Sunday Sermon for April 12, 2015, the Second Sunday of Easter, Year B
Readings: Acts 4:32-35; 1Jn 5:1-6; Jn 20:19-31
Today the Church celebrates the Octave Day of Easter. According to the revelation of God to the Jewish people, the last day of the Feast is the greatest of all of the days. We celebrated with great glory the resurrection of Jesus from the dead a week ago. Each day of the Octave is a continual celebration of that same blessed event. But today, we not only continue the celebration of Easter, but now we have the added glory of celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday.
As we look back to Good Friday, we know that it is the shedding of our Lord’s Precious Blood that purchased for us the forgiveness of our sins. So, one might wonder, why do we celebrate Divine Mercy a week later? It is because the mercy of God extends beyond just the forgiveness of sins, as extraordinary as that is of itself, and opens for us the way to eternal life. The granting of eternal life in Heaven is a far greater act of mercy than is the forgiveness of our sins. Of course, we cannot enter into life without first having our sins forgiven. So these two points of mercy are inseparable.
There is yet another aspect to our celebration of God’s mercy today. We proclaim that Jesus is the victor over sin and death. This victory was achieved in and through His death and resurrection, but we could only place our faith in this mystery because of the resurrection. If Jesus had died on the Cross but not risen on the third day, we would not be proclaiming salvation in His Name, nor the forgiveness of sins through the shedding of His Blood, nor eternal life for those who believe. Without the resurrection, we would have no reason to believe.
He pronounced to His Apostles what the Scriptures had revealed: that the Messiah would rise from the dead on the third day. Many people in the ancient world died by crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. None of them claimed to be the Messiah, and none of them rose from the dead. There were several who made the claim to be the Messiah, as there have been ever since. We do not believe in any of them because they did not (or do not) fulfill what the Bible says regarding the Messiah. We believe Jesus is the Christ because of His resurrection.
However, it is not just that we believe in the death and resurrection of Christ. We also profess our belief that He is the Son of God. He is also the Son of Mary, so we believe that Jesus is both divine and human. St. John tells us in the Gospel reading today that the reason for putting forth his Gospel we that we might have belief in Jesus Christ and, through that belief, have life in His Name.
This statement on the part of St. John comes in the context of the resurrection. Still, we have to ask, what is it about Jesus that we believe in Him? In the second reading today St. John tells us that what we believe in is that Jesus is the Son of God. To make it clear what he means, St. John goes on to say of Jesus that He came in water and in blood. The water, in this case, refers to His divinity and the blood to His humanity. In other words, we know that we become children of God in our baptism, but no one will be saved by believing in us. So the clarity regarding Jesus is necessary to make us understand that He is the only begotten Son of God by nature and that He took our humanity to Himself so that He would have the capacity to die for us.
It is also in this humanity that He had the ability to rise from the dead. So the death and resurrection are only possible because He is fully human, but our faith in Him is that He is also fully divine. His resurrection, as we see in the Gospel, regards His human body. While it is still human with physical attributes, it is also glorified. So He can appear before His Apostles, even though the door was locked, but Thomas can still put his finger in the holes in our Lord’s hands and side.
So, our faith is that Jesus is the Son of God Who became the Son of Man. This faith, St. John tells us makes us victors over the world. The world offers sin and death to us. Our faith in Jesus offers us the means to conquer both. This victory demonstrates profoundly the scope of the divine mercy which is given to us and provides for us the reason for celebrating this great gift today.
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.