SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER (Divine Mercy Sunday) (19 April 2020)

FIRST READING (All who believed were together and had all things in common.)

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (2:42-47)

The community of believers devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together andhad all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. Every day they devoted themselves tomeeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. —The Word of the Lord.

R. Thanks be to God.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM (118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24)

R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love is everlasting. (Ps 118:1)

Or Alleluia.

Let the house of Israel say, “His mercy endures forever.”Let the house of Aaron say, “His mercy endures forever.”Let those who fear the Lord say, “His mercy endures forever.” (R)

I was hard pressed and was falling, but the Lord helped me. My strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my savior. The joyful shout of victory in the tents of the just. (R)

The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made;let us be glad and rejoice in it. (R)

SECOND READING (God has given us new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.)

A reading from the first Letter of Saint Peter (1:3-9)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time. In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. —The Word of the Lord.

R. Thanks be to God.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.

You believe in me, Thomas, because you have seen me,

says the Lord; blessed are they who have not seen me,

but still believe! (R)

GOSPEL (Eight days later Jesus came and stood in their midst.)

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (20:19-31)

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them,“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name. —The Gospel of the Lord.

R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

“Although you have not seen him, you love him.”

           One of the hallmarks of the Easter season is the in cursus or continual readings we have on Sundays and on weekdays from the Acts of the Apostles that tell us again about the earliest period of the life of the Church after the Resurrection of Jesus. Today’s first reading tells us: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to prayers. Awe came upon everyone…All who believed were together and all had things in common.” 

This reading from Acts provides us with what we call the “marks” of the early Church that should define the Church through all ages. The Church is a community (ekklesia) called forth by the Spirit and characterized by koinonia or communion, or communal life. This community has a devotion to the apostolic teaching (didache), to the breaking of the bread, and to prayer.

Ekklesia, Koinonia, Didache and liturgia.

Community – Communal Life – Teaching – Liturgy.

Some may look at this first reading and think that it is more a vision of a utopian church. The emphasis on communion and “holding all things in common” was an Hellenistic idea of friendship. A friend was a person with whom one held all things in common, and this was considered to be the highest form of love. The stress in this reading of selling property and meeting the needs of others countered those major barriers to true friendship in antiquity, which were disparity of class and wealth.

Ekklesia, Koinonia, Didache and liturgia.

Community – Communal Life – Teaching – Liturgy.

This past week we welcomed in our community here 13 adults, another came into Full Communion and two teenagers received Confirmation. These individuals now join our community – our communal life – and participate with us in listening to the teachings of Christ and praying with us in the liturgy.

The concept of the Christian community is really not so hard to understand.

Some years ago, before all our social activities were forced to stop, I had the pleasure of attending a performance of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra playing a very complex, challenging and moving piece – Gustav Mahler’s “Tragic Symphony. I was fortunate to be seated very close to the orchestra, and as the piece unfolded (a piece that lasts well over an hour) I was caught up seeing how all these individual musicians of various ages and experience and under the direction of the conductor were able to produce a sound and experience that stirred the soul.

 There were 1st and 2nd violins, violas, cellos, bass and double bass strings, reeds, brass, harps, and at least 3 percussionists with a wide array of drums, cymbals and other objects. The instruments varied in size and shape and that evening we were told that one violinist would be playing a priceless Stradivarius that probably cost more than all the other string instruments on the stage.

          The concertmaster came out, and each section “tuned itself” to a note: reeds, brass, and finally strings. From this cacophony arose a single note. The conductor entered and with a wave of his baton, what were originally some 100 individual instrumentalists, we heard one set of common notes, expressive playing and music that swelled. As we heard in the first reading, “Awe came upon everyone.”

          When trying to understand the mystery of the Church and the Paschal Mystery and faith, and the challenge of our Gospel reading about faith seen and unseen, is it all that difficulty? That impossible? That unimaginable?

          Is faith so very hard to understand?    

Ekklesia, Koinonia, Didache and liturgia.

Community – Communal Life – Teaching – Liturgy.

          My friends, as we celebrate this Divine Mercy Sunday, we have a unique opportunity to measure our own faith through the humbled profession of St. Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” The story of Thomas in many ways can be applied to each one of us, even after we have been baptized for years. Often, we want a more tangible proof, a more solid affirmation to help our faith. Isn’t this what we all seek these days surrounded by the pandemic? “Lord give us a sign!” But the questions really is: if there is tangible proof, is there really any need of FAITH? For we have been already been told in Scripture and we know from experience that “faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 1:1)

Community – Communal Life – Teaching – Liturgy.

Each week we gather here as a community to express our common life and faith. We listen to God’s word and teaching and then we express our thanks to God through the breaking of the bread. Two-thousand years after the Resurrection, we sit as members of a world-wide orchestra, if you will, each bringing his or her own instrument, his or her own gifts, abilities, talents, virtues and even difficulties, doubts  and troubles.

The Lord is our conductor. He raises the baton. We look up, the baton waves, and we begin – individually – to play, but the music is that of a symphony, blended together for the pleasure of all. Awe came upon everyone! Yes. Awe, and wonder, and grace, and beauty, friendship, love, sharing and mercy “with joy-filled and sincere hearts, praising God! This is our Church, our community, and our faith.

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