Easter season speaks to us of new life, mercy, faith, mystery

By: By Sister Agnes Cunningham, SSCM

Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), May 1

Acts of the Apostles 2:42-47; Psalm 118:2-4,13-15,22-24; 1 Peter 1:3-9; Easter Sequence; John 20:19-31

One of the optional entrance antiphons for this Second Sunday of Easter reminds us of a name by which the Octave of the Resurrection was once known: Dominica in Albis. The entire prayer echoes the feast we celebrated eight days ago: “Like newborn children you should thirst for milk, on which your spirit can grow to strength, alleluia.” On this day, newborn Christians, baptized at the Easter Vigil, removed the white robes worn since their reception of the sacraments of initiation. This gesture proclaimed to the church that they had completed the post-baptismal mystagogic catecheses under the instruction of their bishop, and were ready to join the faith community as full-fledged members of the body of Christ.

We know this day as “Divine Mercy Sunday.” In Psalm 118 we give thanks to the Lord, for “His mercy endures forever.” We hear Peter assure us that God “in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” With Catholics throughout the world, we rejoice today in the beatification of Pope John Paul the Great who gave us this liturgical feast and died on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005.
Both of these themes come together in the person of Thomas, the unbelieving twin. In his agony of heart at the death of Jesus, Thomas fled the company of the other Apostles in whose presence he could remember only the loss of a beloved Master and friend. In his anguish, he was haunted by the thoughts of happier days, of promises now never to be fulfilled; by despair of a hoped for future, by fear of what disaster might fall on him from the enemies of Jesus.

His anger and chagrin at news of the Lord’s alleged visit knew no bounds. Stubbornly, he refused to believe unless he had visible, tangible proof for himself.

Then, suddenly, HE was there and Thomas was embraced by the overwhelming mercy of the Jesus he loved. He was on his knees, like a newborn child thirsty for nourishment that only his Lord and God could give.

MESSAGE TO PROCLAIM
We are present with Thomas grateful that, because of his unbelief, we are blessed for our faith that has not seen. Easter radiance floods the eyes of our heart. Easter exultation rings in the ears of our heart, with every Alleluia.

Easter sight will dawn, next Sunday, for the travelers to Emmaus and they will have to return to Jerusalem to tell another story of Easter faith in a body raised and Easter food for strength in bread broken.

Every Sunday in this Easter season will speak to us of new life and mercy, of faith and mystery. “We are an Easter people,” St. Augustine tells us, “and Alleluia is our song.”

Every day in this Easter season is the one day of Resurrection celebrated again and again. A daily prayer for this celebration is given us by the English Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins: “Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east. . .”!

With every Thomas still to learn that faith is a gift, with newborn Christians everywhere, with our Orthodox sisters and brothers and all believers everywhere, we proclaim the message:

“Christ is risen! Christ is truly risen!” Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

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Sister Agnes Cunningham, SSCM, is a member of the Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary, an international, pontifical religious institute for women. She resides as an “active-retired” member of the congregation’s Mercy Community in Champaign.

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