Fr. Rick’s Homily: 2nd Sunday of Easter / Divine Mercy Sunday 4/7/24

Acts 4:32-35; Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; 1 Jn 5:1-6; Jn 20:19-31

“The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.”  Acts 4:32…..  See the emoji-like shocked face figure in the front of today’s bulletin:  Everything?!!  Astonished Face Emoji (U+1F632)

This extreme practice, scholars say, was probably altered to something similar to current practices of passing around the collection plate and sharing not EVERYTHING, but more like sharing one’s excess.  You can see how far we have veered from even that altered practice.  Sharing in kind however still exists in most Catholic religious orders.

“Peace be with you.”  Peace, really?  ‘Do not be afraid.’  ‘They were terrified….’  Jesus tends to make people very uncomfortable, to say the least… During the past week during the Octave of Easter many of the readings feature Jesus consoling the disciples’ fear and terror at seeing Him or what appeared to be Him.  He can, however, calm them in the most dramatic way, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit…’”

Let’s take a few moments to work through these readings today systematically…

Let’s get back to the gospel and the apostle, Thomas.  He has one of the best insights concerning the identity of Jesus.  Throughout this week, the Octave of Easter…. the recently resurrected Jesus is recognized by His disciples when He calls them by name, in the breaking of the bread, in the teaching of the Scriptures, in His uncanny insights about catching fish and something as ordinary as simply having breakfast together where HE is cooking breakfast (His role as ‘servant leader’).

Today’s insight comes from St. Thomas when he states that he will recognize Jesus in His wounds, in His suffering.  This seems to correlate perfectly with what Jesus reveals in the very familiar Gospel of Matthew, (25:45-47) “Then (the disciples) will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’

He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’  And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

This is one of the clearest criteria we have for what gets us to Heaven and what lands us in hell.  The ‘doubting’ Thomas gets sort of a bad rap.  Always the ‘doubter’.  But once he sees and touches the wounds he declares most confidently, “My Lord and my God.”  This is one of the greatest insights in probably any age.  We should also hope to be so quick to recognize the wounded Christ among us.  And then to RESPOND appropriately.

Given the massive presence of poverty and desperate people in the world, including our own relatively safe and prosperous country, how could we possibly respond in a way that would really make a difference?

Again, from the first reading in Acts of the Apostles: “With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all.  There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.”

This is NOT making me feel peaceful.  This sounds EXTREEEEMELY disruptive to my lifestyle!  I like thinks quiet and orderly.  Even though I do not have a LOT of stuff, I like to have a lot of control over my space and my stuff.  How could this ever actually happen in OUR culture where such great emphasis is put on self- autonomy, private property, individual dreams, and ‘gall darn it’, hard work?!!  Work hard, pull yourself up!!

I really don’t see this big transition of community and radical sharing happening.  We do not show much promise in making this happen any time soon.  We seem to be going the opposite direction with an increasing gap between the so-called ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

It aint gonna happen.  UNLESS… UNLESS there is some insight to be had from today’s second reading from the First Letter of John: 

“In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments.  For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the worldAnd the victory that conquers the world is our faith.  Who indeed is the victor over the world, but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

The Commandments are not burdensome because once we concede God’s primacy in the world, the whole effort of living peacefully and joyfully become much easier.  When we concede that God has the plan for the world, NOT US.

We have to be more honest about how sincerely we actually practice our religion.  We are trapped in the ‘American Dream’ world.  The world of self-autonomy and self-will.  It’s a trap.  It makes us depressed and anxious, and desperate and fearful.  It makes us hostile. 

Again, from First John, “For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome,
for whoever is begotten by God conquers the worldAnd the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

“Peace be with you.  Not as the world gives peace, but as I give peace.”  A whole different scenario.  Doesn’t usually require an economy based heavily on selling weapons and redundant consumer goods.

It’s about sharing in kind so that no one is left desperate.

Divine Mercy Sunday fits in well with these readings.  We are accomplices in how wealth and power have been used in our country, especially since World War II!!  LORD, have mercy!!

We can also consider studying the Rule of Benedict to give us some pointers on how to move more closely to the type of communities depicted in Acts of the Apostles.  But this is another extended discussion for another time.

See reflection questions in today’s bulletin.

Let us now enter more deeply into this Mass this morning and be especially open to how God is calling us to be “ONE BODY, ONE SPIRIT IN CHRIST.”