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Sunday Scripture: The celebration of Easter continues

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

By Father Timothy Schehr

Second Sunday of Easter: Acts 5:12-16; Revelation 1:9-19; John 20:19-31

By this time our Easter baskets are probably near empty. And we probably do not hear quite so many Alleluia’s and trumpet sounds on the air waves. But in our Sunday liturgies the celebration of Easter has lost no momentum at all.

Let’s begin with the second reading this time. It comes from the Book of Revelation. This book may make some a little uneasy. Its pages speak of ugly beasts, bowls of wrath and a red dragon. But let’s not overlook the overwhelmingly positive images in the book: the bride of Christ, the victory of the Lamb and all those hymns giving glory to God for the gift of salvation.


 
John opens up the reading on a note of solidarity with us readers. He is our brother who shares with us the joys and hardships of being loyal to Christ. So we are not alone; we have the support of one of God’s most faithful servants, whom tradition identifies as St. John the Apostle.

John explains that he writes this book because he was directed to do so by the Risen Lord. He heard a voice speaking to him, and when he turned around he saw the Lord wearing a brilliant robe and present among seven golden lampstands. Later we discover that each of these lampstands represents a community of the faithful. The fact that the Risen Lord is among these lampstands suggests that He is taking care of them and making sure their lights burn as brightly as possible.
 
At the sight of the Lord, John collapses to the floor. But Jesus comforts him with a touch and a word of encouragement. He has nothing to fear in the presence of the One who lives forever. The Lord wants him to write down what he sees. It will encourage believers in every generation to remain faithful to the Lord. This will ensure that their lights always burn brightly. They will also enjoy the heavenly Jerusalem.

There’s much to celebrate in the Gospel reading, too. To begin with, the apostles have a visit from the Risen Lord. Out of fear they have apparently been in hiding since the day of the Lord’s crucifixion. They huddle together in fear behind locked doors. But Jesus assures them with the greeting: “Peace be with you.”

Peace is just what they need at this time. Then the Risen Lord goes on to fill them with the breath of the Holy Spirit, a scene recalling the creation account when God put the breath of life into the man God had just formed from the dust of the earth. This gift of the Spirit is immediately followed with the instruction to forgive sins, the very power once reserved to God alone.
 
The apostles hear the Lord announce that they are to be sent out into the world to lead others to faith and eternal life. But they go nowhere! At least, not at the beginning. A week later they are still behind locked doors. And one of them, Thomas, has even declared he will not believe in the Risen Lord without tangible proof. The Lord now invites him to satisfy his conditions and come to faith. We hear Thomas as he makes the strongest declaration of faith yet heard from one of the apostles, “My Lord and my God!”

The first reading adds still another reason for joy to all the reasons we have explored already. From Acts we learn that the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, work many signs and wonders inviting others to faith. The celebration of Easter goes way beyond a single Sunday.

Father Schehr is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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