First Reading Acts 5:12–16; Psalm 118:2–4, 13–15, 22–24; Second Reading Revelation 1:9–11, 12–13, 17–19; Gospel John 20:19–31
Psalm: Psalm 118:2–4, 13–15, 22–24
Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
I was pushed hard, so that I was falling,
but the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.
There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Reading the Word
First Reading: Acts 5:12–16
Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.
Second Reading: Revelation 1:9–11, 12–13, 17–19
I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”
Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, 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; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades. Now write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this.
Gospel: John 20:19–31
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Hearing the Word
“Taking over from the Master”
Following the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter day, attention shifts to the effects of this key event on his disciples, and, through them, on the world. This second Sunday of Easter shows how Jesus’ disciples take over and continue certain key aspects of Jesus’ mission in the world.
The reading from the book of Acts contains one of Luke’s summary presentations of the life of the community of first believers. Right from the start, Luke draws parallel between the apostles and Jesus.
He begins by stating that, just like Jesus, the apostles did many signs and wonders. This miracle working activity served to give credibility to their proclamation of Jesus. The crowd’s reaction to these signs parallels the response to Jesus’ miracles. Most people were amazed but did not join the community, while others respond positively and become believers.
Like Jesus, Peter is a great miracle worker with the multitude of the ill and demon possessed brought to him from afar for healing (cf. Mark 6:53-56). Luke is careful to emphasize that Peter heals by Jesus’ power and not his own (cf. Acts 4:5-10). Jesus used his healing powers to show that God’s kingdom had arrived into the world. Peter uses Jesus’ power to make his message of the resurrection, and the call for conversion, credible and effective.
Soon, like Jesus, Peter and other apostles will be arrested and brought before the same council that condemned Jesus to death (Acts 5:17-42). Still, nothing can now stop the growth of this new faith empowered by Jesus working through his successors.
The second reading of Easter Sundays comes from the book of Revelation. This book is written in a special literary style known as “apocalyptic”. This literature uses dramatic visions and highly symbolic language to communicate its message. These visions are narrated by visionaries who were granted access to the heavenly world and reported what they saw there. These visions need to be understood and carefully interpreted as they are entirely symbolic in nature. Apocalypses were written by and for the people living under a severe strain of persecutions inflicted upon them because of their faith. The book of Revelation was written in response to the first episodes of the persecutions of Christians by the Roman authorities who saw Christianity as a new and dangerous sect. Because of their refusal to worship the Roman state gods, and an alternative lifestyle, Christians were perceived as atheists and troublemakers who sought to abolish the established social order. This made them a target for frequent local and state-wide persecutions. The book of Revelation was written to reassure and strengthen the believers’ resolve to remain faithful to their religious convictions despite the great danger to their lives.
Today’s reading serves as an introduction to the visions which will fill the rest of the book. The visionary is a persecuted Christian named John, who was sent into exile on a small island because of his testimony to Jesus. The first vision takes him to heaven where he sees Jesus. Jesus is a splendid heavenly figure, the glorious Son of Man standing in the heavenly temple. Jesus introduces himself as the one who was dead and is now alive forever and ever, which naturally refers to his death and resurrection. His resurrection gave him “the keys of Death and of Hades”, which means that his authority rises above the power of death. However, the chief purpose of this vision is to commission John as Jesus’ messenger. Twice John is commanded to write a message from Jesus to the seven Christian Churches in need of guidance and correction. This will be his initial task. Sent by the Father, Jesus came into the world with the message of salvation. John will fulfil a similar role, delivering Jesus’ message so that his salvific work among the Churches may continue.
The Gospel passage reports two appearances of the Risen Jesus to his disciples with the purpose of sending them on a mission that will be a continuation of his own. Jesus first appears to them with the greeting of peace. By announcing peace and then showing the disciples the signs of his passion Jesus proves that he has won victory over death and is truly risen. He then commissions them stating, “as the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Thus, the disciples are to continue the mission of Jesus which he received from the Father. But what aspect of Jesus’ mission are they to continue?
Firstly, the chief purpose of Jesus’ mission was to reveal the Father to the world (John 1:18). He came manifesting God in and through himself, as is best summarized in his statement, “whoever sees me sees him who sent me” (John 12:45). Therefore, the disciples are commissioned to continue with the mission of revealing God to the world through their words and through their lives, following Jesus’ guidance.
Secondly, Jesus came to “take away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Like him, the disciples are to forgive or to retain sins, which implies having authority over sin. Sin separates people from God, and from one another, and the greatest sin in this Gospel is the lack of faith. By pointing out sin and calling for repentance the disciples will bring people to God, thus “removing” sin. However, those who refuse to respond to their message will have their sins “retained” because they will have refused to repent, and thus cannot be forgiven.
Thirdly, Jesus came to give life to the world (John 6:40). The disciples are entrusted with the same mission. This is revealed when Jesus appeared to them for the second time, focusing on Thomas. This disciple was not present during Jesus’ first appearance and refused to believe in the resurrection unless offered a physical proof of it. Jesus gave him that proof, and Thomas believed. However, the real point of this appearance is made when Jesus blesses those who, unlike Thomas, were not blessed with a personal encounter with the Risen Jesus but believed. Their faith would have to be based on the testimony of Thomas and the others. Jesus refers here to the future generation of Christians whose faith, based on the apostolic testimony, will be even greater than that of Thomas. The connection between faith and life is revealed in the final lines of this Gospel where Jesus announces that faith in him brings life. Thus, the disciples’ task of bringing people to faith in Jesus equals bringing them to life.
The theme of continuation of Jesus’ mission dominates today’s liturgy. Peter and the apostles bore testimony to Jesus, leading many to faith, while performing miraculous deeds similar to his. John the visionary will be Jesus’ messenger in the world for the sake of strengthening the faith of the persecuted believers, just as Jesus was God’s herald during his time on earth. The apostles will have a threefold mission of revealing God, taking away sins, and bringing life into the world. Doing this, they will continue Jesus’ own mission until the time of final salvation. It is a glorious but intimidating task to be entrusted with taking over Jesus’ work. Therefore, all who undertake it must continually seek God’s help, as the Psalmist did praying, “the Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation”.
Listening to the Word of God
Today we continue reflecting on the Easter events guided by the theme, “taking over from the master.” This theme calls us to imitate Christ, our Saviour and Master, by continuing his saving mission in our world.
First, we thank God our Father for sending his Son into the world, and for giving us the opportunity to carry out the mission which he entrusted to his Son. The same mission of continuing God’s saving work is given now to us. The first reading shows us the apostles doing many signs and wonders, acting in the same manner as Jesus did. Their proclamation of Jesus as Lord and Saviour was supported by miracles. We notice that they acted in the name of Jesus because they took him as their role model. Just like the apostles, we also have people whom we look up to. We often try to imitate the people who impress us, to do the same kind of things they do or wear the same kind of fashion they wear. These role models may be film stars, influential politicians or world leaders, musicians, technological gurus or others. Good as they may be, we also need to ask whether emulating such people helps our faith to grow, and whether it makes us better persons. Jesus revealed God to us because he was united with the Father and copied God in all he did. The apostles emulated Jesus by calling others to faith in God and conversion. We are challenged to choose our role models carefully.
The mission of imitating Christ in our life circumstances is not going to be easy. It is going to be marked by opposition and even hostility. This was the experience of the early Christians, as the second reading from the book of Revelation clearly shows. Just as the early Christians were criticized, so people are going to criticize and misunderstand us. This will be because we refuse to follow that which is trendy and fashionable. But we have taken Jesus as our role model. We desire to proclaim faith in God by our very lives, in a world that is ignoring or even denying the existence of God. Jesus never tired of doing his mission of showing the world the compassionate face of God. As the Nigerian saying goes; “if the leader of the hunting party is tired, then all are tired.” Our leader never tired and neither should we.
Finally, the Gospel tells us explicitly to continue the mission of Christ, if we truly see ourselves as his disciples. The mission of Jesus was to reveal God to the world, to take away the sins of the world and to give life to those who believe. As the theme of this Sunday proposes, we are called upon to take over from the master and continue his mission. This means that we have to show to those around us the face of God by being patient, compassionate and loving towards them. Our mission in the world is to be the living reflection of God whom Jesus revealed to us. By our life of faith, we are to be God’s face visible to the world.
“If the leader of the hunting party is tired, then all are tired.”
Who is my primary role model? Who do I aspire to imitate and how?
How does my attitudes reveal the compassionate face of God to others?
Response to God
I give thanks to the Lord for giving me the dignity and opportunity to work for him and with him. I pray for guidance so that I may know how to contribute to the work of salvation of this work in my own and unique way.
Response to your World
This week I will be particularly attentive, and take advantage of the various opportunities for doing God’s work in my environment that arise as I live my daily life.
As a means of inspiration, in our group we shall share the various ways and instances when we did something that we considered as doing God’s work. What were its effects?
God our Father, we thank you for sending your Beloved Son to be our redeemer and for showing to us your compassionate face. Help us to continue his saving work in our world, so that we can be truly your servants and his disciples. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Scripture quotations from New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, © 1989, 1993. Used with permission.