Second Sunday Of Easter, Year C
Second Sunday of Easter, Year C
Acts 5:12-16; Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31
After the disciples of Jesus were empowered by the Holy Spirit, their work of extending the mission of Jesus began. Luke took it upon himself to extend his story of Jesus’ mission in his gospel by adding the work of the disciples in a second volume to his written work, Acts of Apostles. The first extension of Jesus’ mission is a spiritual success. Three thousand were added to the number of disciples. The validity of the Christian mission is proved by a miracle of healing. Peter and John healed a 40-year-old lame man at a gate of the temple. They were drawing crowds in the temple area. This caught the attention of the high priestly families who controlled the temple and all that happened in and around it. The proclamation that the same Jesus, whose death was chiefly their responsibility, had actually risen from the dead irritated them because they did not believe in a resurrection of the dead. The apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin, the governing body of the Jews in religious and some civic matters.
For the moment the apostles escaped imprisonment. The healings and miraculous cures done by them continued as further confirmation of their proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection. Luke writes, “Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles.” The location of their activity was Solomon’s Portico. This was a colonnade (a walkway between pillars) on the east side of the temple. It was used as a gathering space for discussions after religious rituals were completed in the temple. There was a lull in the massive influx of converts, “None of the others dared to join them . . . .” What happened? Just before this, a married couple, Ananias and Sapphira, had pledged to the church the proceeds from the sale of some property, but they partly reneged on their pledge, then lied about it to Simon Peter. Not good! Both died at the moment they lied. A useful story for pledge Sunday? Success in the apostles’ healing ventures returned. People brought their sick from Jerusalem and vicinity, “and they were all cured.”
The Responsorial Psalm, 118, continues the theme of mercy dramatized by the healings and cures wrought by the apostles. The power through which they worked these wonders is rightly attributed to God, “His mercy endures forever,” and in the People’s Response, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love is everlasting.” On this Octave Day of the resurrection of the Lord, the source of the apostles’ power is recalled from Easter Sunday’s liturgy, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice.”
The second reading is an excerpt from the Book of Revelation, formerly referred to as The Apocalypse. The author’s name is John, a Christian leader and prophet. He is in exile on Patmos, a small island of rocky, volcanic hills, ten miles by six miles long off the southwest coast of Greece. This and other islands were used by Roman authorities for political banishment. The Apocalypse was composed in the mid-90s of the first Christian century, probably as a response to persecution during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian. Thus by this time, Christians were considered political problems. On a Sunday morning, “the Lord’s Day,” he hears a voice like a trumpet, and is caught up in a vision of the risen Jesus (one like a Son of man) in glory. The voice tells him to write down everything he sees. The Son of Man identifies himself, “I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever.” John recognizes Jesus as God by using the titles “the First and the Last.” These titles for God originated in Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; 48:12. When applied to Jesus, they proclaim his identity as God.
The gospel of this day has three parts. The narrative of the first part occurs on the day of Jesus’ resurrection. He suddenly stands among his disciples who have concealed themselves out of fear of the high priestly authorities who had conspired to do away with Jesus. On this day, Jesus had already appeared to Mary of Magdala, ascended to his Father, returned with a gift promised to the disciples — the Holy Spirit. This section will be the gospel reading for the feast of Pentecost. Comment is reserved until then.
The second part of this gospel is a reappearance of Jesus eight days later, or as we might say today, on the Octave (eighth from Latin octavus) Day of the resurrection. The author notes that Thomas had been absent at that first appearance eight days ago. Not having seen Jesus at that time, he refused to believe that the others had seen him, thus acquiring forever a less than flattering title, Doubting Thomas. There are no limitations to Jesus’ human knowledge so he knows about Thomas’ faux pas. He invites the Doubter to check out his wounded hands and side. Thomas changes from unbeliever to believer. He voices what has become a favorite expression of Christians to recognize Jesus as God, “My Lord and my God!” Like the Apocalypse throughout, and in today’s second reading, so also the Gospel of John delights in proclaiming the Godness of Jesus. The author closes this part of our gospel with a blessing on those of us who have not seen Jesus, but believe in spite of that, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Thanks for that!
The third part of this gospel reveals that oral tradition existed and exists outside what is written in the gospel. The author or editor notes that Jesus did many other “signs” (miracles that proclaim his various identities) “not written in this book.” Then he reveals the purpose of the seven signs he did choose for his book, “that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God, that through this belief you may have life in his name.” The author repeats what he noted at the conclusion of Jesus’ first sign (water into wine) and last sign, (resurrection of Lazarus), that these miracles brought Jesus’ disciples and many to faith in him.