Homily, 2nd Sunday of Easter - April 23, 2017

Homily 2nd Sunday of Easter A Schuyler Christ the King Priory2017
Joh 20:19-31   Acts 2:42-47   1 Pet 1:3-9

Focus: The Risen Christ is our Lord and God.

Function: The Easter Season is meant to help us believe in the resurrection.

Dear Sisters and brothers in the Lord,

We have celebrated Easter; and the feast continues for fifty days.  On Easter Sunday after the vigil I was energized and full of joy:  the light of the Easter candle was multiplied and St. Benedict Center’s chapel beautifully illuminated by many little lights that we had put around the Easter candle after the Exsultet; then the many Alleluias, and all the other symbols and rites.

Everyday life with its ups and downs goes on after Easter Sunday.  The purpose of the Easter Season, of us celebrating 50 days of Easter, is to train our eyes so they learn to see the new reality of the Resurrection more and more in our own lives and in our world.

In both the gospels of Easter Sunday and of today the Resurrection Event is surrounded by contrasts:  a sense of great loss and of fear and great joy; doubt and belief.

Today’s gospel begins by pointing out that the disciples were gathered behind locked doors “for fear.”  Jesus’ death had driven them into hiding.  Then the Risen One stands in their midst and suddenly, as they see Him, they are full of joy.

What caused their Easter joy?  Certainly Jesus’ presence, Jesus’ being alive.  And then also Jesus’ message.  He speaks words of peace and forgiveness.

Peace (Greek eirene) here doesn’t mean only the absence of war;  Behind it stands the Hebrew concept of shalom, which means universal well-being and wholeness.

A prerequisite of this shalom’s full reception is the forgiveness of sins: for the disciples to receive forgiveness from God and for them to extend forgiveness to other people.  Peace and forgiveness together open up the spaciousness of salvation,  shattering the confines of locked doors and doubt.

Thomas, who was absent during this first encounter with the risen Lord, does not believe the witness of the other disciples.  Like us, he wants tangible evidence.  Rather than touching Jesus, however, Thomas only utters a profound profession of faith.  His encounter with the risen Lord replaces the need for tangible evidence and opens up the space for faith, for salvation.  Thomas experienced the peace and the forgiveness that Jesus offers!

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, The Risen Christ is our Lord and God.  The Easter Season is meant to help us believe in the resurrection.  We also can experience His presence and in some quite concrete way see him and touch him.  Today’s first reading tells us how.  It describes various elements of the life of the early Christian community.

One of them is the Eucharist, the “breaking of the bread,”  In the Eucharist Jesus shows us his hands; and his side.  We commemorate his passion and death.  At the Eucharist, he bestows the Holy Spirit upon us.  In the Epiclesis, we call down the Holy Spirit upon bread and wine.  Here we touch Him.  After the consecration, we eat him into ourselves, so that he can transform us, so that our hearts become more and more like his.

Then there is the teaching of the apostles.  During the Easter Season, the Lectionary presents us with sections from all parts of the Acts of the Apostles;  We hear how, in spite of rejection and persecution, the message about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus spreads over the whole world known at this time. The teaching of the apostles came so evidently from God!  Humans were not able to destroy it.

Finally, there is the communal life.  We encounter the Risen Christ in each other.  Our ability to forgive a person who has hurt us is a gift of the Risen One; we receive it if we ask him for it.  Our ability to share our possessions with those who are in need—according to the example of the early Christians in Jerusalem—is a gift of the Risen Lord, too, and evidence of His presence within us and around us.

Certainly, it would be nice to trade places with Thomas and to share in this first, overwhelming experience of Christ’s resurrection.  If we, however, in a prayerful attitude, see and hear, note and perceive, especially during the next six weeks, we will get in touch ever more fully with this new reality; indeed, we, too, will encounter and touch the Risen One.

Amen.  Shalom!

Fr. Thomas Leitner, OSB