10 April 2010

Dominica in Octava Paschæ

First Reading, Acts 5:12-16
Solomon’s portico was outside of the temple area and was open to all walks of life: Jew and Gentile, the repentant and unrepentant. It was a large place, therefore, suitable for crowds. It’s not likely that these gatherings would have been allowed by the temple priests if Solomon’s portico was within the temple area.

Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles. Jesus healed many of the infirmed with the imposition of His Hands. In His Name the apostles are carrying on with His healing ministry. These are the beginnings of the Church and as the text reads, great numbers of men and women were added to the Church’s numbers. That statement rings true every year at the Easter Vigil.

There is great faith seen here as those who were sick believed that even Peter’s shadow could heal them. In Saint John’s Gospel (14:12) Jesus says: ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, he that believes in Me, the works that I do, he also shall do; and greater than these shall he do’. Perhaps in this Reading we are seeing at least a partial fulfillment of what Jesus had foretold.

Saint Augustine uses this Reading to turn our focus to the communion of saints in heaven. He points out that if Peter could heal the sick by casting his shadow over them, how much more help to us is Peter and all the saints now that they are permanent citizens of heaven.

Second Reading, Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
In this, the Second Reading, we read from what is probably the most perplexing book in all of Sacred Scripture. It was believed to have been written by Saint John, the apostle of Jesus Christ, at least according to some of the early Church Fathers. Some of the other Fathers, however, have denied this; hence the author of the Book of Revelation is not definitively known. It was written in Greek on the island of Patmos where Saint John was exiled.

The first verse sums up what is inevitable if we are to truly be disciples of Christ – distress -- in other words, the cross. This is a shared calling or experience when faithfully proclaiming the glory of God in word and deed which is ultimately giving testimony to Jesus.

What is witnessed by the author occurred on a Sunday, the Lord’s Day. A voice as loud as a trumpet is heard which signifies that something of great importance is about to be revealed. There are some writings which suggest that the voice is not that of the Lord but instead Saint John the Baptist who proclaimed himself as a voice crying in the wilderness.

The seven gold lampstands represent the seven churches of Asia. In the midst of the lampstands is one like a son of man who is either a representative of our Lord, such as an angel, or Jesus Christ Himself. Being in the midst of the lampstands delineates Christ’s watchful Eye over the Church. The ankle-length robe and gold sash are the garments of a priest, and in this case our High Priest, Jesus Christ.

The message proclaimed here, ‘Do not be afraid’, is an assurance that regardless of how heavy the cross becomes, Christ is always in the midst of His Church, enlightening, protecting and sanctifying her. Christ is the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega. As God, Christ is always alive; as Man He once died on the Cross for the salvation of humanity, but triumphed over sin and death by rising from the dead. He holds the keys to death and has power over all things as God and Man.

That trumpet must always be vibrating in our souls, constantly reminding us that even though many of the things which we are privy to in this life can become extremely depressing and discouraging, that heavenly trumpet enchants the soul with the message that our Lord did not die and rise in vain, our Blessed Mother was not pierced with a sword in vain, holy men and women were not persecuted in vain, nor did the martyrs spill their blood in vain; and we do not defend Holy Mother Church in vain – our dear Lord and Savior is still very much in charge.

Gospel, John 20:19-31
Exactly how Jesus was able to appear in the midst of His disciples when the doors were locked cannot be comprehended. It does show, however, that Jesus is not limited to the laws of time and space; and for this reason it is an act of faith to accept the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. For if Jesus is capable of walking through locked doors He is certainly capable of veiling Himself under the species of bread and wine.

Jesus shows His disciples His Hands and His Side so that they can verify that the risen Body in which He appears to them is the same Body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of His Passion (cf. CCC 645).

Jesus breathes on His disciples; from this hour onward, the mission of Christ and the Spirit becomes the mission of the Church: ‘As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.’ Christ gives His apostles the power to forgive sins when He says: ‘Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained’. The apostles at this moment are given some portion of the gifts of the Spirit. It is at Pentecost when a deluge of spiritual gifts and graces is poured out.

Saint Gregory the Great points out that the unbelief of Thomas is of greater advantage to the strengthening of our faith, than the ready belief of the rest of the apostles. For when he proceeded to touch the Wounds of Christ, Thomas is aiding us in laying aside our own lack of faith. Thomas puts to rest our own lack of faith when he says: ‘My Lord and my God’! This is such a great Divine mystery! Thomas is able to touch the physical Wounds of Jesus and yet let us not forget that Jesus first appeared to them by penetrating a locked door which means that Jesus was also able to withdraw at will from His physicality.

Jesus said to Thomas: ‘Have you come to believe because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed’. This verse is aimed at all future Christians, including us. We are counted among the blessed because we have not seen these events occur but we believe in their authenticity. However, it must be said that if you’ve been to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, you’ve been to the Passion. The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ which occurred in a moment of time was so great, so unfathomable, so transforming for humanity, that the laws of time and space are unable to contain it. On this Sunday of Divine Mercy, it is a very great mercy of God, and an unthinkable privilege for us to be at Calvary each and every Mass, and yet be spared of its horrific visuals.

There are many things about Christ that will always remain a mystery but as the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out: ‘Many things about Jesus of interest to human curiosity do not figure in the Gospels. Almost nothing is said about His hidden life at Nazareth, and even a great part of His public life is not recounted. What is written in the Gospels was set down there so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His Name’ (CCC 514). Let us not allow curiosity to consume us or let what is unknown about Jesus torture us, but instead let us spend time in stillness adoring Jesus, seeking His Face where He remains hidden -- in the tabernacle of our soul.