Cycle C – Homily – Second Sunday of Easter – 24 April 2022
Divine Mercy Sunday
Lectionary I Lectionary II
Acts 5:12-16 Acts 5:27-32
Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24 Psalm 118:14-29 (pr Psalm 150)
Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19 Revelation 1:4-8
John 20:19-31 John 20:19-31
[This is the homily for this past Sunday. Apologies.]
First, I think we should wish a Happy and Blessed Easter to our Eastern Rite and Orthodox friends – and I do know we have some readers and some followers here who are Eastern or Orthodox. Recall that the Eastern Liturgical Cycle is a week behind the Western Cycle. (That is a generalized statement – not a dogmatic one!) On a more somber note, however, we must remember that this must be a very difficult Easter for our Eastern friends in Ukraine. Let us remember their Easter in our prayers for them today.
Notice that our two sets pf Lectionary readings today do not completely match. If you are looking for an interesting spiritual exercise for this week, you might want to consider the first readings and second readings of each Lectionary and think about how comparing the readings can enhance spiritual understanding both of the Second Sunday of Easter and of the Divine Mercy Sunday.
Yes, some jurisdictions do celebrate today as a Sunday devoted to the recognition Divine Mercy. Other jurisdictions use this Sunday as a continuation of Easter. After all, today is the Octave of Easter – the eighth day of Easter. Octaves have been a serious part of Christianity since Constantine formalized the concept about 1900 years ago. The general idea is that the feasts (Christmas, Easter, and any number of other feasts) are celebrated. And the respective celebration continues for the next seven days. There is a crescendo-ing effect through the rest of the week. The eighth day (the octave) becomes the culmination of the celebration.
The Orthodox Church, as well as the Eastern Churches, also celebrate Octaves. The Eastern and Orthodox Churches usually call the Octave the Afterfeast and the last day of the Afterfeast is the Apodosis.
Thus, today we celebrate the Eighth Day of Easter, the Octave of Easter, and the Second Sunday of Easter. This brings us right in to today’s gospel, which, as you can see, is the same in both Lectionaries. This is the very familiar story of DOUBTING THOMAS. Let’s go through this story point by point and then see what we can glean for our own lives.
The story begins on Easter evening. The disciples were in a locked room because they were afraid. That is a concept most everyone across time and space has experienced, whether figuratively or literally or both. We know what it is like to be afraid and locked in, even if locked in only in our own minds.
But, Jesus didn’t bother with locked doors; he just came in anyway. Jesus doesn’t worry about the locks we wrap ourselves in either. He comes in and offers us peace and waits for us. Jesus offered peace to the disciples, and he showed them his physical ID, his wounds. Then Jesus explained to the disciples’ their mission, he breathed the Spirit into them, and he commissioned them. They were being sent out to do as he had done.
So, the disciples were being sent out – right there and then from the locked room. But wait! The time wasn’t quite right yet. Thomas wasn’t there.
As a sidebar on Thomas: People have been speculating literally for centuries about why it is mentioned that Thomas was a twin. Biological twins were almost as common in the time of Jesus as they are today, so, if Thomas had a biological twin, it would be no big deal. That is, unless that twin were also a part of the new movement. Tomes have been written speculating on who Thomas’ twin could be. Everyone from Jesus to Judas and everyone in between has been postulated as being the missing twin. It has also been speculated that the use of “twin” was a literary device used to indicate a particularly close personal or professional relationship between two people. The truth is that after two millennia, there are still no satisfactory explanations as to why Thomas is mentioned as a twin.
Sometime during that Easter week, Thomas returns and rejoins the group. The disciples explain to Thomas that Jesus was risen and that he had stopped by. Thomas is in disbelief. He almost tells his friends that they are crazy. We have to ask who or what Thomas doubted. Did he doubt that Jesus was risen and had appeared, or did he doubt that the disciples were telling him a straight story? Both ideas are worthy of some thought.
It was the Easter Octave when the disciples were again gathered. Thus, it was the culmination of the feast of Easter. Thus, the message was deemed important. That concept had not yet been codified for those first Christians, but later Christians, for whom John was writing, would have certainly understood that the Octave gave added impetus to the events of the day. We 21st Century Christians understand that because we’ve read about it.
On that Octave of Easter, Thomas is there with the other disciples when Jesus again appears through locked doors. Jesus again offers peace. Jesus then offers Thomas his physical evidence – his wounds. Thomas’ profound exclamation – “My Lord and My God!” – has reverberated throughout history. For many people, “My Lord and My God!” is a statement of complete devotion and complete surrender to the will of God.
Can you picture Jesus looking softly and lovingly at Thomas and saying gently, ”You believe because you saw. Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” Jesus is not talking about wanting proof for our business dealings in the material world. He is talking about our dealings with the will of God.
Jesus did not become angry with Thomas; he just suggested a better way because he was not dealing with the ways of the world but rather with the ways of God.
The Thomas story should resonate with each of us on several levels. We have all been Thomas. We have all been in a state of disbelief – even when we know the truth before us comes from God. We have all also had moments of profound enlightenment when we have recognized the will and the presence of God.
As we set out on this Octave of Easter, we need to remember that we are all commissioned by God and sent out on blind faith. We must believe what we cannot see. We must also remember that while we cannot see, we are not being led blindly as long as we are holding onto the hand of God.
Dr Roberta M Meehan, D.Min