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Sunday, April 19, 2020

A Homily - The Second Sunday of Easter (Year A) Divine Mercy Sunday

First Reading – Acts 2:42-47 ©
Responsorial Psalm 117(118):2-4, 13-15, 22-24 ©
Second Reading – 1 Peter 1:3-9 ©
Sequence – Victimae Paschali Laudes
Gospel Acclamation – John 20:29
The Gospel According to John 20:19-31


The Second Sunday of Easter (Year A) Divine Mercy Sunday


The early Christian communities flourished because they believed in one another, they trusted one another, they relied on one another. They held their possessions in common and the lived according to their beliefs. They shared their food, their clean water, their way of life.

Because of their example their communities grew.

It was not their faith in the risen Christ that caused their communities to grow, it was their faith in each other, and the way Jesus instructed them to follow, they were strengthened by this and the example that Jesus set. These are what allowed the early Christians to flourish, even in the face of persecution.

This is not to say that the good news of the resurrection was not a binding doctrine for the early Church, it was. However, what bound the early Christians even more closely together was the living witness they brought to Jesus’ ministry, both during his life and after his death, a witness they shared far and wide.

They bore witness to the fact that God, the creator of the universe, is kind, loving and merciful.

Jesus taught this above all things, and for a few short years it was the principle teaching of the Church he founded. Jesus taught that God is a loving parent, abba, and God approaches God’s children in the spirit of love, always, even when God is exercising judgment and administering justice, there is always love.

The Church, like God, has no enemies.

God does not dwell behind the wall of a city, a temple, a cathedral or a basilica.

There are no gates barring access to God, there are no barriers, in the world or in the mind, or in the true dogma of the Church.

God is in all places, at all times and in the hearts of all people.

God is with us!

God does not favor one child over another.

God is a bringing of life, not death. God loves peace, not war.


God is the parent of everyone, the creator of the universe, and everything in it, and the resurrection of Jesus (if you believe in it) is a gift of hope. It is a reason to trust in what had theretofore been unseen, and what has been promised to everyone.

Whether we believe in the resurrection or not, this does not matter, the resurrection is the destiny that God has set in place for every person, God has promised that not one of God’s children will be left in the dark.

All will be saved.

What faith in the resurrection does is this: Faith makes it easier to live the good life. When your belief in God’s love for you is firm, it is much easier to pray for those who persecute you, to love your enemy, to lead a just life, a life of humility and mercy.

What faith in the resurrection is not is this: Faith is not an article of belief that a Christian holds onto, like a golden ticket that will grant them access to paradise.

Faith will not protect you from evil, either from within or from without.

Be mindful of what Saint Peter taught, because Peter was mistaken about a great many things.

Peter praises the faithful for their love and devotion to Jesus, for their belief in Jesus as the Christ, as an object of devotion, as an idea fixe, transforming our image of Jesus into an idol; calling Christians to give their love and devotion to an image, instead of to the way of life that he preached and taught.

Do not tell people to be happy in their suffering, justifying it on the grounds that they are suffering for a great cause.

Do not tell them this!

If a person is suffering and they have no choice, so be it, but do not tell them it is God’s will; rather boost them up, support them, give them hope, but do not speak to them about the honor and glory of their suffering, and do not promise rewards for their suffering in the next life, do not promise these things in the name of idols.

When Christian faith moves away from the living tradition, and ceases to be way of life, when it stops being about people, becoming a partisan thing, a thing of ideology and doctrine, then the way is lost.

Consider the bankrupt theology present in the sequence from the mass today, it demonstrates much of what is wrong with Christian dogma and doctrine.

Know this:

Jesus did not die on the cross as a sacrificial victim. Blood does not serve to expiate sin, it never has and it never could, that is not the way that the world works, and God has always said that God desires mercy, not sacrifices.

Only love transforms sin, it does so through the power of mercy, and forgiveness both offered and accepted, that is what transforms sin.

Know this:

God is not a general and Jesus is not a warrior, there is no war taking place between Heaven and the forces of sin and evil, there never has been and there never will be.

All the powers of sin and evil are infinitely less than the infinite power of God, there is no contest. From God’s perspective the trauma of sin is a thing to be mourn, not something to fight against, or draw battle lines to countermand.

Sin is not something you cleave with the sword of wrath, but heal with the salve of grace.

God is not a king and Jesus did not seek a royal station, these are human aspirations and we do a disservice to the way by clinging to them.

God comes to us as a loving parent, and Jesus walked with us as a friend, be mindful of this when you are at prayer.

Jesus led an extraordinary life and died at the hands of his political opponents in a rather ordinary way.

Let us reflect on this and reject the lofty language that seeks to make more of it than it was.

Consider the Gospel for today.

On the second Sunday of Easter the narrative moves us away from the ministry of Jesus and into the life of the early Church, into the era of partisanship.

John’s Gospel was written roughly one hundred-twenty years after Jesus died. The reading for today contains some fascinating glimpses into the life of John’s community.

John says that on the night Jesus was crucified the apostles hid in the upper room for fear of the Jews, indicating the deep division that had already taken place between the nascent church and the Jewish people who founded it.

Jesus and the apostles were themselves Jewish.

Ninety years before John’s gospel was written, Saint Paul was active in his ministry to the gentiles, arguing with St. Peter about the notion that gentiles must first become observant Jews before they could join the Church.

St. Paul won that argument.

The church opened to the world, and ninety years later it would come to see the Jewish tradition, from which the Church emerged, and all of its people, as anathema to itself.

There was great concern for the Church and its authority in this time. The Church’s understanding and image of Jesus was changing in dramatic ways. Jesus becomes reimagined as a priest doing priestly things; commissioning the disciples, instantiating their office and empowering them to pass judgement on people, to forgive or not forgive sins as the disciples saw fit.

This flies in the face of the historical Jesus, a man who was not a priest, but a prophet.

Jesus forgave sins, and encourages the disciples to forgive sins, not because they had the special power to do so, but because God, the creator of the universe, forgives sins. When the prophet proclaims absolution, they are not exercising a special power, they are proclaiming the will of God, and announcing something that has already happened.

The Gospel for today encourages the people to respond to mystical deeds and magical happenings; ghostly apparitions and visions, as if the claim that these supernatural events took place lent a greater authority to the work they were engaged in.

Many are taken in by this sort of thing, it is an appeal to magical thinking, but those types of appeals are always fabrications and lies.

In the final passage the gospel writer put forth the notion that the miracles were real, they were performed so that people would believe that Jesus is (in a special way) the son of God, and that through this belief they would become eligible to enter the Church named after him, and thereby become candidates for eternal life.

The construction of this ideology is this: Come to the church where the Gospel is given, learn the name of Jesus Christ, believe that he is the Son of God, receive that belief as an object or an article of faith, present that belief at the gates of heaven, and be rewarded with eternal life.

The scheme of this tradition, which will be familiar to most Christians, this scheme is Gnostic.

The church rejected Gnosticism and these themes in the same era that John’s Gospel was written.

We should also reject them.

This is the meaning of faith: Trust; have faith trust in God.

The meaning of faith is not belief, belief in a proposition or an article of dogma.

Christian faith is not: Believe in Christ so that you can be saved.

It is: Trust God, you are saved already.

First Reading – Acts 2:42-47 ©

The Faithful All Lived Together and Owned Everything in Common

The whole community remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.

The many miracles and signs worked through the apostles made a deep impression on everyone.

The faithful all lived together and owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and shared out the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed.

They went as a body to the Temple every day but met in their houses for the breaking of bread; they shared their food gladly and generously; they praised God and were looked up to by everyone. Day by day the Lord added to their community those destined to be saved.

Psalm 117(118):2-4,13-15,22-24 ©

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

Let the sons of Israel say:
  ‘His love has no end.’
Let the sons of Aaron say:
  ‘His love has no end.’
Let those who fear the Lord say:
  ‘His love has no end.’

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

I was thrust down, thrust down and falling,
  but the Lord was my helper.
The Lord is my strength and my song;
  he was my saviour.
There are shouts of joy and victory
  in the tents of the just.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

The stone which the builders rejected
  has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
  a marvel in our eyes.
This day was made by the Lord;
  we rejoice and are glad.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

Second Reading 1 Peter 1:3-9 ©

You Did Not See Christ, Yet You Love Him

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy has given us a new birth as his sons, by raising Jesus Christ from the dead, so that we have a sure hope and the promise of an inheritance that can never be spoilt or soiled and never fade away, because it is being kept for you in the heavens. Through your faith, God’s power will guard you until the salvation which has been prepared is revealed at the end of time. This is a cause of great joy for you, even though you may for a short time have to bear being plagued by all sorts of trials; so that, when Jesus Christ is revealed, your faith will have been tested and proved like gold – only it is more precious than gold, which is corruptible even though it bears testing by fire – and then you will have praise and glory and honour. You did not see him, yet you love him; and still without seeing him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe; and you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward, that is, the salvation of your souls.


Victimae Paschali Laudes

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
  offer sacrifice and praise.
The sheep are ransomed by the Lamb;
and Christ, the undefiled,
hath sinners to his Father reconciled.
Death with life contended:
  combat strangely ended!
Life’s own Champion, slain,
  yet lives to reign.
Tell us, Mary:
  say what thou didst see
  upon the way.
The tomb the Living did enclose;
I saw Christ’s glory as he rose!
The angels there attesting;
shroud with grave-clothes resting.
Christ, my hope, has risen:
he goes before you into Galilee.
That Christ is truly risen
  from the dead we know.
Victorious king, thy mercy show!

Gospel Acclamation Jn 20:29
Alleluia, alleluia!

Jesus said: ‘You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’


The Gospel According to John 20:19-31

Eight Days Later, Jesus Came Again and Stood Among Them

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

‘You believe because you can see me.

Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.

The Second Sunday of Easter (Year A) Divine Mercy Sunday

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