Saint Vincent Archabbey
Second Sunday of Easter, Classic
John 20: 19–31
The first thing that we notice in today's gospel is the amazing effect that the presence and words of Jesus have on his confused and frightened disciples. He finds them in hiding, completely immobilized by the terrible realization of the death of their beloved leader. He addresses them cheerfully with the standard greeting: "Peace." Under normal circumstances, this simply means that one wishes another well. But it means far more than that when spoken by the risen Lord. The disciples feel that the world is out of control. Jesus assures them that such is not the case. In fact, he is there to offer them the gift of deep and unshakable confidence. In spite of dire appearances, all is well.
The reason that all is well is because Jesus now offers them the Spirit. This Holy Spirit has the ability to enter the deepest recesses of their being and to make Jesus more truly present to them than he ever was when they knew him in the flesh. Jesus offers the same Spirit to us also and this Spirit can make Jesus wonderfully present to us. For it is this same Spirit who convinces us of the love of God for us … and, to the extent that we know that, we have nothing to fear.
We recall how God took his good spirit from King Saul and gave it to King David (1 Samuel 16: 13–14). The consequence was dramatic. Saul would slip deeper and deeper into darkness and despair, while David seemed to lead a charmed life in spite of sins and tragedies. In fact, he became the model of the Messiah and has been a favorite subject for sculptors and painters ever since.
Thomas was not there to receive the Spirit and so he could not trust the good news that the other disciples shared with him. However, when he met Jesus later, everything changed and he allowed Jesus to become thenceforth the center of his life. The witness of others is always important, but nothing can replace a personal encounter with the Lord.
One One need not look far in our world today for attitudes of cynicism and distrust. We should avoid becoming gullible or naïve, of course, but we must at all cost learn how to trust. The risen Lord offers us his Spirit and, if we open our hearts to that best of all gifts, we will be able to trust when it is proper to do so.
Most of all, we will trust God's promises, which tell us, in essence, that we can share in the life of Jesus if we dare to be kind and thoughtful and loving in a world that is too often thoughtless and cruel. We really cannot be trusting without the help of God, but with that help we can avoid the terrible pessimism of Saul and acquire the positive, hopeful spirit of David. This positive spirit is found everywhere in the Psalms, which have been attributed to David, not because he wrote more than a few of them, but because the authors of these beautiful prayers were all people like David.
A special gift of the Spirit is the confidence and freedom that allows us to forgive others. Life is just too short for holding grudges or for nursing old injuries. And when we let go of these burdens we will enter more and more into the joy and generosity of the Spirit. In this way, we will not only be free to face the future with courage but we will also become much more pleasant fellow travelers for those who are making the journey with us.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.
Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), Modern
Acts 4:32-35 John 20; 19-31
The Resurrection of Jesus transformed the world in ways that we will never fully comprehend. It was an act of pure and unconditional love of God for us, in which God embraced us and became one of us, suffered and died for our sake, and rose so that we too can share eternal life. Before the Resurrection the most devout lived in hope that the Messiah would come and free them from earthly oppression and bondage, but after the resurrection came the realization by the apostles, disciples and those who came to believe in Jesus that Jesus is the Messiah who gave us so much more; more than was ever imagined. Jesus, through his death and resurrection, gives us complete forgiveness of our sins and the gift of eternal life. The Apostles themselves did not understand who Jesus truly was until after the resurrection. In the Gospel account of the Transfiguration Jesus instructed Peter, James and John not to tell anyone until he had "risen from the dead" and we are told that they did not know what he meant. After the resurrection they began to understand the meaning of the experience on the mountain with Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Faith in Jesus brings us into the reality that for the faithful "life does not end, it merely changes."
The resurrection of Jesus and how it changed the world was not easy to accept at first. The Gospel describes the disciples on that first Easter locked in the upper room in fear, as if in a tomb. Jesus enters the room despite the locked doors and stands in their midst. He greets them with words of peace and it seems that they are overwhelmed by his presence.
When the absent Thomas arrives afterwards, they can't wait to tell him that Jesus is truly risen and that he had visited them in this upper room. We are all too familiar with response that resulted with Thomas being forever known as "doubting Thomas." A week later they are still in the upper room and the doors are still locked. This room has truly become their tomb. They are still in fear and afraid to go out even after the experience of seeing the Risen Lord. Jesus appears again and takes Thomas on the words he spoke to the rest of the disciples a week earlier, and invites him to put his hands in the wounds. Thomas has seen enough and he then makes a profession of faith. The disciples experienced the reality of the love and mercy of our Risen Lord, and were able to leave fear behind and venture out of the upper room.
During the Easter Season we are called to leave fear behind and to allow the love of our Risen Lord more deeply in our lives. The Risen Lord loves us and there is no reason for us to lock ourselves in our own tombs of fear. This Sunday is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday so as to reinforce the reality of the depth of God's love for us. A love that is far greater than any fault, failing or sin that we have. His mercy is His gift to us and he is just waiting for us to accept this gift, to unwrap it and allow it to fill us with his mercy, love and peace. During Easter let us welcome the Lord and allow him to away our fears and fill us with his peace. May we continue to joyously proclaim, "Alleluia!" as a response to the gift of God's mercy and love.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
The Annunciation, Modern
We celebrate the feast of the Annunciation on an unusual date this year, owing to the date of Easter. We are accustomed to marking the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary on March 25th, but this year Palm Sunday falls on that date. Since Palm Sunday forms an intimate part of the Paschal mystery of Christ's death and resurrection and is the launching point for Holy Week it has a greater place in the Church's worship than the Annunciation, and so the Annunciation is moved to the nearest date after the Octave of Easter, which in 2018 happens to be April 9th.
The Church in no way shows a lack of respect for Mary by doing this; on the contrary we focus on the mystery of Christ in all of our liturgical commemorations, and by marking the Annunciation—the moment of the incarnation of Christ—so closely after Easter we highlight the bond between the two feasts and the union between the Church's reverence for Mary and its worship of Christ.
To better understand this we might consider that the events which are marked by the feast of the Annunciation and those remembered during Holy Week and the Easter season are all part of the same mystery of Christ's person.
The Annunciation marks the moment when the God's "Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:14) in the womb of the Virgin Mary. This is indeed something extraordinary to celebrate since, as our Church has long taught, "human nature as [Christ] assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too." This means that "by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin" (Gaudium et Spes 22).
Holy Week and the Easter season, for their part, re-present liturgically the culmination of Christ's earthly life. In the process they teach us that the mystery of his person which begins to unfold for us through the Annunciation and incarnation comes to its fullness in the events of his passion, death, and glorious resurrection.
In a certain way the prophet Isaiah anticipates this mystery of God uniting with humanity, as we hear in today's first reading: "the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us!'" (Isa 7:14; 8:10). Emmanuel, "God is with us," is the name of the awaited messiah of Israel, and represents his sharing in our human joys and sorrows.
The union of divinity and humanity forecast by Isaiah is then recognized by the archangel Gabriel in the Gospel when he says to Mary: "the child born to you will be called holy, the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).
To bring our celebration of the Annunciation during the Easter season full circle we note that the opening prayer for mass today offers a reminder of how we will one day share in the union of divinity and humanity prophesied by Isaiah, recognized within the Virgin Mary, and seen perfectly in Jesus Christ. We pray: "O God, who willed that your Word should take on the reality of human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, grant that we, who confess our Redeemer to be God and man, may merit to become partakers even in his divine nature." On this joyful feast of Mary let us remember that her glory is her son Jesus Christ and she ever-faithfully leads us to participate in his divine life.
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.