Happy Easter! For this weekend’s readings, click here.
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, so continue to wish each other a Happy Easter. Easter officially ends on Pentecost, which is May 15th.
Bonus Fun Fact:
Because we are in the Easter season, we take a break from the Old Testament, 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 C, we’ll read mostly from Acts, Revelation, and John’s gospel.
First Reading ACTS 5:12-16
The book of Acts is written by Luke. It is literally “Part II” of Luke’s writing, his gospel being Part I. The Greek word for “acts” is “praxis”, which means “Acts of.” “Praxis” was a literary genre, and in such writing, the story was usually about a great figure who built a great city. So when Acts was written, one of the other writings in circulation was called, “the Acts of Caesar Augustus,” indeed about a figure who built a great city. So while it is the case that this book is the actions of the apostles, Luke is also trying to resonate with his audience. Luke shares with us 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.
What Luke does thematically is quite interesting. In his gospel, he writes about certain acts Jesus performs that demonstrate his divine kingship – that He is the Messiah. In Acts, Luke writes about the acts of the apostles, and these actions largely mirror the actions of Jesus. So if you make a list from left to right of the stories Luke tells in Acts of the Apostles, and lay them over a similar list of the stories Luke told about Jesus, there would be a lot of matching stories. And that’s what we have here. In this reading, Luke is sharing the miracles that the apostles are now able to perform, since they have been sent forth by Christ himself.
“Solomon’s Portico” is a covered walkway in the temple, and this is where the apostles were. In the name of Jesus, the apostles displayed extraordinary power over demons, death, and disease. This was especially true of Peter, the leader of the apostles and the first pope. We see here that the seeds of the new Church are sprouting, and people are beginning to believe in the miracles God allows through His apostles, which is why a large number of people in the towns begin to bring their sick to be healed, even if it is “at least by his [Peter’s] shadow.”
Give thanks to the Lord, His love is everlasting
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.)
Revelation 1: 9-13, 17-19
Here we are at the beginning of the book of Revelation, written by John, the beloved disciple. He is on the island of Patmos, where he’s been imprisoned for his belief in Christ and his desire to spread the faith. He enters into a beautiful, heavenly vision, and his notes become the book of Revelation. He took good notes (“Write on a scroll what you see”).
Of note is the line, “I was caught up in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” The Lord’s Day by then, had switched from Saturday to Sunday. To say that he was caught up in the Spirit, scholars believe, is to say that John was engaged in prayer and worship – likely saying mass – when his vision began. Now that is amazing and striking to think about. He was in the middle of mass, and he was carried off into Heaven. In a sense, this happens to us every Sunday. If you’ve ever read Scott Hahn’s book, “The Lamb’s Supper,” you’ve heard the beautiful connection between the book of Revelation and its close ties to the Mass itself. We get the mass – the liturgy – from the book of Revelation. John’s heavenly visions directly inform our mass. As Hahn says, when we go to mass, we go to Heaven on Earth.
In the reading, we see John’s inaugural vision of the book of Revelation. The number 7 signifies completion in the bible. God created the world in 7 days. Throughout the book of Revelation we see a lot of “7s” – here, 7 lampstands. (The lampstands are the 7 churches about which John will write starting in Revelation chapter 2). John sees “one like the son of man” (sound familiar? Think back to Daniel 7:13). Jesus is described in both human and divine terms. Then Jesus tells him not to be afraid (in the bible, this usually means something big is coming for the person encountering Jesus, in this case John). For Jesus to have the keys of “death and of the netherworld” means that Jesus is the ultimate judge. He has power over life and death, not Pilate, not Caesar, not any man.
Lastly, we get an outline of the book. At the end of the reading, Jesus tells John to “write down, therefore, what you have seen (Christ’s death and resurrection), and what is happening (this vision), and what will happen afterwards (what Jesus is about to tell John about His Second Coming).”
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!