(Extended Version) Second Sunday of Easter 2020 – Homily, Fr. Rick Sherman
John 20:19-31; Acts of the Apostles 2:42-47
This is also Divine Mercy Sunday, which is a Solemnity more and more celebrated with yet another Reconciliation Service. In Salt Lake City several parishes go to considerable length to honor this occasion with hundreds attending the services. This seems especially apropos during our current pandemic and economic crises. We might expect that some recovery to ‘normalcy’ will require extraordinary mercy, creativity and response to alleviate the disruption in so many lives. When we make sincere attempts to repent for our sinfulness, we remove much of the distortion that plagues our human condition and severely restricts us from seeing the presence of Jesus in all people.
I would conjecture that a genuinely repentant and enlightened people would never have let such an unstable economic and social system develop in the first place over the past several decades. We seem to be just noticing that people living in relative poverty are much more susceptible to any viral or economic maladies. Really?! I thought we had a bit of a wake-up call with Hurricane Katrina when we noticed that many people did not have cars to escape the immediate catastrophe of downtown New Orleans. We have also known for years that 4 out of 10 households in the U.S. have less than $400 in savings. We are also REreminded how many families depend on the public school system to feed their children every day. It seems that we have trained ourselves to just live with these extraordinary inequities in our society. We may have built a real ‘house of cards’ that needs a whole new foundation.
The first reading today from Acts of the Apostles reveals the true effects of a Holy Spirit-infused people. They are sharing everything in kind and nobody is lacking anything that is genuinely needed. This sharing does not seem to be done begrudgingly as they are praising God and singing songs of joy. This seems rather extraordinary and yet common place at the same time. Sharing doesn’t seem to be such a miraculous feat, but on the other hand we know how brutally difficult it can be to live in genuine community where people are so interdependent. Human nature kicks in rather quickly and life can seem to be a never-ending series of disputes to be reconciled. There is a constant need to redirect our minds and hearts to the person of Jesus Christ who is the model for being authentically human and generous. Because Jesus was sinless he had the undistorted vision to see everyone as made in the image and likeness of God. He also had the stamina to avoid being totally overwhelmed by all the dissonance and confusion.
We know from reading most of the epistles of the New Testament (written by a variety of authors) that the idyllic state depicted in Acts today did not last forever. This community of love and enormous generosity required more than interest rate adjustments, tax incentives, bailouts and legions of social workers. This requires the genuine caring and commitment of a community which is infused by the Holy Spirit and following a plan revealed and developed by the Church that Jesus Himself established.
This could be a very exciting time if we can properly define a return to ‘normal’. Is ‘normal’ back to the ‘survival of the fittest’ model which ignores the inherent vulnerability of so many peoples’ life circumstance? Or is ‘normal’ something more like the first generation of Christianity? Or could the new ‘normal’ look like some other configurations of sustainable community practiced by different groups in Church history?
With all the Divine Mercy repentance of so many and the resulting clarity of undistorted vision, the Christian community model might just have some real possibilities. We should be especially ready to revision our local culture here in Kanab. After offering confessions for 10 hours during Holy Week, (sitting in my shined up Subaru at a virus safe distance) I had zero drive-up takers. This should mean that we are relatively free of sin and can already experience life with the heart, mind, soul and will of Jesus Himself. It’s hard not to be hopeful and even downright optimistic under such a scenario.