Sunday Sermon for April 3, 2016, the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy), Year C
Readings: Act 5:12-16; Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; Jn 20:19-31
On this great day of the Octave of Easter, as we continue to rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord from the dead and celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday in a particular way, we are faced with a challenge to our faith. We know that Jesus is God and that all power has been given to Him both in Heaven and on earth. We also know that our Lord dwells within us and that He is truly present in the Most Holy Eucharist. At the same time, we see the astronomical increase in sin as well as the persecution and other suffering endured by those who are trying to remain faithful.
We might wonder why we do not see the power of God being displayed. After all, if He would show Himself in His glory some of these persecutors might be converted. Even if nothing else, it would be a great consolation for those who are suffering. While these things are certainly true, we also have to look at what takes place in the readings today.
First of all, Jesus shows Himself to His Apostles on the evening of Easter and then one week later. On each occasion it is the Lord’s Day, just as it was when St. John was given his visions while on the island of Potmos. On each occasion our Lord appears in His resurrected body, although when He appeared to St. John alone our Lord was also glorified in Heaven. However, the fullness of the divinity was present in each case.
We notice that in the mercy of Jesus He appears to His Apostles in a form that they can handle. We know that they thought they were seeing a ghost, at first. However, that soon gave way to joy when they were convinced that it was Jesus. He allowed them not only to see Him, but to touch Him and to examine His wounds. We know that He spoke with the Apostles, ate with them, and gave them authority to forgive sins. This point about granting the Apostles the authority to forgive sins is very important because it demonstrates that He has that authority of Himself. He had given them this authority during His public ministry, but in case someone would try to suggest that He only received glory and, therefore, authority, upon entrance into Heaven, we can see here that this is a false understanding.
Why do I even bring this up? Because in the second reading when St. John saw Jesus the Apostle fell down at the feet of Jesus as though dead. This is the same Apostle who saw our Lord and recorded each of the episodes that we read in the Gospel today. So, the Beloved Disciple, who recognized Jesus in the post resurrection miraculous catch of fish and saw Him in the Upper Room, now beholds a glimpse of His glory and falls down as though all of vigor was taken from him.
Going back to our original question of why Jesus does not show Himself glorious and powerful today, we have to recognize that it is actually His charity and mercy that He does not appear in glory. If someone who knew Jesus so well and someone who was a holy as St. John could not handle such an appearance of the Lord, do we really think that we could? Beyond that, our Lord tells Thomas that those are blessed who have not seen, yet believe.
Remember that St. Peter speaks of the events that took place on Mount Tabor, but then speaks of something that is far more reliable: the Word of God as recorded in the Scriptures. The vision may have been great, but its effects are transitory. Sure it might be wonderful to see our Lord in His glory, but our daily struggles would return and that event would fade into the background. We may not ever forget, but it does not usually have a lasting effect in us.
What does have a lasting effect is faith. Whereas visions and extraordinary things are more on the surface, faith goes deep. When faith is tested and purified through struggle and suffering, it grows deeper and more unshakable. This is exactly what our Lord is seeking from us. If we will live by faith in Jesus Christ, the Lord will do marvelous things in us and through us.
While our call is probably very different from that of the Apostles, we see in the first reading the many ways God worked through them. This was not because of visions; it was because they lived by faith. So, it is part of God’s mercy to allow our faith to be tested so that it will be firm and so that God’s power will shine through us.
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.