Lector's Notes

by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

Go with the flow here. Be positive. It’s Easter, after all. Read this with joy in your heart. But don’t rush it. Let your hearers savor every nuance of these happy believers’ life together. The breaking of the bread gets two mentions. That they gathered together gets dual emphasis, too. The scholar might see in this duplication the incomplete merger of two literary sources. But the lector might just decide that these were the important things about the life of the early church, and they’re just as important for the modern church. So let them be emphasized.

Second Reading

You can proclaim this only with careful phrasing and varied tones of voice. To prepare, print out the text (or use your missallette) and mark up the copy with pauses, emphases, changes of tone, brackets enclosing units of thought, whatever it takes. Practice this aloud and often. Practice in front of a friendly critic who will forgo the comfort of a missallette, so he or she can tell you what you seem to be saying.Remember the writer’s goals: that the recipients will sense God’s providence in their situation, that they’ll understand the place of their present struggles in broader history. Ask your critic if that comes across in your proclamation.

Introductions

by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

Acts of the Apostles was written to introduce pagan converts to Christianity to the roots of their new religion. This is a somewhat idyllic description of a brief, early period of its history. More turbulent times are to follow.

Second Reading

The original audience of this letter were persecuted Christians. The author, writing from relative safety, wanted to bolster their faith. So he reminds them of their place in a larger history, reminds them of God’s providence in that history, and helps them see their present sufferings in a larger context.

Gospel

Jesus commissioned his followers to make others into followers, too, having patience with those troubled by doubts.

VIDEO SERIES

Study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Video Lessons on the “four pillars” of the Catechism

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Acts 2:42-47

A lively agape feast painted on the Catacomb of SS. Marcellino e Pietro.

Communal life

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

FIRST READING—These verses are the first of three summary statements on the community life of the early Christians. Four characteristics are identified: instruction/teaching, table-fellowship, prayer, and sharing all things in common. These verses are an idealized version of how a community filled with the Spirit should live.


Further Study

The Octave of Easter is the eight days from Easter Sunday to the second Sunday of Easter, as the ancients counted, with Easter Sunday counting as day #1 and the Second Sunday of Easter counting as day #8 when Jesus appeared to the Apostles in the Upper Room a second time (Jn 20:26-29).  During these eight days, the Church shared with us the Gospel stories of the Resurrection of Christ.  Today is also celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday.  It is a celebration inaugurated in 2000 by St. Pope John Paul II when he canonized St. Faustina Kowalska and declared the second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.  The Church established Divine Mercy Sunday based on the devotion to the Divine Mercy by Saint Faustina Kowalska from her reported visions and conversations with Christ.  The day is associated with special promises from Jesus and indulgences issued by the Church.

Three characteristics of Jerusalem faith community

St. Luke, the inspired writer of Acts of the Apostles, tells us that three characteristics identified the members of the Jerusalem faith community.  See Acts 2:42-47 and CCC 949, 1329, 1342-43, 2624.

  • They were devoted to hearing and putting into practice the teaching of the Apostles.
  • They lived communally as a family, sharing their goods in common.
  • They centered their religious life on the Eucharistic: the “breaking of the bread” in Holy Communion.
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The 'Breaking of the Bread'

You will recall that many members of Jesus’ faith community were from the Galilee in the north and had left their former occupations to follow Him.  Those who lived in Jerusalem helped to support the Galileans and the poor who joined the community by selling property and material goods and sharing the money to support the fledgling Church in Jerusalem.

Although “breaking bread” suggests a typical Jewish meal in which the father or the one presiding over the meal broke the bread and pronounced a blessing before dividing it.  For Christians, “breaking the bread” became the phrase to describe the Eucharist and the Agape supper that they ate before the Eucharist.

At this point in the early Church, they celebrated in private homes, like the Upper Room (Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11; 24:35; 1 Cor 10:16; 11:20-34; Didache, 9:3-4).  They still attended the daily Liturgy of Worship at the Temple since, at this stage, they did not see a dividing line between Old and New Covenant worship.  To them, Christ was simply the fulfillment of what came before.  God blessed them through a daily increase in their numbers until the day came when the small community in Jerusalem had spread the Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth, as Jesus commanded them (Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:15; Lk 24:26-27; Acts 1:8).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love is everlasting

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—This is a prayer of thanksgiving to God for deliverance.


Further Study

Psalm 118 is the last of the Hallel (literally “Praise God”) Psalms. Psalms 113-117 recount the Exodus liberation and Israel’s gratitude as a people and as individuals for God’s mercy in redeeming them from slavery in Egypt. However, Psalm 118 is not in the same theme as the other psalms of the Hallel. Psalm 118 is the voice of a mysterious, unnamed king of Israel after God has given him victory over his enemies. The king’s salvation/success is a manifestation of God’s steadfast covenant love (hesed) and faithfulness.

1 Peter 1:3-9

Berakah – Blessing

Peter’s encouraging words

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

SECOND READING—This letter is addressed to several Gentile Christian communities living in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), recently converted to Christianity. The communities are suffering harassment and ostracization for being followers of Christ. They are made to feel like marginal people, ‘aliens’ in the society in which they live. A very existential question for them would have been: How can a person continue to be faithful to Christ in such a hostile environment?

This pastoral letter seeks to give encouragement to Christians living in such hostile environment. The letter also contains a list of exhortations on things like household duties, husband/wife relations, and concern for the public face of the church living in a pagan society.

The God of Jesus Christ is praised for giving us, through Jesus, a new birth, a new hope, and an imperishable inheritance (Heaven). The gift offered to us is very precious and worth suffering for. The ‘inheritance’ of the believer is God himself. This is cause for rejoicing even in the midst of trials.

God’s presence does not mean that we will not suffer, but it does mean that we will have the strength to endure it. The power of the Resurrection at work in us gives us the ability to endure whatever comes our way. ‘Faith’ is described in terms of a love and a trust without sight (v.8). Joy in the midst of trial springs from the realization that the road to salvation has been secured.


Further Study

In his letter to the universal Church, St. Peter offers praise to God the Father, who he praises as the source of mercy. In verse 3, Peter offers what in the Jewish tradition is called a “berakah” (literal Hebrew = “blessing”). It acknowledges God’s mercy as the basis for the New Covenant order made through the redemptive work of God the Son in God’s divine plan for humanity’s salvation. Speaking of God’s mercy as the foundation for the blessings received in the New Covenant in Christ, we can appreciate that there is a continuity of the works of God’s mercy in the Old Testament fulfilled in the redemptive work of Jesus our Redeemer-Messiah.

Two benefits of Divine Mercy

In verses 3-5, St. Peter gives praise to God the Father for two benefits of His divine mercy:

  1. A new birth to a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  The Resurrection of Christ is the cause and source of our new birth into God’s New Covenant family.
  2. The powerful security of our inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.  All earthly treasures are subject to time and decay, but our divine inheritance cannot perish and will never lose its glory because it is kept in Heaven for us by God.

However, these gifts and blessings do not keep us from experiencing suffering and persecution that test our faith (verse 6).  Even so, we should have no fear because, in this mortal life, because our belief in the power of God protects us.  Our future inheritance in Heaven is secure through faith in accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, followed by our action in submitting to the Sacrament of Baptism (Mk 16:16).  Even as we continue our earthly journey to eternal salvation, God continues to safeguard us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The second Advent of Christ

In verse 7, St. Peter refers to the Second Advent of Christ.  “Salvation” is the general term that Peter uses as the sum of all that we receive in Christ.  It refers to our present condition as new creatures in Christ that comes through faith and the Sacrament of Christian Baptism but also points to our future destiny when Christ returns.  Peter’s point is that our salvation is both present and future.  It is something we have already through faith and Baptism, but our salvation will not be complete until Christ comes again at the end of time (CCC 163).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

John 20:19-31

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas is a painting of by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio, c. 1601–1602.

Jesus’ appearance to the disciples

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

GOSPEL— John shares with us two Resurrection appearances of Jesus. The first appearance is sometimes called John’s Pentecost because during it, Jesus imparts his Spirit. Prior to Jesus’ coming, the disciples were filled with fear (of the authorities, hence the locked doors), guilt (for abandoning Jesus) and depression (because of Jesus’ death). With Jesus’ entry into their lives, the fear, guilt and depression are replaced with joy and peace. Then Jesus commissions his disciples to continue his work, but not before he gives them his Spirit. He also gives them the power to forgive sins, something the Catholic Church acts on in and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Sins would only be ‘retained’ if one were not truly sorry for his/her sins or were unwilling to embrace the teachings of Jesus.

Some scholars see Jesus’ appearance to Thomas as representing the second generation of Christians—those called to believe on the testimony of others.Even though Thomas refuses to believe the testimony of others, those following him will be called to come to faith on the testimony of others.

Though we may judge Thomas harshly, Jesus takes him where he is at. From Thomas, we learn how to be honest with our doubts. If Thomas needs to touch the wounds of Christ, Jesus will oblige him. The Gospel does not say that Thomas actually touches the wounds—only that he cries out in faith: “My Lord and my God.” It is a story for all of us who may sometimes experience doubt concerning matters of faith. Jesus, too, will be patient with us and will help us overcome our doubts if we cooperate with his grace-filled touch upon our lives. To believe in Jesus’ Resurrection implies an intellectual assent. If also means that we too are sent to share the Good News with others.


Further Study

It is Sunday afternoon; it is the eighth day since Resurrection Sunday as the ancients counted without the concept of zero place-value. The “evening” time of the day is toward the close of the day. The next day for the Jews begins at sundown, so evening is in the mid-to-late afternoon. The time is probably about 3 PM, the time of the third hour of prayer.

The disciples were afraid for their lives because the Sanhedrin might arrest them, try them for blasphemy, and arrange to have them condemned to death just as they condemned Jesus. Significantly, Jesus came to them supernaturally. Locked doors could not stop Him. Jesus’ greeting to the disciples is the customary greeting of the Jews. These are the very words the priest uses, as he stands in “persona Christi,” in the Person of Christ, as he greets the congregation.

Jesus reassures the Apostles

In His greeting, Jesus reassured the Apostles and disciples that He had not abandoned them as they had abandoned Him. All of them, except for St. John, must have been feeling ashamed of their conduct after His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. He lovingly re-establishes the intimacy they previously enjoyed with Him and shows them His wounded hands and pierced side to dispel any impression that they are seeing a ghost or imposter. They have evidence that they are witnessing the risen, glorified body of Jesus Himself. Incidentally, for those concerned with the question of whether the nails were in Jesus’ hands or wrists, Fr. Brown points out in his commentary that both the Greek and Hebrew words for “hand” include the wrist as part of the hand.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus gives the Apostles the Holy Spirit

In the Greek text, the article “the” is missing. Some scholars suggest the missing article indicates that, in this case, Jesus’ breath was not the giving of the personal Holy Spirit that they would receive with the rest of the New Covenant Church at the Feast of Pentecost 50 days later. They suggest it was instead an “effusion” of His Spirit. However, the question remains why does Jesus breathe on them? What is the significance of this act? The answer is found in the passage when God breathed upon man in the first creation (Gen 2:7). In Hebrew and Greek, the word for “breath” is the same as the word for “spirit.” God first breathed into Adam to give him physical life, and now Christ breathes His Spirit into the Apostles to give them spiritual life. The Son of God is sending them forth, in the power of the Holy Spirit, who will make all things “new” again just as He did in the first creation (see Gen 1:2).

The prophet Ezekiel envisioned this day when he wrote of the Messianic restoration of Israel: He said to me, “Prophecy to the breath; prophesy, son of man. Say to the breath, ‘the Lord Yahweh says this: come from the four winds, breath; breathe on these dead, so that they come to life!'” I prophesied as he had ordered me, and the breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet, a great, an immense army (Ez 37:9-10 NJB). Humankind, formally dead to sin, has been resurrected in Christ. The faithful remnant of the Old Israel has become the nucleus of the New Israel, the New Covenant universal [catholic] Church that will become an immense army of disciples converting the world through the spread of the Gospel.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus establishes the Sacrament of Penance

The Sacraments of the Church are visible signs instituted by Christ to confer grace.  In verse 23, Jesus is establishing the Sacrament of Penance [Reconciliation].  Under the Old Covenant, the sinner placed his hands on the animal, confessed his sins before the priest, and the animal died in his place.  Now Christ is the Lamb of sacrifice, but we still must have confession and repentance before sins can be forgiven and communion with God restored.  Through Jesus’ actions in verses 22-23, the priests of the New Covenant carry out the Son of God’s authority to forgive or retain sins.  The concept of private confession of sins has never been part of the sacramental system of the Old or New Covenant. Even though it is a healthy spiritual practice to confess our shortcomings to God in our daily prayers, it is necessary to bring those venial sins before the Lord in the Penitential Rite of the Mass to receive forgiveness through the Eucharist.  However,  we must confess any mortal sins to an ordained priest of the New Covenant Church, who is a successor of the Apostles, to whom we confess and repent our sins as though to Christ Himself.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that Jesus is the physician of our souls and our bodies.  He both healed the sick and forgave their sins, and He has willed His Church, in the power of God the Holy Spirit, to continue His work of healing and salvation.  In the Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation, the sinner places himself before the merciful judgment of God, who heals and purifies hearts and souls.  CCC#1422: “Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.”  Also, see CCC# 1423-1498.

So you may ask the question, how do we know Jesus meant for us to confess to a human priest and not just to Him?  You must agree that in verse 22, in speaking to the Apostles, Jesus gave the Church the power to forgive individual sins and the power to retain them.  How can the Church exercise this power to make decisions about particular acts of wrongdoing unless those sins are confessed openly to Christ through His priesthood?  We have to specifically confess specific sins!

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
St. Thomas

Here John refers to the “Twelve” as a “perfect unity” even though there are only eleven at this point (they will make the number twelve again in Acts 1:23-26). Poor St. Thomas is always remembered for his remark in verse 25, which must have come from his discouragement and his fear. He seems not to be remembered for his courageous statement in John 11:16 when he declared that he was prepared to die with Jesus! One day, he would indeed keep that vow as he died a martyr’s death for love of his Savior. According to Church history, St. Thomas was martyred at the altar of his Church in India. He had faithfully carried the Gospel to what was then the end of the earth!

How many times have we been guilty of the same unbelief when we reject the teaching of Mother Church in favor of secular values and morals? How many Catholics in government have stated that the Church must remain separated from State, and since the Law of the land allows abortion, how can they stand against it? Do they need to see the nails in His hands? How many of us question the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist or the perpetual virginity of His blessed mother? Do we need to see the wound in His side? To believe in the name of Jesus Christ is to accept all that He taught and to be obedient to the teaching of His Church. There is no such thing as a “liberal Catholic.” Liberal and conservative are political terms. There are orthodox, true doctrine Catholics, or there are failed Catholics. Catholicism is not a cafeteria-style religion. It is an all or nothing religion. Place your finger in His wounds, and like Thomas cry out, “My Lord and My God!

The literal Greek “become not unbelieving” in verse 27 gives us a better sense of Thomas’ spiritual condition. He had not yet fallen into unbelief, but his doubt about Jesus’ Resurrection had put him in danger of falling. Thomas responded to Jesus’ challenge by acknowledging Him as his Lord and his God. The literal translation is “the Lord of me and the God of me.” Both Peter and Thomas knew how to humble themselves in sincere repentance. Judas was lost because he would not repent and turn back to Christ. Thomas’ profession of faith is one of the strongest statements affirming the deity of Jesus in Sacred Scripture.

In Hebrews 11:1, the inspired writer tells us that Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen. Thomas’ faith would have had greater merit if he had accepted the testimony of the other Apostles instead of the exceptional proof he received through seeing and touching Jesus’ wounds. St. Paul wrote to the Church in Rome: So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes from the preaching of Christ (Rom 10:17 NJB). That same preaching of Jesus Christ was passed from the Apostles down to us in the Church today, and we are bound to it. When we accept the testimony of Christ passed down to us, we must not only believe, but we must practice what we believe. Jesus’ statement “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” is a benediction our Lord has pronounced on all the future generations of believers!

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

Reflection Questions

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

1. Turn to the person next to you and share what word/s or image/s in the readings caught your attention. Did they comfort or challenge you or touch you in some way? Which part of the Passion story speaks to you most this year? Why?

2. The first reading describes the communal life of the early Christians. What motivated you to join a Small Christian Community? How is your participation a blessing in your life?

3. In the Gospel, Jesus brings the gift of ‘Peace’ to the fear-filled disciples. How would you describe the gift of peace that Jesus gives us, gives you?

4. If you sometimes experience doubt in your faith life, what helps you to deal with it?

5. On this Divine Mercy Sunday, we rejoice in God’s mercy and love for us. What helps you live a life of mercy and love towards others?

6. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.

Call to Action

Practice mercy. Pray for all experiencing doubt in their faith life. Pray for all received into Full Communion at the Easter Vigil, that they will have staying power (in Christ) to remain committed to their new Church family.

Shared Prayer

Jesus, in today’s Gospel you bring peace, joy and mercy to disciples who are fearful and depressed. Fill me with these Easter gifts of peace, joy and mercy.

Closing Prayer

Jesus, breathe on us your Holy Spirit so that we can live our lives more like you and be filled with your peace, joy and mercy. Amen.

SUNDAY VOICES

Video by Larry Broding. Visit Word-Sunday.com website for detailed commentary and other resources regarding the readings for this Sunday.


Savoring God’s Abundance

Joanna Williams Preaches for the Second Sunday in Easter

“The darkness of evil and despair can be strong enough to obscure evidence of God’s goodness. In the Gospel reading, I imagine Thomas with a heavy heart of mourning and desolation after the man he hoped and believed was the Messiah died so brutally. Perhaps it isn’t that he defiantly refuses to believe that Jesus has appeared to the disciples. He just cannot bring himself to hope, when the evidence of Jesus’ suffering and death is so obvious. He misses the ways in which God does manifest himself, in the hope and joy in the disciples’ eyes, who were transformed by that encounter. I can certainly empathize with Thomas. In the day in and day out of work at the border, as I encounter men separated from their children and moms …”

CATHOLIC WOMEN PREACH – April 12, 2020

Introduction to 2nd Sunday of Easter readings

EXCERPT — Believing was a challenge in the early church, just as it is now. The first Christians struggled with how to understand the ongoing presence of Jesus. They came to know that they needed to be signs to others — to witness to and demonstrate peace, forgiveness and mercy. We have not seen him, but we have seen signs of his presence in others. Perhaps more importantly, others must see signs of his presence in us. Presence is mysterious and profound. When we experience it, we are called to pay it forward as we have received it.

NCR SUNDAY RESOURCESJoan DeMerchant


The saving wounds of Easter

EXCERPT – Peace be with you—I just lost my job. Peace be with you—I worry about my daughter’s relationship with an abusive boyfriend. Peace be with you—my spouse and I do not even talk; we lead parallel lives. Peace be with you—I’m flunking English. Peace be with you—I’m not feeling well and I’m beginning to worry.

Three times in today’s Gospel, Jesus addresses his disciples with the greeting, “Peace be with you.” It is a way of promising life, healing, and joy. We desire these gifts. But very frequently Jesus’ greeting of peace is at odds with the worries and the troubles of our lives. As these worries and troubles press in around us, it is understandable why we might question: Can we believe in Jesus’ greeting? Is there reason to hope in the promise of peace?

BUILDING ON THE WORDFr. George Sigma


Mercy is needed for all mankind

EXCERPT – Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. This special day following Easter Sunday, was requested by the Lord to honor His Divine Mercy. Mercy includes the true notion of some sin or wrong doing having taken place, and the one offended forgives and does not deal out the just retribution for the sins / wrongdoings. Because mankind could not and cannot on his own merits or good works earn God’s forgiveness, and make things right before God’s Justice, Mercy is needed for all of mankind. God is Mercy personified. And while teaching on earth, Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, they shall obtain mercy.”

MASS HOMILIESDeacon Joseph Pasquella (Confraternity of Penitents)


The mission of the disciples and the witness of Thomas

EXCERPT — We are in the so-called “book of the resurrection” where we are told, in a not-so-logical sequence, several matters concerning the risen Christ and the facts that prove it. In the fourth Gospel, these facts take place in the morning (20:1-18) and evening of the first day after the Saturday and eight days later, in the same place and on the same day of the week. We are before an event that is the most important in the history of humanity, an event that challenges us personally. “If Christ has not been raised then our preaching is useless and your believing it is useless… and you are still in your sins” (1Cor 15:14, 17) says Paul the apostle who had not known Jesus before His resurrection, but who zealously preached Him all his life. Jesus is sent by the Father. He also sends us. Our willingness to “go” comes from the depth of the faith we have in the Risen One. Are we prepared to accept His “mandate” and to give our lives for His Kingdom? This passage is not just about the faith of those who have not seen (the witness of Thomas), but also about the mission entrusted to the Church by Christ.

THE ORDER OF CARMELITESLectio Divina: Sundays of Lent


Doubt is more valuable than superficial faith

EXCERPT — Thomas didn’t say, “I give up.” He said, “I won’t believe it until I feel it.” He wasn’t closed to the Gospel, but he refused to accept a cheap substitute. Thomas had the integrity to say, “I’m not there yet,” and that was a proclamation that he wanted more faith than he had. Thomas appears today to call us to integrity and the humility to be forgiven and to forgive. The Resurrection accounts remind us that Christian faith is a long and costly journey into forgiveness and peace. Thomas reminds us that doubt is more valuable than superficial faith and that humility and integrity are essential conditions for giving and receiving the grace of forgiveness.

NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTERMary M. McGlone, CSJ


Building a community of faith, even from a distance during the Covid-19 pandemic

EXCERPT — Our ideas of connection and community have been put to the test. Many institutions have been reaching members virtually, as physical contact is limited to slow the spread of Covid-19. Today’s readings reveal how early Christians connected with people in order to spread the faith. They can inspire us to think about how we engage with our sisters and brothers and nurture our faith, even at a distance.

AMERICA MAGAZINEJamie Waters


The trying of faith

EXCERPT — The experience of faith is not the absence of pain or sorrow or loss. It is, rather, the bearing of pain or sorrow in faith. Faith does not take away the wounds; it transforms them. In faith, flaws are not obliterated; they are refined and purified. Thomas, still hanging around a community of faith, discovers Christ in his unbelief. Although they kept telling Thomas—it went on for a week—that Jesus had risen, he refused to believe. “I’ll not believe” without entering the wounds. How right he was. Faith must be found as much in the wounds of life as in the glories. And from the wounds a faith might most amazingly emerge. “My Lord and my God,” that skeptic is reported to have said.

SUNDAY WEB SITEFather John Kavanaugh, SJ


Love wounds

EXCERPT (2017)— This is the second Sunday during what must be one of the most unusual Easter seasons in recent history, as all of us try to cope with the pandemic and our churches standing empty. In many ways, the Lectionary readings for this Sunday seem strangely apt for this moment…Every day now, especially, we hear about first responders and health care workers catching COVID-19 because they ministered to those who are ill. This is not a new idea. Jesus reminded his disciples on the eve of his death that there is “no greater love than this than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends…In this strange Easter season, we are reminded that God’s sacrificial love for us is far more powerful than any form of death.”

2020 Reflections

CHICAGO CATHOLICFather Donald Senior, CP

THIS WEEK’S CATECHISM EXCERPTS

Visit Doctrinal Homily Outlines for further commentary and catechetical connections.

“By using the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the homilist can help his people integrate the word of God, the faith of the Church, the moral demands of the Gospel, and their personal and liturgical spirituality.”

From the Homiletic Directory

CCC 448, 641-646: appearances of the risen Christ
CCC 1084-1089: sanctifying presence of the risen Christ in the liturgy
CCC 2177-2178, 1342: the Sunday Eucharist
CCC 654-655, 1988: our new birth in the Resurrection of Christ
CCC 976-983, 1441-1442: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins”
CCC 949-953, 1329, 1342, 2624, 2790: communion in spiritual goods

448 Very often in the Gospels people address Jesus as “Lord”. This title testifies to the respect and trust of those who approach him for help and healing.62 At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, “Lord” expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus.63 In the encounter with the risen Jesus, this title becomes adoration: “My Lord and my God!” It thus takes on a connotation of love and affection that remains proper to the Christian tradition: “It is the Lord!”64

The appearances of the Risen One

641 Mary Magdalene and the holy women who came to finish anointing the body of Jesus, which had been buried in haste because the Sabbath began on the evening of Good Friday, were the first to encounter the Risen One.498 Thus the women were the first messengers of Christ’s Resurrection for the apostles themselves.499 They were the next to whom Jesus appears: first Peter, then the Twelve. Peter had been called to strengthen the faith of his brothers,500 and so sees the Risen One before them; it is on the basis of his testimony that the community exclaims: “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”501

642 Everything that happened during those Paschal days involves each of the apostles – and Peter in particular – in the building of the new era begun on Easter morning. As witnesses of the Risen One, they remain the foundation stones of his Church. The faith of the first community of believers is based on the witness of concrete men known to the Christians and for the most part still living among them. Peter and the Twelve are the primary “witnesses to his Resurrection”, but they are not the only ones – Paul speaks clearly of more than five hundred persons to whom Jesus appeared on a single occasion and also of James and of all the apostles.502

643 Given all these testimonies, Christ’s Resurrection cannot be interpreted as something outside the physical order, and it is impossible not to acknowledge it as an historical fact. It is clear from the facts that the disciples’ faith was drastically put to the test by their master’s Passion and death on the cross, which he had foretold.503 The shock provoked by the Passion was so great that at least some of the disciples did not at once believe in the news of the Resurrection. Far from showing us a community seized by a mystical exaltation, the Gospels present us with disciples demoralized (“looking sad”504) and frightened. For they had not believed the holy women returning from the tomb and had regarded their words as an “idle tale”.505 When Jesus reveals himself to the Eleven on Easter evening, “he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.”506

644 Even when faced with the reality of the risen Jesus the disciples are still doubtful, so impossible did the thing seem: they thought they were seeing a ghost. “In their joy they were still disbelieving and still wondering.”507 Thomas will also experience the test of doubt and St. Matthew relates that during the risen Lord’s last appearance in Galilee “some doubted.”508 Therefore the hypothesis that the Resurrection was produced by the apostles’ faith (or credulity) will not hold up. On the contrary their faith in the Resurrection was born, under the action of divine grace, from their direct experience of the reality of the risen Jesus.

The condition of Christ’s risen humanity

645 By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his Passion.509 Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ’s humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father’s divine realm.510 For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith.511

646 Christ’s Resurrection was not a return to earthly life, as was the case with the raisings from the dead that he had performed before Easter: Jairus’ daughter, the young man of Naim, Lazarus. These actions were miraculous events, but the persons miraculously raised returned by Jesus’ power to ordinary earthly life. At some particular moment they would die again. Christ’s Resurrection is essentially different. In his risen body he passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space. At Jesus’ Resurrection his body is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: he shares the divine life in his glorious state, so that St. Paul can say that Christ is “the man of heaven”.512

II. CHRIST’S WORK IN THE LITURGY

Christ glorified . . .

1084 “Seated at the right hand of the Father” and pouring out the Holy Spirit on his Body which is the Church, Christ now acts through the sacraments he instituted to communicate his grace. The sacraments are perceptible signs (words and actions) accessible to our human nature. By the action of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit they make present efficaciously the grace that they signify.

1085 In the liturgy of the Church, it is principally his own Paschal mystery that Christ signifies and makes present. During his earthly life Jesus announced his Paschal mystery by his teaching and anticipated it by his actions. When his Hour comes, he lives out the unique event of history which does not pass away: Jesus dies, is buried, rises from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father “once for all.”8 His Paschal mystery is a real event that occurred in our history, but it is unique: all other historical events happen once, and then they pass away, swallowed up in the past. The Paschal mystery of Christ, by contrast, cannot remain only in the past, because by his death he destroyed death, and all that Christ is – all that he did and suffered for all men – participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being made present in them all. The event of the Cross and Resurrection abides and draws everything toward life.

. . . from the time of the Church of the Apostles . . .

1086 “Accordingly, just as Christ was sent by the Father so also he sent the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit. This he did so that they might preach the Gospel to every creature and proclaim that the Son of God by his death and resurrection had freed us from the power of Satan and from death and brought us into the Kingdom of his Father. But he also willed that the work of salvation which they preached should be set in train through the sacrifice and sacraments, around which the entire liturgical life revolves.”9

1087 Thus the risen Christ, by giving the Holy Spirit to the apostles, entrusted to them his power of sanctifying:10 they became sacramental signs of Christ. By the power of the same Holy Spirit they entrusted this power to their successors. This “apostolic succession” structures the whole liturgical life of the Church and is itself sacramental, handed on by the sacrament of Holy Orders.

. . . is present in the earthly liturgy . . .

1088 “To accomplish so great a work” – the dispensation or communication of his work of salvation – “Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister, ‘the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross,’ but especially in the Eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes, it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. Lastly, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised ‘where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.”‘11

1089 “Christ, indeed, always associates the Church with himself in this great work in which God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified. The Church is his beloved Bride who calls to her Lord and through him offers worship to the eternal Father.”12

ARTICLE 10
“I BELIEVE IN THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS”

976 The Apostle’s Creed associates faith in the forgiveness of sins not only with faith in the Holy Spirit, but also with faith in the Church and in the communion of saints. It was when he gave the Holy Spirit to his apostles that the risen Christ conferred on them his own divine power to forgive sins: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”520

(Part Two of the catechism will deal explicitly with the forgiveness of sins through Baptism, the sacrament of Penance, and the other sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Here it will suffice to suggest some basic facts briefly.)

* I. ONE BAPTISM FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS

977 Our Lord tied the forgiveness of sins to faith and Baptism: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved.”521 Baptism is the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification, so that “we too might walk in newness of life.”522

978 “When we made our first profession of faith while receiving the holy Baptism that cleansed us, the forgiveness we received then was so full and complete that there remained in us absolutely nothing left to efface, neither original sin nor offenses committed by our own will, nor was there left any penalty to suffer in order to expiate them. . . . Yet the grace of Baptism delivers no one from all the weakness of nature. On the contrary, we must still combat the movements of concupiscence that never cease leading us into evil “523

979 In this battle against our inclination towards evil, who could be brave and watchful enough to escape every wound of sin? “If the Church has the power to forgive sins, then Baptism cannot be her only means of using the keys of the Kingdom of heaven received from Jesus Christ. The Church must be able to forgive all penitents their offenses, even if they should sin until the last moment of their lives.”524

980 It is through the sacrament of Penance that the baptized can be reconciled with God and with the Church:

Penance has rightly been called by the holy Fathers “a laborious kind of baptism.” This sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for those who have fallen after Baptism, just as Baptism is necessary for salvation for those who have not yet been reborn.525

II. THE POWER OF THE KEYS

981 After his Resurrection, Christ sent his apostles “so that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.”526 The apostles and their successors carry out this “ministry of reconciliation,” not only by announcing to men God’s forgiveness merited for us by Christ, and calling them to conversion and faith; but also by communicating to them the forgiveness of sins in Baptism, and reconciling them with God and with the Church through the power of the keys, received from Christ:527

[The Church] has received the keys of the Kingdom of heaven so that, in her, sins may be forgiven through Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit’s action. In this Church, the soul dead through sin comes back to life in order to live with Christ, whose grace has saved us.528

982 There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive. “There is no one, however wicked and guilty, who may not confidently hope for forgiveness, provided his repentance is honest.529 Christ who died for all men desires that in his Church the gates of forgiveness should always be open to anyone who turns away from sin.530

983 Catechesis strives to awaken and nourish in the faithful faith in the incomparable greatness of the risen Christ’s gift to his Church: the mission and the power to forgive sins through the ministry of the apostles and their successors:

The Lord wills that his disciples possess a tremendous power: that his lowly servants accomplish in his name all that he did when he was on earth.531Priests have received from God a power that he has given neither to angels nor to archangels . . . . God above confirms what priests do here below.532

Were there no forgiveness of sins in the Church, there would be no hope of life to come or eternal liberation. Let us thank God who has given his Church such a gift.533

Only God forgives sin

1441 Only God forgives sins.39 Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, “The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” and exercises this divine power: “Your sins are forgiven.”40 Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.41

1442 Christ has willed that in her prayer and life and action his whole Church should be the sign and instrument of the forgiveness and reconciliation that he acquired for us at the price of his blood. But he entrusted the exercise of the power of absolution to the apostolic ministry which he charged with the “ministry of reconciliation.”42 The apostle is sent out “on behalf of Christ” with “God making his appeal” through him and pleading: “Be reconciled to God.”43

I. COMMUNION IN SPIRITUAL GOODS

949 In the primitive community of Jerusalem, the disciples “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers.”482

Communion in the faith. The faith of the faithful is the faith of the Church, received from the apostles. Faith is a treasure of life which is enriched by being shared.

950 Communion of the sacraments. “The fruit of all the sacraments belongs to all the faithful. All the sacraments are sacred links uniting the faithful with one another and binding them to Jesus Christ, and above all Baptism, the gate by which we enter into the Church. The communion of saints must be understood as the communion of the sacraments. . . . The name ‘communion’ can be applied to all of them, for they unite us to God. . . . But this name is better suited to the Eucharist than to any other, because it is primarily the Eucharist that brings this communion about.”483

951 Communion of charisms. Within the communion of the Church, the Holy Spirit “distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank” for the building up of the Church.484 Now, “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”485

952 “They had everything in common.”486 “Everything the true Christian has is to be regarded as a good possessed in common with everyone else. All Christians should be ready and eager to come to the help of the needy . . . and of their neighbors in want.”487 A Christian is a steward of the Lord’s goods.488

953 Communion in charity. In the sanctorum communio, “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.”489 “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”490 “Charity does not insist on its own way.”491 In this solidarity with all men, living or dead, which is founded on the communion of saints, the least of our acts done in charity redounds to the profit of all. Every sin harms this communion.


SOURCES/CREDITS:
Fr. Tobin Commentary Text: ©2019 Fr. Eamon Tobin, Commentaries & Faith Sharing PDF Handout. Images, videos, scripture verses, and other material which accompany Fr. Tobin’s text are curated by LectioTube.com. They do not necessarily reflect Fr. Tobin’s opinions or preferences. Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission.
Agape Bible Study excerpts by Michal E. Hunt are used with permission. In addition to the website’s 54 studies and hundreds of resources, their Facebook page has short lessons on the day’s Gospel reading.
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