Happy Easter! Yes it is still Easter. After spending 40 days of Lent preparing ourselves for Easter we spend the 50 days of the Easter Season celebrating the core event of our faith. During this time the readings tell us about the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to the disciples and what those appearances mean to us as followers of the “Risen One.” This Sunday the Church celebrates the Octave Day of Easter also called the Second Sunday of Easter. The readings for this Sunday deal with the person of our resurrected Savior and His presence in the community of His followers. His presence is just as real and as full wherever His followers gather now as it was when they gathered in Jerusalem and Galilee two thousand years ago. This should be the source of great comfort to us. No matter what life throws at us, Our Lord is alive, not just in a far off Heaven but right here with us just as He was with the disciples so long ago.
First Reading: Acts 2: 42-47
42 They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. 43 Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. 46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
NOTES on First Reading:
This is the first and the most comprehensive of the three major summaries given in Acts. The other two are 4:32-37, and 5:12-16. All of the summaries are idealized and express a sense of the community being graced by God.
The summaries are not just transitions between events they also serve the function of outlining the characteristics of the Jerusalem community of believers. Among these characteristics are: the central place of the Eucharistic liturgy in the religious life of the community the faithfulness of the community to the teachings of the twelve the use of a system of distribution of goods that led wealthy members to sell their possessions when needed to support the community’s poor continued attendance at the temple. The original Christians had no thought of separating themselves from their Jewish past.
Luke and Acts (same author) has continuity of the New Covenant with the Old Covenant and continuity of the church’s teaching with that of the Twelve and with Jesus’ teaching as main themes.
“Breaking of the bread” is a technical term in Luke-Acts referring to the Eucharist. (See Luke 9:11-27;22:14-38;24:35)
Second Reading: 1 Peter 1: 3-9
3 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, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you 5 who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time. 6 In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, 7 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. 8 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, 9 as you attain the goal of (your) faith, the salvation of your souls.
NOTES on Second Reading:
Verses 3-5 are prayers of praise and thanksgiving beginning with a variation of a very common introductory formula in Jewish prayer. See Gen 9:26 and Psalm 66:20.
The reference, in verse 3, to “the Father of Our Lord Jesus” is probably meant to indicate that God is not distant which had been one of the key messages of Jesus. The new birth is a radical new start provided by God as one of the consequences that Jesus’ resurrection has for us. God is revealed and does all things through His Son. The word, “inheritance,” (4) is used in the Old Testament for the land of Canaan given to Israel by God, “the promised land.” Here the reference is to God’s promise to Israel fulfilled in the Church. The word translated as “imperishable,” means that but it also carries the idea of remaining “unconquered or unravaged by any invading army.” What is it that we might have that is “unfading?” –Only God Himself! See Ps 16:5; 73:23-26; Lam 3:24.
The word, “faith” (5) is used in varied ways in 1 Peter. Here it means faith in the sense of trust in God. The word (~phrourein~) translated as safeguard means, “protect or keep with a garrison.”
The salvation spoken of was eschatological salvation which the early Christians believed to be imminent. They had several beliefs about the last days: that they were already living in the last days. God had already invaded time. that the Spirit would be poured out in the last days. that before the end, evil would make a last assault with false teachers. that in the last days, the dead would be resurrected. that the last days would bring a time of justice at God’s judgment.
Much of the point of verses 6 through 9 is that as the glory of Christ’s resurrection was preceded by suffering so the new life it gives is subject to trial even while achieving its goal. In verse 6, the antecedent of the pronoun, “this,” is the entire thought of the previous statement. Paul goes on to give three reasons for our being able to carry on no matter what evil comes our way: We are full of joy in our inheritance. It is a trial, a test which will leave us stronger. The genuineness of our faith will be to the honor and praise and glory of God at the return of Jesus.
The suffering that is mentioned was mainly a social dislocation in a pagan world which is being likened to the suffering of Christ. At this time the serious more organized persecutions were still in the future. The term, “poikilon,” translated as “various” literally means “many colored.” The only other use of this word in the New Testament is in 1 Peter 4:10 where it describes God’s grace.
Gospel Reading: John 20: 19-31
20:19 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.” 20:20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 20:21 (Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 20:22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 20:23 Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
20:24 Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 20:25 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 nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 20:26 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.” 20:27 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.” 20:28 Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 20:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of (his) disciples that are not written in this book. 20:31 But these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
NOTES on Gospel:
The appearances to the disciples, without or with Thomas (John 11:16; 14:5), have rough parallels in the other gospels only for John 20:19-23; see Luke 24:36-39; Mark 16:14-18. Implicitly from John 20:24 “the disciples” means ten of the Twelve, presumably in Jerusalem. “Peace be with you” echoes John 14:27. The theme of rejoicing in John 20:20 echoes John 16:22.
John 20:20 differs from Luke 24:39-40 which mentions “hands and feet,” based on Psalm 22:17.
Though John does not use the noun in reference to them, verse 21 is where the Eleven really become Apostles (“those sent”); see John 17:18. Matthew 28:19, Luke 24:47, and Mark 16:15 also make a solemn mission or “sending” the subject of the post-resurrection appearances to the Eleven.
The action in verse 22 echoes Genesis 2:7, where God breathed on the first man and gave him life. Just as Adam’s life came from God, so now the disciples’ new spiritual life comes from Jesus. They are new creations in this Spirit of Jesus. See also the revivification of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37. This event is John’s version of Pentecost. The apostles did truly receive the Holy Spirit at this time although the gifts of the Holy Spirit were not manifested until Pentecost.
In verse 23, Jesus gives his apostles the task of continuing His ministry of reconciliation. They are charged with the task of forgiving sins as He had done during His ministry. This was defined by the Council of Trent as a scriptural basis for the sacrament of Penance. See also Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18.
The words (28), “My Lord and my God”, form a literary inclusion with the first verse of the gospel, “and the Word was God.”
Verse 29 is a beatitude on future generations. Jesus tells us that faith, not sight, matters.
Verse 30-31 are clearly a conclusion to the gospel and express its purpose. Many manuscripts read, “come to believe,” possibly implying a missionary purpose for John’s gospel but a small number of quite early ones read, “continue to believe,” which many scholars suggest, indicates that the audience consists of Christians whose faith was to be deepened by the book. See also John 19:35.