The Resurrection Changed Everything
2nd Sunday of Easter
Deacon Les Ruhrmund
Today we celebrate the Octave of Easter, officially the Second Sunday of Easter and designated as Divine Mercy Sunday by Pope JP II when he canonised St Faustina on the Second Sunday of Easter in 2000. The Holy Father said at the time, “Throughout the world, the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face with confidence in divine benevolence, the difficulties and trials that humankind will experience in the years to come…….The light of the message of Divine Mercy which the Lord wished to renew in the world, will be as much a beacon of hope for the third millennium, as the apostles were in the first.”
In today’s readings we get a splendid glimpse of that beacon of hope that the apostles were to the world in the days, months and years following the death and resurrection of Jesus.
In first reading, the action takes place about 3 months after the crucifixion of Jesus. A new movement has started – over 5000 people have been baptised and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and the Good News is being preached far and wide. But as Christianity grows so does the opposition. The Jewish authorities are particularly worried about the activities of Peter and John, two of Jesus’ closest disciples. Not only are they preaching about the resurrection of a man who had been executed as a heretic but they also have no formal religious training and what they are teaching undermines the authority of the religious leaders. Peter and John are brought before a full gathering of the leaders, elders and scribes together with a 40 year old man who had been born a cripple and who now walks with them unaided into the assembly.
Peter speaks with a courage and wisdom that astounds the religious leaders but they nevertheless reprimand him and order the two of them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Peter and John reply “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”
It’s almost impossible to believe that this is the same man who couldn’t say a kind word about Jesus when questioned by mere servants in the courtyard after Jesus had been arrested. So what changed? The Resurrection changed everything.
And that’s where we pick up the reading. We’re told that many signs and wonders were done by the apostles after the Resurrection and the people even carried the sick out into the streets so that as Peter came by at least his shadow would fall on some of them. And that people came from towns all around Jerusalem, bringing the sick – and they were all healed.
In the verses immediately following the reading we’re told that the authorities then took more drastic action and had the disciples of Jesus arrested and thrown into jail………. but before daybreak of the following day they were again to be found in the temple evangelising in the name of Jesus! Read the rest of chapter 5 of the Acts of the Apostles to find out what happened next!
Today’s Responsorial Psalm is the church’s Easter hymn. From this psalm comes our great Easter proclamation “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad!” and “His mercy endures forever.”
In the 2nd reading we have a few verses from the opening chapter of John’s Book of Revelation in which he records the astonishing appearance of Jesus who tells him “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I was dead, and now behold, I am living forever and ever.”
And that brings us to the Gospel reading; Jesus’ second appearance to the disciples and Thomas’ first meeting with Jesus after the crucifixion.
The disciples, we can imagine, were confused and perhaps still in shock and distress after the ghastly events of Good Friday and they were frightened; frightened that they may well be next to carry a cross up the hill called The Skull. Jesus comes and stands among them, shows them his torn hands and pierced side and says “Peace be with you.” They must have been stunned and shaken right out of their sandals! This is the last thing they were expecting!
Jesus tells them that as the Father has sent him so he is sending them. This has been called the “Charter of the Church.” Jesus had been sent by the Father with a message for all people. A message that he passed on to the disciples and which they were now entrusted to take to the whole world. The Church is to be the hands, the feet and the mouth of the Risen Christ. This remains the responsibility of the Church; the ‘Body of Christ.’ The Church can never pander to the will or the ever changing demands of a world that is shaped by greed, selfishness, violence and sexual immorality. It has the sacred responsibility to preserve, protect and preach that which it believes to be the revealed word and the will of God.
Let me touch on Thomas briefly.
In the 1st reading we had a glimpse of the effect that the resurrection had had on Peter and John and although there is no reference in scripture to Thomas’ missionary work after his encounter with the Risen Jesus, we know from many other, mostly non-western, written sources that he had one of the most active ministries of any of the Twelve – spending most of his time evangelising in eastern Turkey, the kingdom of Armenia, Iran and in India where he was martyred.
From Thomas we take courage in our moments of doubt; in those moments when we feel that it’s impossible to believe without visible evidence that we can see and touch. Perhaps like Thomas, we are inclined to believe only in the evidence rather than believe in the Lord.
Let his spontaneous confession of faith inspire us to accept the Divine Mercy of our Risen Lord as we receive him in the Eucharist and acknowledge “My Lord and my God!”