28 April 2019. 2nd Sunday of Easter

(Divine Mercy Sunday)

1st Reading: Acts 5:12-16

The high morale and healing influence of the early Christians

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.

Responsorial: Psalm 117: 2-4, 22-27

Response: Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting

Let the children of Israel say:
‘His love has no end.’
Let the children of Aaron say:
‘His love has no end.’
Let those who fear the Lord say:
‘His love has no end.’ (R./)

The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes.
This day was made by the Lord;
we rejoice and are glad. (R./)

O Lord, grant us salvation;
O Lord, grant success.
Blessed in the name of the Lord
is he who comes.
We bless you from the house of the Lord;
the Lord God is our light. (R./)

2nd Reading: Revelation 1:9-13, 17-19

John sees risen Jesus, in the form of the glorious Son of Man

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

The presence of the risen Jesus dispels fear and brings peace to his friends

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.



He really IS with us

As we join in our Sunday Mass we are here to meet the risen Christ in person. Sharing in the Eucharist is a statement of loyalty, both of personal and shared faith. In praying together we also help each other to stay faithful; it strengthens our Christian community. It was because the members of the early Church in Jerusalem met so regularly in public that the number of people who came to believe in the Lord increased steadily.

No-one else can do our believing for us. This is powerfully illustrated in the story of the disciples who had hidden in an attic in Jerusalem. After the execution of Jesus just two days before, they could not dare go out for fear of their lives. But Jesus suddenly came among them, and his greeting was Peace to you. Their response was utter joy. The gift of the Spirit was the breath of the Risen Christ. When the disciples inhaled that life-giving Spirit it took over their lives. Soon they left the Upper Room as changed characters, full of missionary purpose. They go out animated, fired and propelled by the Holy Spirit.

Thomas the Twin was missing that day and so did not share that experience. Though he was an apostle of Jesus, he was an independent individual, suspicious and skeptical. He could not believe just on the word of the others. For him, honesty was more important than groupthink or loyalty. So when the others said they have seen the Lord, Thomas demanded definite proof for himself. For this he was ever afterwards called ‘Doubting Thomas’. Eventually Thomas came to believe in the resurrection like the other disciples, when he saw the risen Jesus with his own eyes. The story ends with a message for all who have not seen the Lord, but who are called to believe in him just the same. We are among the later generations of believers to whom this message applies: ‘Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

Our faith is a great gift from God. But it is not an inert gift that can we lock away like some precious jewel. It is a living gift that needs nurturing, to grow and mature. Like other life-forms, faith can wither from neglect. We need to pray about it, think about it, and express it in actions arising from love. This does not mean that we will never have any doubts. But if like Thomas we continue seeking, we too will come into the presence of Jesus and say “My Lord and my God!”


Drawing courage from an apostle’s doubt

The expression “Doubting Thomas” comes from this story. We see how Thomas, one of Jesus’s inner circle, was slow to believe in the resurection. He wanted concrete evidence before he was prepared to believe that the risen Jesus had appeared to his fellow apostles. It’s a meeting that offers solace to those of us who never stop doubting. We also notice how the other disciples were so nervous that they had locked the room where they had gathered. All kinds of fear and doubt can often bedevil our lives. And yet there are times when doubting and fearing make sense. People who are always certain make me nervous. Self-confidence has its place but it can also be a superficial mechanism for hiding a multitude.

There’s a place for a healthy scepticism in our lives. Patrick Kavanagh captures the harm that a “know-all” environment can cause. In his poem Advent he begins: “We have tested and tasted too much, /Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.” And later in that verse he talks of “The knowledge we stole but could not use.” Certainty about anything in the material world requires an element of scepticism, a spoonful of care. So what happens when we begin to try to talk about God, the God of the incarnation, the God of the resurrection? What at all have we to say, what can we say, indeed, what dare we say about God?

We often hear people who say they do not believe in God admit that they envy those who do. They go on to say they would like to have the certainty of their believing friends or that steadfast faith that their parents had. On the other hand we meet people who have no doubt whatsoever about God, resurrection and eternal life. But I think that for most of us ordinary mortals there are always moments of doubt during our spiritual journey. Thomas’s doubting gives me great comfort, hope too and also helps me get some understanding of God’s mercy and kindness. The disciples were also afraid, so much so that they kept the doors closed.

This is the perfect reading for those of us who are inclined to doubt the existence of God and are forever suspect of any and all forms of brainwashing. Australian Jesuit priest Richard Leonard in an article in the Tablet quoted the early church father Irenaeus: “The glory of God is humanity fully alive.” Easter glory allows us to be the most loving people we can possibly be. And that happens in the context of all our doubting and fear. [from Michael Commane]

He loves us just as we are

The apostles locked themselves in an attic for fear of Jewish reprisals. Even after Mary Magdalene came running from the empty tomb announcing that she had seen the Lord, the stayed locked in. They were afraid that what had been done to Jesus could be done to them. The turning point came when Jesus himself appeared right among them and helped them over their fear. He breathed the Holy Spirit into them, filling them new energy and hope, giving them a share in his mission. “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.” In the power of the Spirit they got their courage back and left their self-imposed prison, to bear witness to the life and message of Jesus. This is the picture of the disciples that Luke gives us in today’s reading from Acts. He describes a community of believers, the church, witnessing to the resurrection both in word and by the quality of their living.

Perhaps we are sometimes like those disciples, locked within ourselves, inactive, unwilling to take any initiative. The “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” may have dampened our faith. Like the disciples after the death of Christ, we may have abandoned our faith journey, unable to see the way forward. The experience of past failures make us hesitate to try again. Even another Christian full of enthusiasm and hope, like a Mary Magdalene, can be kept at bay. “Let them get on with it,” we say, while we hold back and stay safe. Today’s gospel suggests a way out of such confinement. The Lord himself will find another way to draw us into freedom. No locked doors, nor even locked hearts, can keep him out.

At first, the apostles doubted that Mary Magdalene had met Jesus. Later on, Thomas refused to believe that the others had seen him either. He needed tangible proofs, definite and demonstrable. Unless he saw with his own eyes, he would not believe. Jesus gave him the proof he needed. “Put your finger here,” he said, “and feel my wounds.” He forgives our fears and doubts, and finds us right where we are. We need to say in our turn, “My Lord and my God.”


I dtosach báire bhí na hAspail amhrasach gur chas Íosa ar Máire Mhaigdiléana i ndáiríre. Ina diaidh san, níor ghlac Tomás gur casadh an chuid eile air níos mó. Theastaigh fianaise cruaidh uaidh, cinnte agus soléir, gan é, ní chreidfeadh sé. Thairg Íosa a bhi uaidh do’n aspal amhrasach. “Leag do mhéar anseo” adúirt Sé, ” agus mothaigh na créachta orm”. Maitheann sé dúinn an scanradh agus an drochamhras agus glactar linn mar atáir. Ní mór dúinn a rá ” Mo Thiarna is mo Dhia”.


Saint Peter Chanel, priest and martyr

Pierre Louis Marie Chanel (1803, 1841), was a Catholic priest and martyr. In 1831, at the age of 28, Chanel joined the newly founded Marist order, planning to go on foreign missionary work. In 1833, he accompanied Fr. Jean-Claude Colin to Rome to seek approval of the Marists. In 1836, they were asked to send missionaries to South Western Pacific. Chanel led a band of seven Marist missionaries to that distant territory After short stays in Tahiti and Tonga they continued their journey to Futuna where initially they were well received. Later, however, King Niuliki feared that Christianity would undermine his authority as high priest and king; so his son-in-law clubbed Peter Chanel to death.


  1. Joe O'Leary says:

    “Do not doubt, but believe” — how are we to interpret this statement?

    Perhaps we should translate is as “Think big!”

    The Resurrection is not a matter of tricky claims to be absorbed in blind faith. It is rather a matter of recognizing the fulness of the meaning of Christ.

    John’s Gospel has a series of recognition scenes, where Jesus is acclaimed for his “signs” or his words. He is acclaimed as the Messiah (by the blind man in ch. 9 and by Martha in ch. 1,), as the Saviour of the world by the Samaritans in ch. 4, as the one who has the words of life by Peter in ch. 6. Thomas’s acclamation, “My Lord and my God” is the last of this series and the climax of the whole Gospel–indeed it is a unique conclusive moment for all four Gospels.

    The risen Christ is thoroughly absorbed into the divine life, glorified by God, a transparent vehicle of the divine presence.

    What was “sown a physical body” is “raised a spiritual body,,”and he is now “a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15), yet he keeps his identity with the Cruciified. “God has made him both Lord and Christ, whom you crucified” (Act 2:36).

    For the first time in the Gospels Jesus is called God (“ho theos” — not merely “theos” as in John 1:2) and is adored. The conviction of the divinity of Christ is rooted in the apostles’ encounter with the Risen One. Ever since Christians have known Christ as a presence near at hand, just as omnipresent as God the Father or as the Holy Spirit that is at work in all hearts. Thus the doctrine of the Trinity is also rooted in the encounter with the Risen one, as we see in the last chapter of Matthew, the only text that speaks of “the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.2

    “Do not doubt, but believe” means “cast aside the petty scruples that keep you from adoring, from loving, from opening your heart and mind to the full greatness of the Word incarnate, which is coterminous with the Word by which the universe came into being.”

    There is always more to be discovered here. The presence of the Risen one is the first instalment of the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom, the ultimate transformation of the cosmos, when God will be all in all.

    Buddhism comes to its peak in the bliss of nirvana, which is beyond conceptual and linguistic grasp yet which is experienced as supremely, undeniable real. Christianity comes to its peak in the encounter with the risen Christ, which baffles thought and language yet is apprehended by faith, an opening of heart and mind.

    The whole New Testament bathes in the light of the Resurrection, and is a constant invitation to us to this surrender of faith — not to some blind irrational leap but to a recognition of the living presence of Christ in our world and in our hearts.

  2. Ciaran McGettrick says:

    I’d really appreciate if a thought could be produced on the theme of this Sunday – Divine Mercy Sunday

  3. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Today is “Quasimodo Sunday” – yes, the same Quasimodo, the protagonist of Victor Hugo’s story of the hunchback. The child was found at Notre-Dame de Paris on the Sunday following Easter Sunday:
    “Sixteen years previous to the epoch when this story takes place, one fine morning, on Quasimodo Sunday, a living creature had been deposited, after Mass, in the church of Notre- Dame, on the wooden bed securely fixed in the vestibule on the left, opposite that great image of Saint Christopher, which the figure of Messire Antoine des Essarts, chevalier, carved in stone, had been gazing at on his knees since 1413, when they took it into their heads to overthrow the saint and the faithful follower. Upon this bed of wood it was customary to expose foundlings for public charity. Whoever cared to take them did so… He [sc. archdeacon Claude Frollo, Quasimodo’s adoptive father] baptized his adopted child and called him Quasimodo; whether it was that he chose thereby to commemorate the day when he had found him, or that he meant to mark by that name how incomplete and imperfectly moulded the poor little creature was.”
    “Quasi modo” are the first words of the Introit: “Quasi modo geniti infants”: “Like newborn infants you must long for the pure, spiritual milk, that in him you may grow to salvation. Alleluia!” The newborn are those baptised at Easter, who on this day, “Dominica in albis depositis” or the “Sunday of putting away the white garments” which they have been wearing from Baptism at Easter, the first day of the week, the day of this New Creation. Easter is one Sunday lasting seven days: the Octave. Today is the Eighth Day, a new first day of creation. Many older churches have an octagonal Baptism font as a sign of this.
    Easter week is the Bright Week in Orthodox tradition: “Διακαινήσιμος Ἑβδομάς,” and today is “Bright Sunday.” In English we refer to it as “Low Sunday”; in Irish it is “Mion-Cháisc”, Little Sunday – perhaps paralleling Epiphany as “Little Christmas”, another name for “Nollaig na mBan”, Women’s Christmas.
    This Sunday is also the day of the “Risus Paschalis”, the “Paschal Laughter.” In some places there was a tradition of including jokes in the homily to generate laughter, an expression of jubilation at the Risen Lord. In today’s gospel, Jesus catches out the disciples (not just apostles). They had almost all abandoned him in his hour of greatest need. Taken by surprise, their expectation would be that he would berate them for that; instead, he greets them with Peace! When fear imprisons us, Jesus liberates us by bringing life out of death. Jesus turns the tables on Thomas also; all in great love, and, dare I say it, with great humour! I picture Jesus speaking to Thomas, as to the others the previous Sunday, with a broad grin on his face: “There! Didn’t I tell you!”
    As Jesus, who calls us to love our enemies, to forgive 77 times (cancelling the vengeance of Lamech (Genesis 4:23-24), who prayed for his executioners, brings this new life, and who now comes not demanding apology but reconciliation. He enables us to bring this new life by the breath of life. It might seem he gives us a choice to forgive or not, to be a “tribunal of penance”, but it is clear what he does and what he wants of us – his call is never to retain others in sin, but to liberate them as he does us. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive …”
    Some early writer (Gregory of Nyssa?) described the Resurrection as God turning the tables on death and the devil and all the powers of evil. They thought they had outsmarted God through the death of Jesus, who was now in imprisoned in Sheol. What they didn’t realise was that, in fact, they welcomed into Sheol the very one who would destroy their kingdom. Jesus is the one who brought life – eternal life – into the realms of death. Perhaps we could describe Jesus here as a Trojan horse! Jesus is the one who carries out the “Harrowing of Hell”, the one who breaks up the surface to receive the seed of life; and he himself is that seed. “Unless the seed is buried in the ground and dies, it cannot bring forth new life” (John 12).
    Jesus transforms death into a life-giving source. The ashes we wore on Ash Wednesday now bear fruit. We continue our jubilation for a week of weeks (7 weeks), until the day of Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, the celebration of the Spring harvest.
    Happy Bright Sunday! Happy Risus Paschalis!
    Greek Easter greeting: “Christos anesti!” “Christ is risen!”
    Reply: “Alethos anesti!” “He is risen indeed!”
    Christ is risen from the dead,
    Trampling down death by death,
    And to those in the tombs
    He has given life!

  4. Paddy Ferry says:

    Joe @1, I have been thinking for some time about your reference to “raised a spiritual body…”

    “What was “sown a physical body” is “raised a spiritual body,,”and he is now “a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15), …..”

    I have been bothered for years about this. Now, my understanding has always been that our belief in the resurrection as a physical, bodily resurrection was absolutely central to our faith as Christians.

    In the early 1980s I spent two two week pilgrimages in the Holy Land. They were wonderful experiences. On the 2nd occasion I brought my mother and I thought at the time this must be the best thing I could ever have done for her. In those days it would have been very debatable which of us had the most innocent faith, despite my five and a half at UCD !!
    We went everywhere and saw everything. Of course, we went to Emmaus and the fact the 2 disciples did not recognise Him at first puzzled me. I think I may have wondered about this before but, being there, meant it really hit home. If His resurrection had really been a physical bodily resurrection, why could they not recognise Him?

    I don’t think I even queried the 2 priests, who were my friends. and who were leading the pilgrimage after they had concelebrated mass at Emmaus. They made much of the fact that the disciples only recognised him in the eucharist which seemed to make it a positive thing that they did not initially know who he was but, even then, that did nothing for me.

    “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 ….”

    This adds to the mystery. How did he manage to get in if the doors were locked. So, have I been mistaken all the while and we do not have to believe it was a physical, bodily resurrection. Joe, I am certain you will explain.

    And, by the way, has everybody been on holiday since Easter? Not a cheep from anybody until Jim McHugh broke the silence today. Despite what the Four Seasons, and later the Tremeloes, might say I don’t think silence is golden.
    So, I decided my long term, simmering uncertainty as to the actual nature of the resurrection could wait no longer.

  5. Joe O'Leary says:

    Paddy, Paul had actually “seen the Lord”: “last of all as to one born out of time He manifested himself also to me.” So everything he writes in 1 Cor 15 could be seen as an account of what meeting the Risen Christ was like.

    The word for physical is psychkikos, which could be translated “animated” and the word for spiritual is pneumatikos, which could be translated “pneumatic” — the glorified body belongs to the same register of reality as the Holy Spirit. It is the physical body that is raised, but transformed utterly.

    Hence its unimpeded manifeststion at different times and places.

    Hence the difficulty of recognizing it: Mary Magdalen does not recognize Jesus at first in John 20, nor do the seven disciples in John 21 (it’s the Beloved Disciple that recognizes him first); the Emmaus story also attests difficulty of recognition as does the “some doubted” of Matthew 28. The disciples in the upper room in Lk 24 think they are seeing a ghost.

    Common to all the accounts is the experience of encountering a powerful reality, which takes the initiative in manifesting itself to them, and which they recognize as the Lord.

    The closest to a straightforward factual account is the list of six appearances in 1 Cor 15, going back to a very early stage.

    The location of these appearances is not specified (Paul’s refers no doubt to the Damascus road).

    The first two — to Cephas and the Twelve are the basis for the Upper Room stories in Lk 24 and Jn 20 — which are full of apologetic, symbolic, and legendary detail (such as the story of doubting Thomaa)

    Mark’s angel promises the women that Jesus will go before the apostles to Galilee (as he himself promises at 14:28), but there are no appearance narratives. Matthew’s narrative of the appearance on a mountain in Galilee is based on this Markan promise.

    The story of the women discovering an empty tomb is perhaps a fiction (as the story of the grave itself — Joseph of Arimathea — which is more elaborate in John — probably is). The empty grave is adorned with angels — not a terribly strong indication of factuality — and with an appearance of Jesus to the women (somewhat in contradiction to the promise of a Galilean appearance — Mark’s text is altered in Luke to “as he said to you in Galilee”), or to Mary alone in John (again probably a fictional scene).

    John 21 is sort of postlude to the Gospel and brings in “Galilean” topics like the miraculous catch of fish, the “bread and fish” as in the multiplication story told 5 times in the Gospels including John 6, the commission of Peter, and “follow me”.

    I need to look at all this again, but such at the moment are my impressions.

  6. Paddy Ferry says:

    Thanks, Joe. Excellent!

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