RCIA – 2nd Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday
The 2nd Sunday of Easter – April 11, 2010
Divine Mercy Sunday
Opening prayer: O God, we gather on this first day of the week and recall the wonders of your marvelous works. Breathe your Spirit upon us. Give us the grace to recognize the Risen Christ who stands among us. Guide us to understand your Word that our lives might reflect the joy of the resurrection. Teach us to live as a community of believers. We pray, through Christ, our risen Lord. Amen. (RCL)
To accept the message of Jesus of Nazareth is no easy matter. It constantly challenges both the believer and the non-believer. For the believer, its demands are unrelenting; for the non-believer, those same demands seem ridiculous. Today’s readings suggest how our faith response can counteract our fears and our hesitancy to follow Christ wholeheartedly. (JOF) Listen to God’s Word today and hear how he is speaking to you personally. How is God calling you to respond?
What signs of Easter did you hear and see at today’s liturgy of the Word? What about the scriptures touched you?
Sit back a moment, close your eyes and reflect on the following from today’s readings:
Many signs and wonders occurred among the people.
More and more believers were continually added to the Lord.
The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Write on a scroll what you now see.
Peace be with you.
Put your hand into my side.
Through this faith you may have life in his name.
What about these readings is cause for joy?
Following an ancient tradition, the church regards the eight days from the Paschal feast (Easter Sunday) to the Second Sunday of Easter as a single unit of celebration (an octave). On the Second Sunday of Easter the church sings again Psalm 118, the psalm for Easter day, which proclaims: “This is the day the Lord has made…” The preface (for the Eucharistic prayer) for Easter day is prayed again on the Second Sunday as well: “We praise you with greater joy than ever on this Easter day…,” even though that day, by secular reckoning, is already a week behind us. All of the prayers of the liturgy and the tone of the celebration are unmistakably full of joy as the church comes to the close of the octave of its greatest feast. The readings are to be understood in this spirit. (RCL)
The joyous season of Easter continues for seven weeks. Over this time the church celebrates the significance of the resurrection for the life of the church and for all people over the ages. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, authored by Luke, describes the growth of the early church and the power of the resurrection in the daily lives of the baptized. (RCL)
What was the power of the resurrection in the life of the early church? How is the resurrection event still a powerful force in the life of believers today? What signs of the resurrection do you see in your ordinary living?
Jesus overcame sin and death and his gift to us is eternal life. We have faith that Jesus will save us, but we also believe that our faith requires a response. That response is that we live our lives as Jesus taught us.
Gracious God, we are grateful for these signs of the resurrection in our midst. This season of Easter, may the joy of your saving victory be ever in our hearts. This truly is the day that you have made, let us give thanks and rejoice. Amen. (RCL)
First Reading: Acts 5:12-16
During the Easter season (Easter to Pentecost) the first reading of the liturgy is taken from the Acts of the Apostles (instead of the Old Testament) to help us understand the development of the early church. This passage is significant in that it celebrates the growth of the community of faith by recounting the gifts of healing and faith so evident as the apostles carried on the mission of Christ. (RCL)
The Acts of the Apostles notes the rapid spread of faith in Jesus without glossing over the conflicts within the community and the obstacles from without, culminating in the martyrdom of Stephen. Because of the unusual power they manifested, the apostles are clearly presented as the cornerstones of the community, and foremost among them is Peter, whose very shadow summons divine healing power. The description of people bringing their sick is a poignant story of faith. (LTP)
The Bible offers many stories of the sick being healed. We have divine physical healings even still today. But on a broader scale, all of us require spiritual healings. We all have fears and hang-ups. Our spiritual journey is the path to being healed. Each of us is on a personalized, unique journey with and to Jesus. The Lord is calling us to Him, we need to respond. (CWW)
Second Reading: Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
The apocalyptic visions contained in the book of Revelation supply the content of the second readings for the Easter season in Year C. Today’s passage centers on a vision of “one like a Son of Man” (Christ) who is revealed to be the Lord of all. In a phrase reminiscent of the service of light at the opening of the Easter Vigil, this “one who lives” is identified as: “the First and the Last.” (RCL)
The book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature. Always written in times of distress, apocalyptic writing offers hope while exhorting firm faith in the face of struggle. (RCL) This Book stems from a persecution in Asia Minor, probably in the last decade of the first Christian century. Faithful Christians feared the consequences of refusing to worship the emperor. In the midst of these anxieties, the author wrote this “underground literature” (apocalyptic) to help Christians overcome their fears. (JOF)
The complex first sentence sets the scene and tone for what follows: exiled to the island Patmos because he “gave testimony to Jesus,” John experiences distress, but waits with patient endurance for the fullness of Christ’s kingdom. And because he shares this fate with other Christians, he calls himself their “brother” – a kinship with his audience that he wears not as grounds for self-pity but as a badge of honor. The context of tribulation is important because it points to the purpose of the entire book – strengthening those in the midst of trial. John’s elaborate imagery and symbolism offer assurances of God’s constant presence to a people who, in the midst of persecution, feel God’s absence and even abandonment. (LTP)
Wearing priestly robes, Jesus appears in their midst, saying: “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever…” The audience is told that their greatest fear – death – is no longer the ultimate tragedy. Jesus, who has destroyed death’s empire in his Resurrection, now appeals for their faith response. Faith in the risen Lord can overcome even the greatest of fears. (JOF)
The symbolism that powers the visions speaks of the presence of God: “trumpets” frequently accompany divine apparitions. “Son of Man,” a term borrowed from the book of Daniel, suggests a heavenly being who exercises power and authority. Clearly, the vision is of Jesus the Alpha and Omega, “the first and last,” the living one who once was dead, but now lives forever. Even his attire – “an ankle-length robe” and golden “sash” – symbolize the eternal priesthood and kingship of Christ. “Seven lampstands” refer to the seven churches (in the seven cities of Asia Minor (see Acts Ch 11)) that represent the whole church. John’s symbolism was intended for an audience that would understand the imagery and would find comfort and reassurance in it. For Christians suffering intense persecution, this vision offers much hope: the oppressive powers of this world will be overcome; God is still in charge and able to act decisively. (LTP)
Extended Catechesis – A Focus on Faith
Through Baptism we are born within, nourished by and are members of a living tradition handed down from the time of the apostles to the present day, in a pilgrim church walking by the light of faith. St. Augustine, bishop and teacher, preached to the newly-baptized:
…You… are the new offspring of the Church, gift of the Father, proof of Mother Church’s fruitfulness… You are walking now by faith, still on pilgrimage [to] the Lord; but he to whom your steps are directed is himself the sure and certain way for you… This is the octave of your birth. Today is fulfilled in you the sign of faith… (RCL)
The Gospel: John 20:19-31
The gospel is the story of mission, forgiveness and faith. The risen Lord appears to his followers on the evening of the resurrection, when they are gathered behind locked doors, afraid. He speaks a greeting of “peace” and at once commissions them to continue his own saving work: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” As God breathed on the waters at creation, so Jesus now breathes on the disciples in this scene and gives them the Spirit, with an immediate creative effect. In the giving of the Spirit, Jesus imparts a particular power for reconciliation: “If you forgive sins they are forgiven; if you hold them bound they are held bound.” Just as the earthly Jesus exercised a power to forgive sins, now his followers are given that power in the Spirit. (RCL)
The liturgy places a somewhat greater accent however on the latter part of the gospel narrative. At this point in the chronology of the story, the disciples are eight days away from the resurrection – exactly where the church is today on the Second Sunday of Easter. The story unfolds of the apostle Thomas, who, obdurately insisting that he will never believe that the Lord is risen unless he sees and touches his wounds, is confronted by the resurrected Jesus and comes to a profound articulation of faith: He calls Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” At the end of the passage, the words of Jesus seem to speak directly to us. We have not seen as Thomas did, but we are called upon to believe. (RCL)
These two seemingly distinct passages of John can be merged back together in that to be a good Catholic we require faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, but that faith also calls us to be reconciled with God. Jesus offers us this reconciliation in the sacrament that he instituted on this day; the sacrament of Reconciliation (or Penance or Confession). And thus the Church has followed Jesus’ command to St. Faustina by calling today Divine Mercy Sunday. (CWW)
What fears were transformed into faith in these passages? How is the presence of the resurrected Jesus a source of profound peace for the early believers?
What does faith mean to you?
- Faith invites us into a living relationship with God, who communicates love to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ in the Holy Spirit.
- Faith goes beyond knowledge or statements of truths taught by the Catholic Church. Because of this relationship of love, we trust the truth of what has been revealed in Jesus Christ and handed down to us by the first witnesses and afterwards through the church.
- Through the community the individual first receives the gift of faith from God. We hear and depend on witnesses who share the Good News of the dying and rising of Jesus to grow in faith.
- While our relationship with God in faith can be shaken by trials, suffering and injustices and we may experience doubt, we have a community of faith to turn to for support. The opposite of faith is fear. We can come to the Lord and to the community of believers to transform our fears into an even deeper faith. (RCL)
What message do you hear from your own life of faith through the doubts expressed by Thomas? What has caused you to doubt? How did the gift of faith transform you and help you grow?
Faith invites us into a relationship of love, for “God is love” (1 John 4:8 referred to in CCC 221). The hidden, triune God is fully revealed in Jesus Christ, who embodies divine love and who communicates that love to us by his life and mission and by his suffering, death and resurrection. That divine love is freely given, and our free response is how Catholic teaching describes “faith.” (CCC 142 & 166) The gift of faith is, therefore, a relationship wherein we trust the truth of that which has been revealed in Jesus Christ, handed down by those first witnesses, and afterwards, from generation to generation in the church. (RCL)
Old Testament scriptures speak of faith in terms of one’s personal obedience to the Word of God. There are several Hebrew words for faith, all of which refer to something “solid” or “trustworthy,’ to which we pledge our loyalty. Our word “amen” comes from a Hebrew word for faith (aman). From this perspective, faith is understood as “I believe you,” a relationship of trust. (RCL)
New Testament scriptures continue this understanding of faith and add to it. The Greek verb pisteuein means not only “to trust” or “show confidence in” but also “to accept as true.” St. Paul thus writes about the “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5, 16:26) and in a variety of places he summarizes the content of his preaching on the faith (Romans 10:9-10; 4:24-25). For Paul, faith is not just an interior reality, believing in the heart, but also confessing with one’s lips. In other words, the experience of faith includes doctrinal content, “the faith” (Encyclopedia of Catholicism, p 153). (RCL)
Romans 1:5 – Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among the nations.
Romans 16:26 – the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith
Romans 10:9-10 – The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.
Romans 4:24-25 – It will be reckoned to us who believe in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
It is through the community that the individual first receives the gift of faith from God. Faith comes through “hearing” and depends on witnesses who hand it on, who “speak it.” By the action of the Holy Spirit tongues are loosened to tell the good news and ears are opened to hear what is told (CCC 153). (RCL)
Our relationship to God in faith can be shaken. We experience evil, suffering and injustice in this world, and we question God, we doubt, and we struggle in our belief (CCC 164). In times of doubt and struggle, individuals can turn to the community of faith for support. (RCL)
Since that day when Jesus ascended to the Father, people have been aware that God is present through the Holy Spirit. It is the task of the believer to live in the Spirit so God’s impact on the community can be felt. To receive the Spirit is to breathe forth the Spirit for others. Despite the uncertainties and problems of the future, it is the presence of the Spirit in believers that will make possible the ongoing message of Jesus. Faith overcomes fear. (JOF)
Our faith response today is not bound up with the great signs and wonders of the Acts of the Apostles, nor is it linked to any great persecution of Christians. Yet, while we may conclude that the scenes of Acts and Revelation do not touch us directly, we can certainly relate to the scene in the twentieth chapter of John. A variety of fears can cause us to “lock the door’ of our heart. We may be afraid of challenges. We may not want to look to the faith needs of others. We may not want to be labeled as overly pious. In such instances, we are the victims of fear. (JOF)
It is the doubting Thomas within us that must be touched. We are asked to respond to the wounds within ourselves and others. Even in our weakness, we are urged to breathe forth the Spirit so that wounds may be healed and fears overcome. It is only faith that overcomes such fear. (JOF)
The Profession of Faith
We begin our profession of faith by saying: “I believe” or “We believe.” Before expounding the Church’s faith, as confessed in the Creed, celebrated in the liturgy, and lived in observance of God’s commandments and in prayer, we must first ask what “to believe” means. Faith is man’s response to God, who reveals himself and gives himself to man, at the same time bringing man a superabundant light as he searches for the ultimate meaning of his life. Thus we shall consider first that search (Chapter One), then the divine Revelation by which God comes to meet man (Chapter Two), and finally the response of faith (Chapter Three). (CCC 26)
Man is by nature and vocation a religious being. Coming from God, going toward God, man lives a fully human life only if he freely lives by his bond with God. Man is made to live in communion with God in whom he finds happiness: “When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrow or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete” (St. Augustine, Conf. 10, 28, 39: PL 32, 795). When he listens to the message of creation and to the voice of conscience, man can arrive at certainty about the existence of God, the cause and the end of everything. The Church teaches that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, can be known with certainty from his works, by the natural light of human reason (cf. Vatican Council I, can. 2, § 1: DS 3026). We really can name God, starting from the manifold perfections of his creatures, which are likenesses of the infinitely perfect God, even if our limited language cannot exhaust the mystery. “Without the Creator, the creature vanishes” (GS 36). This is the reason why believers know that the love of Christ urges them to bring the light of the living God to those who do not know him or who reject him. (CCC 44-49)
By love, God has revealed himself and given himself to man. He has thus provided the definitive, superabundant answer to the questions that man asks himself about the meaning and purpose of his life. God has revealed himself to man by gradually communicating his own mystery in deeds and in words. Beyond the witness to himself that God gives in created things, he manifested himself to our first parents, spoke to them and, after the fall, promised them salvation (cf. Gen 3:15) and offered them his covenant. God made an everlasting covenant with Noah and with all living beings (cf. Gen 9:16). It will remain in force as long as the world lasts. God chose Abraham and made a covenant with him and his descendants. By the covenant God formed his people and revealed his law to them through Moses. Through the prophets, he prepared them to accept the salvation destined for all humanity. God has revealed himself fully by sending his own Son, in whom he has established his covenant for ever. The Son is his Father’s definitive Word; so there will be no further Revelation after him. (CCC 68-73)
What Christ entrusted to the apostles, they in turn handed on by their preaching and writing, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to all generations, until Christ returns in glory. “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God” (DV 10), in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches. “The Church, in her doctrine, life, and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes” (DV 8 §1). Thanks to its supernatural sense of faith, the People of God as a whole never ceases to welcome, to penetrate more deeply, and to live more fully from the gift of divine Revelation. The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him. (CCC 96-100)
Faith is a personal adherence of the whole man to God who reveals himself. It involves an assent of the intellect and will to the self-revelation God has made through his deeds and words. “To believe” has thus a twofold reference: to the person and to the truth: to the truth, by trust in the person who bears witness to it. We must believe in no one but God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Faith is a supernatural gift from God. In order to believe, man needs the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. “Believing” is a human act, conscious and free, corresponding to the dignity of the human person. “Believing” is an ecclesial act. The Church’s faith precedes, engenders, supports, and nourishes our faith. The Church is the mother of all believers. “No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother” (St. Cyprian, De unit. 6: PL 4, 519). We believe all “that which is contained in the word of God, written or handed down, and which the Church proposes for belief as divinely revealed” (Paul VI, CPG, § 20). Faith is necessary for salvation. The Lord himself affirms: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:16). “Faith is a foretaste of the knowledge that will make us blessed in the life to come” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Comp. theol. 1, 2). (CCC 176-184)
MESSAGE FOR ALL CATHOLICS:
“JESUS IS IN THE CONFESSIONAL”
Despite evil’s attempts at discrediting Catholic Priests, many fallen-away Catholics will soon be returning to the practice of their faith. The reason: the Church’s new feast on the Sunday after Easter. What new feast you might say? It is the “Feast of Divine Mercy”. The Catholic Church has been celebrating this feast ever since the Vatican had made it official on April 30th in the Jubilee year 2000. Why would every Catholic want to come back, you might ask? It is the promise that Jesus Himself made for a complete forgiveness of all sins and punishment on that day, even to the most terrible sinner imaginable. God in His great mercy is giving mankind a last chance for salvation.
When did Jesus make this promise and how does one get it? Jesus left all the details in a diary that He commanded Saint Faustina to write in the 1930’s. It was her job to record everything that He wanted mankind to know about His mercy before He returns to judge the world. To get this great promise one has to go to Confession and then receive Holy Communion on that Feast of Divine Mercy, which has now been called Divine Mercy Sunday throughout the whole Church. Jesus said, “Whoever approaches the Fountain of Life on this day will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.” (Diary, 300) To receive Communion worthily one should be in the state of grace and without serious sin.
How many today receive Holy Communion with souls stained with mortal sins? When a person receives the true Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus in Holy Communion without first going to Confession to cleanse their souls, that soul is going even deeper into sin. Many have not confessed their sins in a long time so this special promise of a complete pardon is an incentive to come to Jesus, with trust, before He returns again to judge the world.
In Saint Faustina’s diary, she recorded that Jesus also indicated that He Himself is right there in the confessional. Jesus told her, “When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy. Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity.” (1602)
Jesus knew that people would really need to hear these words of re-assurance today, so He went on to say “Come with faith to the feet of My representative…and make your confession before Me. The person of the priest is, for Me, only a screen. Never analyze what sort of a priest that I am making use of; open your soul in confession as you would to Me, and I will fill it with My light.” (1725) “Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy.” (1602)
Many feel that their sins are unforgivable but, Jesus said, “Were a soul like a decaying corpse, so that from a human standpoint, there would be no hope of restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. In the Tribunal of Mercy (the great sacrament of Confession) …the greatest miracles take place and are incessantly repeated.” (1448) “Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy.” (1602) Every sin imaginable could be forgiven by Him!
So many people are weighed down by sin and their prideful nature keeps them away from the confession of their sins. They are living in misery. Jesus said, “Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of God’s mercy! You will call out in vain, but it will be too late.” (1448) “Tell aching mankind to snuggle close to My merciful Heart, and I will fill it with peace.” (1074) “There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy.” (1273) Jesus came to restore sinners and one would be foolish to turn away from His merciful love.
On the evening of His resurrection Jesus appeared to His Apostles and the first thing that He did was to give them the power to forgive sins (John 20:19-31). This is done through the power of the Holy Spirit. For sure it was not the Lord’s intention just for the Apostles to forgive sins but rather for that power to be passed down through the Holy Spirit to the priests of today. That is why Confession is so much of an uplifting experience; we are actually receiving heavenly graces and the forgiveness of sins from the Lord Himself!
Most people haven’t spent much time thinking about the future. Some might think that they are brilliant and successful in this life, but what is that as compared to eternity? The father of lies has everyone focused on this life while not thinking about what happens in the eternal life. If you really want to be wise, think about where you are going to spend eternity. We will be there for quite a long time. Many do not believe in the fires of hell. Unfortunately, those are the ones that usually will end up there. Be wise, think about it!
Remember these words of Jesus, “ I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.” (699) “Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity…tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near.” (965) Wake up people of the World, and repent of your sins, this just might be our last hope of salvation!
Contact your local Catholic Church and arrange go to Confession as soon as you can, so that you may be ready always to receive Jesus in Holy Communion, especially on Divine Mercy Sunday, when you can receive the total forgiveness of your sins and punishment! It is like receiving a brand new start in life!
|Divine Mercy Litany – from St. Faustina Kowalska’s Diary
Divine Mercy, gushing forth from the bosom of the Father, I trust in You
How does one grow in faith and become closer to God? There is no one way. One only has to look at the great variety of saints that the Church has canonized. They all followed their own path to God. Knowledge of Jesus is definitely helpful in developing a relationship with him, but prayer is the main way to get to know Him. There are many resources to help you with prayer and knowledge of God. Pick one or two and spend some quality time with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. (CWW)
Closing prayer: Lord of all, through your only begotten Son you cast down Satan and broke the chains that held us captive. We thank you for these candidates whom you have called. Strengthen them in faith, that they may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. Keep them clean of heart and make them grow in virtue, that they may be worthy to receive the sacraments and enter into the holy mysteries. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. (LTP)