Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Second Sunday in Easter

May 1, 2011
Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 118; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

The disciples' first moments are captured in the Gospel when they huddle in fear of "the Jews" behind locked doors. The crucified Risen Jesus appears in their midst and greets them with "Peace" and "Do not be afraid." Partly, this scene answers the question raised by Mary Magdalene and the women who ran from the tomb and wondered, "where have they ("the Jews") put him (the body of Jesus.) The answer is 'nowhere.' They have not put him anywhere because the heavenly glory of the exalted Jesus appears before them.

The disciples realize their joy is fulfilled when the risen Jesus grants them the peace he promised. He shows them the marks of his crucifixion and wishes them peace once more. He breathes on them to receive the Holy Spirit and to be witnesses to him in the world. They are sent into the world to represent him and his teachings that have been validated by God. The Spirit is the one expression of divine indwelling that flows from the Risen Jesus as a source of eternal life. The instructions to go forth are given to the believing community rather than strictly to the Twelve.

The Fourth Gospel's author writes about disbelief as sin. The power of forgiveness is probably expressed in the bestowing of the Spirit on those who believe as a result of the disciples' mission and who join the community. It is less likely that the author is setting up a process of dealing with Christians who have committed sin. Coming to the light, coming to belief, is a main theme for the Fourth Evangelist. The passage with Thomas that follows illustrates his focus on belief.

Thomas represents many potential believers who demand some further clinical evidence. Before Thomas is summoned to become a believer, the risen Jesus offers him 'peace.' The peace that comes from Jesus has to embrace a special quality that brings people further into his kingdom. Once Thomas confesses, "My Lord and my God," a blessing is administered out to all future believers. Though Thomas is chastised because he does not believe the testimony of others, he proclaims the greatest Christological statement in the Gospels: the crucified/exalted Jesus is Lord and God. Faith becomes grounded in the present of the Lord through the Spirit.

For the Fourth Evangelist, the purpose of his Gospel is to have faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God as the source of eternal life. Luke describes the communal life of the first believers who taught others, broke bread with their neighbors and devoted themselves to prayer. Each day they lived with exultation and sincerity of heart and they enjoyed the favor of everyone.

My prayer for our community of believers today is that we can receive the peace that the same risen Jesus bestowed on his first friends. His peace removes fear, yet we still live in fear. We have not accepted the authority that has been given to us. Perhaps this Easter season, we can receive this peace and the power that comes with it. We might want to ask the risen Jesus about the dimensions of this peace. I might suspect that he wants us to live as freely and as boldly as Peter and John and his first witnesses. Through the power of Jesus, their boldness and joy brought many others to faith. I believe we can live as joyfully and as harmoniously as the community of faith Luke describes in the Acts of the Apostles. It is all at our fingertips just waiting for us to grasp and receive it.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: We continue with the Acts of the Apostles in the Easter octave. Peter and John return to their people after being released from the religious authorities. They prayed to the Lord about their ordeal and as they prayed, the whole house shook. The high priest with the Sadducees had the Apostles jailed but during the night the doors of the prison were opened by the Lord and the Apostles went back to the Temple to teach. As the Apostles were brought forth again during their arrest, they were reminded that they were forbidden to preach. Peter said on behalf of the Apostles that they are to obey God, not men. Gamaliel the Pharisee urged wisdom for the Sanhedrin declaring that if this is of God it cannot be stopped, but if it is of men it will certainly die out. The number of disciples grew. Hellenists complained to the Hebrews that their widows were being neglected. The Twelve decided it was right to select seven reputable men (deacons) to take care of the daily distribution while they continued with prayer and the ministry of the word. Meanwhile the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly. Even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

Gospel: In John, Nicodemus appeared to Jesus at night asking how one could be born again to which Jesus answered, "you must be born from above." As the discourse continues, the Evangelist proclaims, "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but that the world might be saved through him." He explains that Jesus has come from above and speaks of the things that are from above. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. At a feast of the Passover, Jesus miraculously feeds the hungry crowds as a good shepherd would. He reminds the people that the actions in his earthly life were precursors of the meal that are to share. They are to eat his body and drink his blood. Jesus then departs to the other side of the sea. When a storm picks up, he walked on the turbulent waves and instructed them not to be afraid. He is with them. He has power over the natural and supernatural world.

Saints of the Week

Monday: Athanasius, bishop and doctor (295-373), was an Egyptian who attended the Nicene Council in 325. He wrote about Christ's divinity but this caused his exile by non-Christian emperors. He wrote a treatise on the Incarnation and brought monasticism to the West.

Tuesday: Philip and James, Apostles (first century), were present to Jesus throughout his entire ministry. Philip was named as being explicitly called. James is called the Lesser to distinguish him from James of Zebedee. Little is known of these founders of our faith.

Wednesday, Joseph Mary Rubio, S.J., priest (1864-1929), is a Jesuit known as the Apostle of Madrid. He worked with the poor bringing them the Spiritual Exercises and spiritual direction and he established local trade schools.  

This Week in Jesuit History

·         May 1, 1572. At Rome, Pope St. Pius V dies. His decree imposing Choir on the Society was cancelled by his successor, Gregory XIII.
·         May 2, 1706. The death of Jesuit brother G J Kamel. The camellia flower is named after him.
·         May 3, 1945. American troops take over Innsbruck, Austria. Theology studies at the Canisianum resume a few months later.
·         May 4, 1902. The death of Charles Sommervogel, historian of the Society and editor of the bibliography of all publications of the Jesuits from the beginnings of the Society onward.
·         May 5, 1782. At Coimbra, Sebastian Carvahlo, Marquis de Pombal, a cruel persecutor of the Society in Portugal, died in disgrace and exile. His body remained unburied fifty years, till Father Philip Delvaux performed the last rites in 1832.
·         May 6, 1816. Letter of John Adams to Thomas Jefferson mentioning the Jesuits. "If any congregation of men could merit eternal perdition on earth and in hell, it is the company of Loyola."
·         May 7, 1547. Letter of St. Ignatius to the scholastics at Coimbra on Religious Perfection.


Let us pray for the Neophytes (new members) of our church who were or will be received during the Easter Season.