Sunday, April 19, 2020

Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)

Acts 2:42-47
Ps 118:2-3, 13-15, 22-24
1 Pt 1:3-9
Jn 20:19-31

Today, the Second Sunday of Easter, is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday ever since its formal promulgation by Pope John Paul, II of happy memory in 2000.   The juxtaposition of this feast and the readings for the Second Sunday of Easter is fortuitous.  Faith, Love, and Divine Mercy, are all included.  

When preaching on these readings it is tempting to focus solely on the story of Thomas, or Doubting Thomas as he is colloquially known, so as to engage in the popular indoor sport of Apostle Bashing (a very intense competition in theology schools).  But to do that would miss the deeper meaning of these readings and their interrelationship.  Today’s readings are not about doubt.  They are about faith.  Faith is not the polar opposite of doubt.  Mature faith must always contend with a degree of doubt, sometimes more and sometimes not so much, throughout life.  Faith cannot mature without struggling with doubt. 

The first reading describes the earliest coming together of the Church in the first gatherings of the faithful.  “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.”  That is what we do at Mass:  the communal hearing of the Gospel and the recitation of  prayers as we prepare for the Eucharistic Banquet where we receive the True Body and Blood of our Lord.  Note the description of that earliest congregation,  “They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God.”  We are to imitate them in that. 

The second reading shines a bit of light on the Gospel:  “Although you have not seen him you love him.  Even though you do not see him now yet believe in him you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.”  Peter’s letter describes a joy that is the same as that described in the first reading, a joy that is nourished by participation in this our Eucharistic feast. 

It is reasonable to suspect that in the period between the apostles telling him that Jesus had appeared to them and Jesus' actual appearance detailed in today's gospel, Thomas, despite not having seen him with the rest of the apostles, continued to love the Jesus with whom he had cast his lot so long ago. As is true of the love we maintain for a dead, spouse, parent or friend, Thomas' love for Jesus did not die on the cross. 

Periodically we must ask ourselves, what is faith?  

The definition of faith in the Letter to the Hebrews is unsurpassed, “Now faith is the conviction of things not seen.”  In his Letter to the Romans Paul reminds us that,  “Faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes by the preaching of Jesus Christ.”  That preaching of Jesus Christ does not come to us exclusively in the oral form it did at the Sermon on the Mount or in the many parables.  Jesus’ preaching comes to us in scripture, in the tradition of the Church, and in the reception of the sacraments. The first two readings are important because they tell us what it means to be a Church, what it means to be a people of faith, and what we can expect.  The gospel tells us something a bit different though complementary

A superficial reading of the Gospel's portrayal of Thomas supplies us with a tempting target.  Indeed it is too easy a target as Thomas becomes someone against whom we can compare ourselves in a self-righteous manner.  He can be used to compare and condemn others whose faith we do not feel is adequate.  Calling someone 'a doubting Thomas' is generally not a compliment. This comparison too is generally done from the position of smug self-righteousness. 

At the end of the Gospel Jesus asks a question and gives a blessing, “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”  It is worth pondering  in relation to ourselves.  

Neither John’s Gospel nor the synoptic gospels were meant to be albums with verbal snapshots of detailed scenes from Jesus' life.  The gospels are not a log book that traces Jesus' daily movements--there is no Captain Kirkian-like "Star Date" affixed to them.  The gospels are not a diary of Jesus’ day-to-day thoughts. The gospels  are not history in the modern understanding of the word. Any attempt to read the gospels through the lens of modern historical convention is doomed to failure and perhaps high comedy.  We can never interpret the gospels in the light of the modern concepts of history, journalism, and science without frustration and faithlessness.  The less said about novels such as The da Vinci Code the better.  

The last sentence of this Gospel passage puts the nature of the Gospels into perspective:  “Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in His name.” 

The Gospel proclaims one essential truth, that Jesus of Nazareth, of whom it speaks, is the Lord.  Thus, the fullness of Easter joy is contained in Thomas’ faith-filled, startled, and ultimately joyous proclamation:  "My Lord and My God."  It is why we too can gaze upon the True Body and Blood of Christ at the consecration and say with Thomas and all the Church, “My Lord and My God.”  

"Give thanks to the Lord, 
for he is good, 
his love is everlasting."

Alleluia, alleluia.
Photos taken at the Divine Mercy liturgy at sv. Jože in Ljubljana on the Second Sunday of Easter 2017.  

The archway at the main entrance of sv. Jože.  

Vestments are the ready. 

Sacred vessels for the Mass

Taken about an hour before the liturgy.  The church was packed with long lines for confession.  Took this photo from behind and under the altar, a favorite vantage point.   Jože Plečnik designed the altar.  Looking at much of his work in LJ it is apparent that columns were a signature element.  
 Congregants brought the candles to the image of Divine Mercy and aligned them according to color.  

From the loft.  Prior to Mass there was time for Eucharistic adoration. 

Fr. Tomaž leading the prayers of adoration.  I can't recall if the rosary was said aloud during this interval.  By the time the liturgy was over I'd walked about two-and-a-half miles. 

The entrance procession for the Mass.  The Archbishop a few minutes late.  He lives across the street.  

The Archbishop of Ljubljana.

Entrance procession for the Mass.

Wide angle view of the church.  The commies confiscated it for years and used it as a movie studio.  It was returned to the Society only 25 or so years ago.  It needs work.


Fr. Mio Kekić at communion.  Very good man who was helpful while I lived in the community. 

Eucharistic Procession. 

 +Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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