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Breaking Open the Word

2nd Sunday of Easter
April 7, 2024

00:00 / 02:43


Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
1 John 5:1-6
John 20:19-31


The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles is a glimpse of the very early church. These early Christians were living in the era of the Apostles and the highly infused Holy Spirit, based of the number of signs and wonders being done. They were drawn to each other in an incredible joy that permeated every moment of their lives, which revolved around 4 things: the teaching of the Apostles, breaking of the bread, prayers, and communal living. These early Christians wanted to live together and share with each other because they were filled with the joy of the faith.

They were not attempting to live away from the world in isolation, because every day the Lord was increasing their numbers; the world was aware of them. This is a blessing from the Lord for their great faith. This communal living is meant to show us the great faith of the early church and the influence of Holy Spirit to help us understand how the early church grew so quickly. This passage describes a lifestyle that still exists today in some consecrated religious communities in certain vowed religious orders. Some live the contemplative life away from the world, such as the Trappist monks, and some live in the world of service- St. Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity for example.

As you read the passage from Psalm 118 in the responsorial, ponder St. Thomas at the sight of the resurrected Jesus. This reading is so perfectly related for Divine Mercy Sunday. On this special Sunday, recall the last verse: “This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it.” That verse is a great way to start every day.

In the second reading, St. John writes about God’s mercy, which is particularly relevant to today’s Divine Mercy Sunday. Water and blood in verse 6 refer to the water and blood that flowed from Jesus' side after He offered up His life on the Cross and the Roman soldier pierced His side (Jn 19:34). St. John says we must remember it isn't only by the blood of Christ that we receive our gift of redemption. It is also by the water of Baptism that the Holy Spirit, who anointed Christ at His Baptism, continues to anoint Christians in every generation to new life in the Spirit as children in the family of God.

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Gospel Explained

There are many thoughts to meditate on in this Gospel reading, but the story of “Doubting Thomas” gets a lot of the focus. St. Thomas is very interesting. In 3 different passages in the gospels, he seems to be portrayed as a skeptic. When Jesus heard Lazarus was dying and He said He was going to go to Bethany, the apostles commented “Why? They just tried to stone you there.” But when Jesus was determined to go, Thomas declared “let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

Later, at the Last Supper Jesus told all of them He was going to the Father’s house to prepare a place for them and would come back and get them so they could be together, and He said “you know the way where I am going.” But Thomas objected- “Lord we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” (John 14:5). Thomas asked the deep questions that we all wonder. Jesus replied that He was the way, and the truth, and the life. To get a better understanding of what Thomas and the apostles were thinking, read all of John chapter 14. Only the descent of the Holy Spirit will clarify their confusion and misunderstanding.

Now in today’s reading, why was Thomas not with the other 10 apostles in the upper room? Did he not believe the earlier reports of those seeing Jesus? The stories we have of him show Thomas wanting, seeking, requiring real evidence. Though he had been witness to so many miracles and healings done by Jesus, to rise from the dead was too much to imagine. His evidence was that Jesus had been killed. Recalling a few weeks earlier he said if they go to Jerusalem they will all die there, and as predicted Jesus went and was killed by the Jews. So it’s not surprising that Thomas was very saddened and scared at what happened, and perhaps he didn’t even want to be anywhere near the other 10 who he thought would all be killed too.

After the appearance of Jesus in the locked room, the apostles told Thomas that Jesus had appeared and He actually showed them the wound marks of His hands and side. In spite of their testimony Thomas was unable to believe; he protested he will not believe and he even set the conditions for his belief: to actually touch the marks of the crucifixion, which Jesus had invited the apostles to do. Note that his disbelieve is not different than those same apostles when Mary told them she had seen Jesus.

Jesus had told His apostles that He would go away (Crucifixion) and then come back (Resurrection), and then never leave them. And he didn’t leave them: Jesus knew explicitly of their discussion with Thomas later that week wherever it took place and of Thomas’s conditions for belief. So next Sunday Thomas did join them; he was still a skeptic but he also sought the truth. When Jesus reappeared He greeted all of them and then immediately addressed Thomas reciting the same words of that last week’s discussion among the apostles.

Jesus told Thomas to put his finger into the nail marks and his hand into His side. He may not have needed the touching, because just at the sight of the wounds he exclaimed the response remembered throughout all of time, “My Lord and my God!” He had seen and touched Christ as a man, but now believed in Him as God. He now knows the way! His exclamation was not only an expression of recognition but also of adoration. Church tradition has it that Thomas went to India (the ends of the world) to proclaim Jesus, where he was martyred, fulfilling that prediction he made at Lazarus’ death story.

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Today's Theme

The theme for this Sunday’s readings is peace and mercy.

Imagine going through what the apostles went through in the last week. Only one week before, they saw Jesus welcomed into Jerusalem with the crowds proclaiming Him king, laying palms at His feet. Four days later at the Last Supper they heard Jesus say He was about to suffer and die and in 3 days to rise again, whatever that meant. Then Jesus was betrayed by one of them and arrested and they all abandoned Him. The next day, those adoring folks with the palms are now screaming “crucify him!” His main man, Peter, “the Rock”, denied Him, even swearing he didn’t know Jesus. They never imagined Jesus would be crucified like a criminal; even Judas didn’t think that would happen.

Now today there are stories of Jesus appearing alive. By evening, in fear of the Jews who might kill them, the apostles are in a locked room. If you put yourself into that room, so many feelings would overwhelm them; who could process all of them? Guilt, fear, despair, confusion, disbelief. Who could handle all those thoughts and emotions of those last three days? And then right there in that locked room Jesus just appears! What do you say? Well the first words are from Jesus, who wishes them peace. He shows them the signs of His death, yet He is standing before them, alive! The tension is broken, and they rejoice! After what unforgivable things they had done, He is forgiving them. Divine mercy. He again wishes them peace, and in an act of forgiveness He breathes Holy Spirit onto them.

A very important part of this story is the institution of the sacrament of reconciliation, or confession to forgive sin. But don’t miss the other sacrament that was conferred: ordination. Jesus makes a statement that will change the Apostles' status in the world: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you."  This moment is the ordination of the Church's Magisterium, and Jesus is sending them out into the world with the power and the authority of God the Father and with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The gospel story takes place on Resurrection Sunday when Jesus appeared in the locked room. Before His passion, 3 times Jesus predicted His death and that He would arise from the dead. Anyone can predict their death; even we can do that. But not how and when. But Jesus had the faith in God enough to believe and declare that He will rise from the dead. In His human nature Jesus was very aware of death, He had lost loved ones who died: his father Joseph, his grandparents, His cousin John the Baptist. He had raised 3 people from the dead who would certainly all die again. But His Godly nature knew there was life after death; He talked about this in several gospel stories, such as the rich man and poor Lazarus. He knew the pain of hell and the divine mercy and peace of Heaven.

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Theme in our Life Today

When Thomas had questioned Jesus of where He was going and what was the way, Jesus answered “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” When Thomas had his proof of the Resurrection, he suddenly realized the truth and he became the first person to proclaim Jesus’ divinity. Jesus gently rebuked Thomas for his lack of faith, and then Jesus referred to and blessed us and the billions of followers of Jesus in the last 2 millennia since the apostolic era that would not get to see Jesus but would believe from the testimony of those who shared the story of Jesus.

Everyone experiences moments and times of doubt in our faith like Thomas when we perceive our prayers as going unanswered: pain and suffering in the world, illnesses and diseases not healed or even ending in death, troubles and sin and evil in the world that seems to go on unrelenting. Thomas had to learn that Jesus was always with him, and he got to experience the sensory proof with the eyes and ears and touch. We do not get to do that. Yet we know that Jesus is always with us, He knows our thoughts and actions more than anyone else ever will.

We just have to remember that Jesus explicitly blessed us for believing in Him without the physical, touching, seeing proof that Thomas experienced. Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist; at Mass, when we first see Jesus elevated at the Consecration, like St. Thomas the best words to say in His presence are “My Lord and my God.” Thomas got to see, hear and touch Jesus for 40 more days, but then after the Ascension of the Lord he had to believe just like us. Of all of our senses, it is our ears that tell us that Jesus is present in the Eucharist, to the other senses it still appears as bread. We hear the word of God, we listen to those who teach us about the faith and Jesus; we believe by what we hear. That is how the church grew from 12 apostles to 1.2 billion people. All by hearing and believing that Jesus rose from the dead. St. Paul wrote to the Church in Rome: “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes from the preaching of Christ (Rom 10:17). Christ's same teachings have been passed from the Apostles down through the generations to us in the Church today.

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Prepare for Sunday

This is Divine Mercy Sunday. The first Sunday after Easter was designated Divine Mercy Sunday on Easter, 2000 by St. Pope John Paul II. Several local parishes have Divine Mercy services in the area, check

  1. Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. It only takes 6 minutes.

  2. Go to confession!

  3. Read more about Divine mercy from the National Shrine:

Let us pray the prayers of the Chaplet:

For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

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