Divine Mercy Sunday 2024

Post Date: April 3, 2024
Author: Ric Cross

A Reflection on the Readings for the Second Sunday of Easter, April 7, 2024
(Divine Mercy Sunday)

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

The first thing we should notice about our readings for this Sunday, the second Sunday of Easter, also known as Divine Mercy Sunday, is that our first reading does not come from the Old Testament as we expect on most Sundays. Therefore, this Sunday, we are not looking for a “golden thread” that connects the Old Testament with our gospel passage as we normally do.

Our first reading comes from the Acts of the Apostles because we are now celebrating the birth of the church. And that birth comes about because of the Resurrection of Christ but also, and most importantly, because of the gift of the Holy Spirit that we read about in our gospel this week. The Acts of the Apostles (along with St. Paul’s letters) is essentially the story of the development of the church in the first century, and what is most important for us to grasp is that the power of the Holy Spirit is directly responsible for the development of the church.

If you remember, on the day of Pentecost but before the descent of the Holy Spirit (according to the Acts of the Apostles), the disciples were a group of frightened and confused men gathered in the upper room trying to make sense out of the death of Christ, whom they thought to be the Messiah; and then trying to make sense out of what they had been told about His Resurrection. Then, according to our gospel passage today (and the account varies from gospel to gospel), Jesus appeared to them and breathed the Holy Spirit upon them, and, just as suddenly, they were transformed from being poor bewildered fishermen into great theologians who now understood everything that Jesus taught them, and they were unafraid to go out and proclaim that truth to the world: “With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all.” They were no longer bewildered disciples (meaning learners or students); they were now apostles (meaning those sent to proclaim what they had learned), filled with the Holy Spirit, and commissioned as the church’s first bishops with the power from God to forgive or retain sins. That is the birth of the church, and that is what we see in our readings this week.

An interesting thing to note in our first reading is that the early church was indeed a faith community. The early Christians sold their possessions and laid the proceeds at the feet of the apostles, and everyone shared equally, according to their needs. That community must have been incredibly happy and very inspirational to the inhabitants of Jerusalem as we are told in the same chapter of Acts: “Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.” In addition, that community: “enjoyed favor with all people,” and more and more people were added to their number daily.

In our second reading from the 1st Letter of John, we are reminded that those who believe the message of the apostles are: “begotten by God.” That which inspires us to believe that message is the power of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who will receive that Spirit. John also reminds us that Jesus “came through water and blood,” a reference to Jesus’ baptism (Mt 3:16) and to his crucifixion and resurrection. The Holy Spirit was present at those historical events. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is the divine witness to the person of Christ as the Son of God and to the eternal life that Jesus confers on those who believe through the Holy Spirit. And the sign that we have accepted the message through the Holy Spirit is that we do everything in our power to keep His commandments. Those who did so in the first century were the beginnings of the church; and we have inherited that church from them; and it is only through the Holy Spirit that the church has persevered throughout 2000 years of history. “The Spirit is the one that testifies, and the Spirit is truth.” 

Our gospel this week is St. John’s version of the descent of the Spirit upon the apostles; in this case, the Spirit was breathed upon them by Christ. It is also John’s version of the commissioning of the apostles as our first bishops. “As the father has sent me, so I send you.” The “doubting Thomas” came to believe because he encountered the risen Lord. But: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” That refers you to me and the entire Christian church, which is, again, a testament to the power of the Spirit that pervades the church and the hearts of those who are willing to receive that Spirit.

Now, notice the last line in our gospel verse, which is repeated at the very end of John’s gospel. It tells us that there were many other signs and wonders of Jesus that were not written in this gospel because if everything were written down: “I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written” (Jn 21:25). That tells us that not everything we believe as Catholic Christians is found in the bible. Many fundamentalist Protestants do not want to hear that, as for many of them, the bible is the be-all and end-all of faith. Some would be inclined to feel: “If it’s not in the bible, I don’t have to believe it.” We, as Catholics, believe that our faith is based on scripture and TRADITION. The tradition passed down through 2000 years of preaching and teaching by the church, inspired and confirmed by the Holy Spirit. Traditions such as how the Mass and sacraments are celebrated; the tradition of the church as the sacrament of salvation; the tradition that the church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic; the tradition of Apostolic Succession which says that every bishop in our church is ordained by another bishop, so all bishops could theoretically trace their ordination to the Episcopal Office back to one of the apostles; the tradition of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Mother and her Assumption into heaven. Our church is rich with tradition, much of which is not found in scripture but is part of the fabric of our Catholic faith. And all of that comes to us through the teaching of the church inspired and confirmed by the Holy Spirit through 2000 years of history.

Reference: © LPI

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