Divine Mercy Sunday – Year B

Welcome Back to Banquet of the Word!

Join us every week for background on this weekend’s readings here.
Our mission is simple:
We want to help everyone in “pew-land” get more out of mass.

*Today I’ve included some information about how the Liturgy of the Word – the readings – are very different than during Ordinary Time, Lent, or any other Season.*

Fun Fact:
After 40 days of Lent, we now get to celebrate 50 days of Easter! That’s right, Easter will not end for another 43 days on Pentecost, which is May 20th.

Bonus Fun Fact:
Because we are in the Easter season, we take a break from the Old Testament, and in a sense, from the Old Covenant. When Jesus died on the cross, He ushered in the New Covenant. The Church marks this by always readings from the New Testament during Easter. In Year B, we’ll read mostly from Acts, 1st letter of John, and John’s gospel.

FIRST READING ACTS 5:12-16

(The 1st Reading is Old Testament. It always links to the Gospel.)

The book of Acts is written by Luke. It is literally “Part II” of Luke’s writing, (his gospel being Part I). In Greek, “Acts” is “praxis” which means “Acts of.” “Praxis” was a literary genre.  Just as “Sherlock Holmes” is a mystery writing, “Praxis” writing was always about a great figure who built a great city.  When “Acts” was written, one of the other books in circulation was called, “the Acts of Caesar Augustus,” also about a figure who built a great city. Luke is trying to resonate with his audience of that time. Knowing his audience liked “praxis” writing that was about leaders building a great city, he shares a story about another great figure who will build a great city. That could be Jesus building Heaven and/or the Apostles building the Church. A great rhetorical move on his part.

Today we’re in chapter 4 of Acts. We see the community of believer’s being ‘of one heart and mind’. This is God’s ultimate and perfect goal for his people – and has been from the beginning of time, starting with Adam and Eve, then the Israelites, now everyone – Israelites plus Gentiles. It’s also a contrast to the Tower of Babel – when everyone was competing against one another trying to outdo – and outbuild – God. Today’s reading is an image of a world at peace:

Reading 1
ACTS 4:32-35

The community of believers was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common.
With great power the apostles bore witness
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
and great favor was accorded them all.
There was no needy person among them,
for those who owned property or houses would sell them,
bring the proceeds of the sale,
and put them at the feet of the apostles,
and they were distributed to each according to need.

 

Psalm 118:
Give thanks to the Lord, His love is everlasting
(The Psalm is a “response” to what we heard in the 1st Reading)

Key notes here are the repeated phrases concerning mercy, as today is Divine Mercy Sunday. Also the well-known verse, “the stone which the builder rejected (Jesus) has become the cornerstone (the Risen One, the Messiah, the King of Kings.)

Reading 2
1 JN 5:1-6
(The 2nd reading for Easter Year B is from the 1st letter of St. John. Its purpose is to combat certain false ideas, especially about Jesus, and to deepen the spiritual and social awareness. Language is simple).

Today in John’s first letter, which is Reading #2, we hear the term “begotten” several times. This is a reminder that although Christ was born to his mother and was an infant, because He is God, he never had a beginning and an end as we think of it in our earthly bodies. In this reading we can see the relationship between Jesus and His Father – Our Father.  We are called to obey His commandments.

Beloved: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God, and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by him. In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and blood.
The Spirit is the one that testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.

 

Gospel: John 20:19-31
(The Gospel is the highest point of the Liturgy of the Word. That’s why we stand.
We are about to hear from and be instructed by Christ Himself.)

This is the well-known reading on “doubting Thomas.” Poor St. Thomas. He gets quite a bad rap sometimes I think. We shake our fingers at him for having doubted, and yet we doubt so often ourselves.

First, Jesus offers the disciples peace in this reading. He doesn’t suggest it, or say here take peace if you want it, take it if you promise to pass it on to others, he simply says “Peace be with you.”It is a gift He is giving them. I see this as his way of telling us that with closeness to Christ, in relationship with Him, comes certain peace. We will always know peace when we are nearer to Him.

Then we see Thomas put his finger into Jesus’s side so that he might believe. Jesus has been raised from the dead, and yet he still bears the wounds. He bears wounds from his crucifixion, the wounds we created. I find this fascinating, and worthy of time in prayer. The Church teaches that when we die, we go through a cleansing/purifying process in purgatory. This is a “pit-stop” on the way to Heaven. A priest explained it like this: A 2 x 4 piece of wood is your soul. It starts out clean and unblemished. With each sin, we drive a nail through it. When we are absolved in confession, those nails are removed! The sins are forgiven. But the hole remains. Because nothing imperfect can enter into Heaven, we must be fully healed of the holes too, and that happens in purgatory. Once the nail holes are filled in and perfected, off to Heaven we go.

So why does Jesus keep his holes? He’s the son of God, so why didn’t He heal them and close them up? I think it was so that He could show the apostles, of course, that it was indeed Him…but it also serves as a reminder that we put the holes there. We drove the nails in. Our sins put Jesus on the cross, and He embraced death without opening His mouth so that our holes can one day be fully healed. These holes are just one more way we see our Shepherd lay down His life for us. Let us remember to thank God on this Divine Mercy Sunday, for the unconditional love and forgiveness he offers us.  And let us thank Him for sending to us the apostles and priests who stand in for Him here on earth, so that we can keep trying. Keep working. Keep taking the nails out, even though his holes remain.

May God bless your week!

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Author: Cindy Skalicky

Background: While enrolled in coursework at the Denver Catholic Biblical School (CBS), I developed a passion for scripture. Prior to CBS, I knew so little about the bible. I was in a complete "fog", unable to see what I heard at mass or make any connections (even though I have been a lector for 20 years). The climax of every Mass is the banquet of the Eucharist. But before that, we attend the banquet of the Word - a "4-course meal" that includes the 1st Reading, Responsorial Psalm, 2nd Reading, and Gospel. At this "Banquet of the Word", we encounter Christ through His Word before we meet Him at the Eucharistic table. Increasing my knowledge of scripture has brought me out of the fog and into the light. I invite you to visit weekly. If you have limited scriptural knowledge, Be Not Afraid. Scripture is God's voice; in It, He speaks to you personally. Believe me, I know from experience how intimidating the Bible can be - in its length, the numerous styles in which it's written, and the messages therein. This is why I find it works well to explore scripture through the Sunday readings, which cover Old Testament, Wisdom Literature, the Pastoral Letters, and the Gospels. Join me on this journey, one week at a time.

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