Effects of Resurrection are unending

Second Sunday of Easter

Father John A. Kiley

Readings: Acts 2:42-47

1 Peter 1:3-9

John 20:19-31

During the Easter season, the church's liturgy celebrates the life-giving effect of Jesus’ resurrection on the Christian community. Today’s readings present the transforming gifts of Resurrection faith on the life of the early church which was called to live that faith in an often hostile world. In gratitude, we sing the refrain of this Sunday’s responsorial psalm: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,/ his love is everlasting” (Ps 118).

In the Easter season, the first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles, which recounts the work of God’s Spirit in spreading faith in the Resurrection through the apostles’ witness “in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Today’s reading is one of Luke’s idyllic summaries of the life of the early Jerusalem community (see Acts 4:32-35; 5:12-16). It is to be a model for the other fledgling Christian communities throughout the Roman world.

Luke stresses that the Jerusalem church was devoted to the apostles’ instruction, prayer, the breaking of bread (the Eucharist) in their homes, and a sharing of goods “on the basis of each one’s need.” Because of their joyful and sincere lives, the Jerusalem Christians win “the approval of all the people,” and the Lord daily adds to their number “those who were being saved.”

Throughout the Easter season in the A Cycle, the second reading will be from 1 Peter, a letter written to Christians scattered throughout the Roman provinces of Asia Minor (1:1). They seem to be recent converts from paganism who are living in a hostile environment and being subjected to persecution. Today’s reading is the opening prayer of the letter, which is based on the formula of a Jewish blessing.

God is thanked for his gift of a new birth “which draws its life from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” This new birth (baptism) gives Christian converts the right “to an imperishable inheritance” or “salvation,” which will “be revealed in the last days.” While awaiting the completion of their salvation, Christians can expect “to suffer the distress of many trials,” as their faith is tested for its “genuineness.” Peter is confident that his readers will endure this period of testing because, as he says, “Although you have never seen him (Christ), you love him, and without seeing you believe in him.” They are to await Christ’s return in joy, faith, and hope because, as Peter reminds them, “you are achieving faith’s goal, your salvation.”

John’s Gospel account of Jesus' Resurrection appearances has two distinct episodes: an appearance on the first day of the week to the disciples, with Thomas missing, and a second appearance a week later when Thomas was with them. In the first, Jesus is fulfilling the promises he made to his disciples in the farewell discourse at the Last Supper (see chs 13-17). He gives them the gift of “peace” and the Holy Spirit/Paraclete as he sends them into the world, just as he was sent by the Father. The gift of the Spirit enables them to forgive sins.

The appearance to Thomas addresses the readers, and us, who have not had the privilege of seeing the glorified Jesus. Thomas is transformed from an unbeliever, who must see physical signs, to a believer who, when he sees the glorified Jesus, confesses him as “My Lord and my God.” But Jesus’ last words praise those who, like the Christians addressed in 1 Peter, have believed on the testimony of others without having seen the resurrected Jesus: “You (Thomas) became a believer because you saw me. Blest are they who have not seen and have believed.”