradition affirms that Peter was martyred in the persecution of Nero in 66. It was probably a short time before his death that he wrote this letter from Rome. Peter addresses in simple and direct terms the Christians of the Asian province where the first persecutions were beginning. Unlike Paul, he is not concerned with clarifying or defending the faith. He tries to encourage believers who are suffering, by presenting the example of Christ to them, and by explaining the consequences of Baptism.
In this letter, everything from 1:3 to 3:7 is inspired by the baptismal ceremony in the early church: hymns, homily on the ritual and on Christian life. For Peter it is an excellent way to remind his readers of their Christian condition. Today´s section has a certain similarity to a baptismal hymn: The Father is thanked for the salvatory work of the Son, through the Holy Spirit (the reference to the Spirit is in the continuation of the passage verses 10-12).
Peter reminds his community that they did not see God, yet they love him. They are thus filled with a joy so glorious it cannot be described. We can see here echoes of the Gospel, where Jesus praises, through his interaction with Thomas, the faith of future generations of disciples, who will be faithful and happy in their belief, even though they have never seen Jesus.
Gospel • (Jn 20:19-31). We can see here how Jesus, the Risen Lord, fulfilled the promises made in his farewell address to his disciples. Jn 14:18 (‘I will not leave you orphans, I will return to you’) = Jn 20:19 (‘He stood among them’); Jn 16:16 (‘A little while and you will see me’) = Jn 20:20 (‘The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord’); Jn 16:7 (‘I will send you the Spirit’) = Jn 20:22 (‘Receive the Holy Spirit’).
‘Peace be with you’ – The characteristic greeting of the risen Jesus in John´s Gospel is more than the customary Jewish greeting of peace. Through his Resurrection Jesus has guaranteed us peace, peace with God, origin and cornerstone of all genuine peace (cf Jn 14:27 ; Rom.5:1 ; Eph. 2:14 ; Col. 1:20).
‘He showed them his hands and his side’ – This gesture confirms the continuation between the Crucified Christ and the Christ of Glory. There is a huge contrast between the fear and disillusion which characterized the disciples in the first verses of this section and the overwhelming joy they experience on seeing the Risen Jesus. This joy comes from recognizing before them the same Jesus who had been crucified. It also comes from the fact of Jesus re-establishing with them the same intimacy that has always marked their relationship, without any hint on his part of blame or condemnation for their weak faith, or the shame of their disloyalty.
‘He breathed on them … Receive the Holy Spirit’ – Here the Holy Spirit imparts the power to forgive sins. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit is given also to other disciples united with Mary in the Cenacle, illuminating and fortifying them with extraordinary charisms for fulfilling the mission they have received.
‘Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe’ – For the faithful, the human guarantee of our faith (God´s gift) is the apostolic preaching and the teaching of the Church down through the centuries. To believe, we don’t have to experience miracles, it is sufficient to have God´s grace, which is always available to those who seek him with sincere heart. For that reason, Jesus proclaims us blessed in our confiding in him and in the submission of our selves and lives which the act of faith implies.
‘These signs were recorded so we may believe that Jesus is the son of God and that believing we may have life through his name’ – The life of faith requires that we accept the fundamental truth that Jesus is ‘the Son who is in and with the Father’, the true son of God (Jn 1:18) in accordance with the profession of Thomas, ‘My Lord and my God.’ There are those who see John´s Gospel contained within a major inclusion emphasizing the Divinity of Jesus: Jn 1:1 (‘The word was God’) and Jn 20:28 (‘My Lord and my God’), having as its centre and climax the affirmation of Jesus in 10:30 (‘I and the Father are one’).
Reflections towards a Homily
Jesus transmitted to his apostles in this Gospel the gift and charism of forgiving sins. Through the sacrament of Reconciliation, the church celebrates this mercy of God and the joy of receiving his forgiveness. St Faustina Kowalska, a Polish religious, propagated devotion to the Divine Mercy, later taken up officially by Pope John Paul II, when he instituted this feast on the Second Sunday of Easter.
St Peter tells his community (Second Reading) that the great mercy of God is shown by the new birth given to us in the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This new birth, result of the mercy of God, is available to us today, especially when we celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. Jesus invites us to bathe ourselves in his merciful love and, as in the case of the prodigal son, to return to him to be smothered in his embrace. Jesus appears to his apostles in his glorified body, but he retains the wounds of his passion. They are the marks of the infinite love available to us all at all times.
In 1984 in his exhortation Reconcilatio et Paenitentia, Pope John Paul II asked all pastors to arm themselves with more confidence, creativity and perseverance to be able to promote the Sacrament of Reconciliation, even seeing it as a requirement of authentic charity and true pastoral justice.
John makes a point of telling us that Thomas was not with the others when Jesus appeared the first time. Why he wasn´t, we don’t know. Against the unanimous affirmation of all the others in the veracity of Jesus’ presence, his attitude was one of deep skepticism.
The next time Jesus appears, eight days later, Thomas was present. Jesus´merciful gesture in guiding Thomas’ hand to his wounds completely transforms him and permits him to make one of the most profound declarations of faith of all time, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Thomas, in the midst of his brethren again, lets the grace of the Resurrection totally transform his life. It is not hard to see in the development of this section the important place the Christian community plays in our mediating the reality of the life and the peace of the risen Christ to each other.
Jesus’ response to Thomas’ declaration of faith was taken up by St Peter (Second Reading) to proclaim the joy of his disciples who hadn´t seen Jesus but still believed. Jesus’ words sustain the faith of believers today who, despite not seeing Jesus, as they meet him in the Eucharistic bread and wine, are able to proclaim ‘My Lord and my God’.
Albert McGetterick, C.Ss.R., worked in the Redemptorist Vice-Province of Fortaleza, Brazil, since his ordination.
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