Sunday Sermon for April 24, 2022, the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy), Year C
Readings: Acts 5:12-16; Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; Jn 20:19-31
At the end of today’s Gospel reading, St. John tells us he wrote his Gospel so we would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that we would have life flowing from this belief. With this in mind, we must ask ourselves what is necessary to believe Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God? Also, once that belief is established, what is our response?
In response to the first two questions, the Gospel presents the appearances of Jesus to His Apostles on Easter Sunday evening and on the following Sunday. In each of these encounters, our Lord showed His wounds to His Apostles. It is one thing to make a claim about something, but it is another to provide proof. If someone is going to claim to be the Christ, then we need to see the evidence. That is precisely what Jesus is doing.
First, recall that the Apostles did not understand what the resurrection meant. The Messiah, according to Scripture, had to rise from the dead on the third day. Secondly, if someone claimed to have risen from the dead, how do we know it is actually that person? Jesus showed them the wounds that were inflicted on Him in the Passion. He allowed them to touch Him; He ate in their presence. These proofs provided enough evidence for the Apostles to believe He had, indeed, risen from the dead. Being convinced of the resurrection, the Apostles were able to make the act of faith that He is the Christ.
In the Gospel we hear the glorious act of faith made by St. Thomas that Jesus is his Lord and God. It is one thing to see the evidence of the resurrection and, consequently, to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, but to proclaim Him to be God is something far beyond what St. Thomas could see with his eyes or perceive with his senses. Jesus had told them, during His lifetime, that He was the Messiah and that He is truly God. One might reason that St. Thomas could assume that if He spoke the truth about the first two points, then He spoke the truth when He revealed His divinity.
However, the Church also gives us the second reading from the Book of Revelation where St. John, the Beloved Disciple, the one closest to Jesus, is granted a vision of Heaven. He saw Jesus and fell down at His feet as though dead. St. John tells us he saw one like a Son of Man. This refers back to the Book of the Prophet Daniel where one like a Son of Man is presented before the throne of God. This Son of Man receives dominion, power, and kingship. He is God. As the Son of Man He is truly human, but from all eternity He is truly the Son of God.
In the first reading we hear about the many people who came to believe in the Lord Jesus. They joined the Apostles and those who had come to believe in Jesus. We are told that many others were afraid to join the early Christians, but more and more did join them. To be part of this group of people first required an act of faith that Jesus is both Christ and God. Theoretically, one might believe someone could be the Messiah without being God. Jesus, of course, is both.
Once this act of faith has been made, it required an external act to be made. At first, this was joining those who believed in Jesus as they gathered in Solomon’s Portico in the Temple. This was a very public act and, if people did not dare to join in this gathering, we may assume it could have some very unfortunate consequences.
Another way to look at this is that if a person was going to define himself as a believer in Jesus, a change in their way of living was necessary. In the very beginning, it would imply a change from living according to those norms of the Jewish society that were not good. The laws of God did not change, but the people were asked to live, not merely according to the letter of the law, but according to the spirit of the law, that is, with the love with which God gave the law. Later, as the Gentiles joined the early Christians, a far more radical change was required to reject paganism and live according to the teachings and example of our Lord. We who profess our faith in Jesus must also reject the societal norms that oppose the teachings and example of our Lord, and choose to live as persons whose lives proclaim the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.