Easter Vigil Message, and Second Sunday of Easter
By Mons. Peter Jeffrey:
Significantly, in Matthew’s Gospel, women were the first recipients of the first appearance of the Risen Lord. The women are the ones who relay the Good News to the others – that Jesus is risen and that they will see Him in Galilee!
Here it is not Peter or the Beloved Disciple (John) who witness Jesus first. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary have that distinction! Jesus chooses those whom He wills. We who have been baptised into Christ are called to be witnesses to His presence in our world. What a challenge that is with all that is going on in the world in these changing times.
We know from other stories in the Gospels that the male disciples of Jesus dismissed the stories of the women who proclaimed ‘He is risen’ as nonsense! That behaviour of the disciples may cause us to ponder. When they eventually came to believe in the Resurrection, they had to recast all their prior thinking. What an impact belief in the Resurrection makes. It shapes how we see ourselves now and it opens up our eternal destiny. We have a promised destiny of eternal life in Christ and with the saints. Death is not the ultimate end. Knowing that ‘truth’ which is key to our Catholic Faith, has a definite impact on the way we live in the present.
If we were to look at John’s Gospel, we would see that Mary of Magdala was the first to find the tomb empty. Her reaction was logical – viz. that the body had been stolen! Peter and the Beloved Disciple (i.e. John) see for themselves that the tomb was empty. It is helpful to note that only one of them believed. We hear in the Gospel account - “they did not understand the Scriptures!” That can be a reminder to us that we live by faith and not by sight.
Easter morning gives us the guiding light by which we live our lives. The death of Jesus was not His end. It also means His destiny is also ours when we seek to follow Him! What a difference that makes to how we see each day. Pray this Easter that we will be open to the unexpected ways that God may work in our personal and family lives.
Second Sunday of Easter:
“The doors were closed in the room where the disciples were for fear of the Jews”. In our current situation, we are all behind closed doors due to the threat of the current virus. Shops are closed and travel is restricted.
When we hear this Easter Gospel, we see that the tomb could not keep Jesus IN; by contrast, where the disciples were, the doors locked because of fear of the Jews, cannot keep Him OUT. When He came and stood among them, His greeting was “Peace be with you”!
In our different situations, we all need to hear the Lord say to us quite intimately “Peace be with you”. Whatever our situation may be, that greeting reminds us that we are never interiorly isolated because the Lord is with us. He knows exactly what each of us is experiencing in our current life situation.
As well as thinking of ourselves, during this trying time of ‘lock down’ when neighbours and friends may be unemployed, we need to be aware of how our neighbours are coping. When people are losing their weekly income, as many are at present, it is very difficult for them to pay rent and bills. A phone call can mean so much at such a critical times. I am sure we will all know people who will be in quite desperate situations at present. It seems the ‘lock-down’ will continue for some time.
Jesus did not always get an immediate response even from his chosen disciples. Thomas said - “Unless I see the holes the nails made in His hands, I will not believe!” It is fascinating that Jesus responded to Thomas’ situation. He came again and showed Thomas, His hands and His side.
That is worth pondering. Jesus knows exactly what we are experiencing and yearns to meet us exactly where we are – warts and all. We can share our burdens with Him knowing that He is always with us.
I think we are able to connect with Thomas because his story speaks to us at different times or stages in our lives. Thomas’ act of faith reminds me (and all of us) that we make choices to believe and have faith. We may doubt and we may question ‘what’ we believe and ‘why’ we believe. This is necessary if we are to move from an inherited faith from childhood to an adult faith growing in maturity. Of course, faith is ultimately a gift of God’s grace; but the whisperings of the Holy Spirit are never forcing us. God respects our freedom – He gives the promptings – the invitation, if you like.
In our hectic lifestyle, we can bypass the active practice of our faith and the work God has called us to do. Yet, with
“Divine Mercy”, the Lord never ceases to call us back; He invites us to deepen our relationship with Him. He offers “Peace” to counteract our fears, and forgiveness to wipe away our sins. As people who have received these gifts of peace and mercy, we are ‘sent forth’ from our celebration of Mass to carry these gifts to our neighbourhoods.
Jesus did not abandon Thomas at his moment of unbelief. Likewise, Jesus will wait patiently for us if we drift away from active engagement with the practise of our faith.
Look now again at what happened in today’s Gospel, when the disciples saw the Lord. The Risen Jesus said to them – “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you”. They were to go forth and engage with others.
Our presence at Mass today indicates that we are responding. Our response, on this Divine Mercy Sunday, is hopefully like that of Thomas “My Lord and my God”.