Sunday, 4/11/2021, Second Sunday of Easter
Divine Mercy Sunday
Sharing God’s Love
First Reading Commentary: Acts 4:32-35
Today we learn that the believers, who were the people who made up the early Church, formed a community and that they shared everything. If anyone owned property or land, they sold it and gave the money to the Apostles. The money was then distributed among everyone else according to their need.
It would be nice if we lived in such a world. Those who have more than they will ever need, share with those who are in need. There would be no more poverty and no more hunger. But there is too much sin in the world for such a society to exist today. Specifically, the two deadly sins of greed and sloth keep us from ever co-existing in such a way. And as if those two sins were not enough, there is hatred.
There are too many people who have more than they need but want more and will do anything to get more even if it means taking away from people who are poor. Those people are plagued with greed.
There are too many people who are in need but are too lazy to do anything to help their situation. They feel as though everybody else owes them something. Those people are plagued with sloth.
There are too many people in this world who choose to hate. There is no logical reason for it although they will try to justify their hatred with lies about other people. There is no justification for it. They simply choose to hate anyone and everyone who does not come from where they come from, look the same as they look or believe what they believe. All violations of the Second Greatest Commandment. And yet, some of these haters will proclaim themselves to be Christian. NOT!
But we see that the early believers formed a community which was void of poverty and hunger. Why were they able to do it? You could say that the answer is because they were believers and God took care of them. That is true but the real answer is deeper than that.
They did not just believe in Christ nor did they expect God to just give them everything. They understood the answer that Jesus gave when He was asked the question, what is the greatest commandment? Jesus said to love God with everything that you have and to love your neighbor as yourself. The people understood that you have to love God in order to love your neighbor and you have to love your neighbor in order to love God. You can’t have one love without the other. The early believers took that to heart and lived by the Greatest Commandments and they were rewarded.
There are many people in today’s society who claim to be believers, claim to be saved, claim to have fear in the Lord, go to church faithfully and the like. But many of those people are full of hot air because when it comes to loving their neighbor as they love themselves, they fall way short of the mark. Helping others is not in their make-up.
Now I am not advocating that we all go out and sell everything that we own and turn the money over. We are not all called by God to do that. There are some people who have been called to do that and they stepped up to the plate and answered God’s call. St. Katharine Drexel is an example.
What I am saying is that the next time you consider what actions our government should take on programs that will help the less fortunate and the needy, remember today’s first reading. Whenever you consider giving to charitable organizations, remember this reading. The next time you come across someone who is in need, remember this reading and don’t ignore them or look down on them. Instead, be a Christian who is not full of hot air—help that person even if you can only give a single dollar.
Love and Faith Bring Us Victory
Second Reading Commentary: 1 John 5:1-6
John, in his first letter, teaches us that if we believe that Jesus Christ is begotten by God and we love God the Father, then we also love the One who is begotten and that is the Son. In other words, to believe in Christ is to love Christ. John goes on by telling us that by loving the Son, we love the children of God and keep His commandments because to love God is to keep His commandments.
I had to read the beginning of today’s reading a few times to get a sense of what John was really telling us. After meditating on it for some time, I concluded that John was making reference to the Greatest Commandments: Love God and love thy neighbor.
I have commented before that we cannot love God if we do not love our neighbor and we cannot love our neighbor if we do not love God. John’s message here is that if we truly love God, we also love our neighbor and if we truly love our neighbor, we also love God because God is love.
Consider this: We are all God’s children. Jesus, in His humanity took on everything human except for sin. Therefore, in His humanity, Jesus is also a child of God. In His divinity, Jesus is God the Son and therefore, it is God whom we love when we love our neighbor because Jesus is both neighbor and God. This is why we cannot obey one of the Greatest Commandments without obeying the other and we cannot disobey one of the Greatest Commandments without disobeying them both.
John tells us that God’s commandments are not burdensome for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world and that the victor is the one who believes that Jesus is the Son. Anyone who believes in God should find it easy to love God so there is no burden but let’s take a closer look at the victory.
The final victory will come on the last day with the second coming of Christ. We always think of Christ as the victor and surely, He is as He completes His destruction of evil and defeat over the devil. So how can we be victorious over the world? It is our entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven which is our victory over the world.
Think of Paul’s message about completing the race. This life is a journey and a race to get to heaven. It is a difficult and enduring race; we suffer hardships and all of us fall along the way. It is not a race against the clock or a race to see who can reach the finish line first. But it is a race and all we have to do is cross the finish line to win.
When we cross the gates of heaven, we cross that finish line. All of our difficulties and hardships are behind us. It does not matter how many times we fall along the way or how long it takes for us to complete the race. Once we pass by the gates of heaven, our race is over and victory is ours.
That victory is there for each and every single one of us to achieve, one person at a time and John is telling us that if we love God and put our faith in God, we will win the race.
John ends this part of his letter by telling us that Christ came to us by water and blood. When I first read this, I immediately thought of Christ on the cross. I thought of the lance piercing His side and out came blood and water. But why did blood and water come from the side of Christ and not just blood?
There was blood because Christ was human and came to us as a man. But there was water because Christ also came to us in Baptism and through Baptism, we belong to Christ.
Remember that the whole Trinity was present at the Baptism of Jesus. The Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove and the Father spoke saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22 With: the presence of the whole Trinity, Jesus came to us in His divinity as the Son by way of His Baptism.
Jesus gave more than His human life in taking away the sins of the world with His blood on the cross. Jesus completely emptied Himself and gave all of Himself, for our salvation. There can be no greater reason for us to love Him.
It’s All About, Faith
Gospel Commentary: John 20:19-31
In today’s Gospel, the disciples were locked in the upper room and Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
The first thing that Jesus did after He offered His peace to the disciples was to re-enforce their priesthood with the words, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” This was the first part of the process of making the priesthood of the disciples complete and ordaining them as the first bishops of the Church. They were already given the authority to consecrate bread and wine into the Living Body and Blood. That authority was given to the disciples when they were ordained by Jesus at the Last Supper.
But now, the disciples were also given the authority to absolve sins as Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Confession (Reconciliation) for the second time. With this, the process of making the disciples’ priesthood was complete and the disciples became the first bishops of the Church. They were now Apostles.
The first time that Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Confession was when Jesus declared Peter as the Rock and said to him, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19
One of the issues that I have with Non-Catholic Christians is that they do not accept this sacrament. The most common objection that I hear is that they don’t see why they should confess their sins to another man. I maintain that if you are going to declare yourself as a true, loyal Christian and a complete Christian, you must accept everything that Christ said and did without exception. Christ instituted this sacrament. If you reject Confession, you reject this Gospel as well as Matthew 16:13-20.
When Jesus told the disciples to receive the Holy Spirit, He was strengthening the Holy Spirit within them. This is what happens in the Sacrament of Confirmation. To this day, the Sacrament of Confirmation is conferred on someone by a bishop unless the authority is granted to a priest by the bishop. This is common at the Easter Vigil when those coming into the Church are usually confirmed by the priest of the parish because it is physically impossible for the bishop to visit every church in the diocese at the same time.
Now Thomas was not with the other disciples and he did not believe that Jesus had appeared to them. So, when a week later, Jesus appeared again and Thomas was present, Jesus told Thomas to put his finger into His hand and to put his hand into His side. Thomas did this and said, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Why did Thomas have to see Jesus for himself in order to believe that Jesus had appeared to the others? For the same reason, that Non-Catholic Christians do not accept Confession. The reason was because Thomas’ faith was weakened by the fact that he was thinking in a worldly way which caused him to have doubt. Once again, we are taught, by the example of Thomas, not to do that.
We see with Thomas, that the best of us will get ourselves into trouble every time that we think of God in a worldly way. When we think about God, we have to remember that He is not of this world. God made this world. We have to step out of the box and stop thinking about God in the same way that we think about things on earth.
This has been one of the common messages during Lent and remains a common message throughout the Gospels especially those where Jesus is performing His Great Works (miracles). We have to let our human need of having hard evidence and tangible proof go when we think about God. We have to use our faith instead. When we run into trouble with doing that, remember this Gospel. Remember what Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” And then say what Thomas said, “My Lord and my God.” Amen.