Sunday, April 15, 2012

Homily for 2d Sunday of Easter

Homily for the
2d Sunday of Easter

April 15, 2012
John 20: 19-31
Ursulines, Willow Drive, N.R.

“God of everlasting mercy, who … kindle the faith of the people you have made your own, increase the grace you have bestowed” (Collect).

The Collect brings together—“collects,” if you will—the theme of divine mercy that’s now attached to this 2d Sunday of Easter, and at the same time echoes themes from today’s gospel reading—a passage always read on this Sunday regardless of our A, B, and C cycles.

The Collect 1st names God as our source of “everlasting mercy.” That’s a theme running thru the OT, our responsorial psalm being just one example: “His mercy endures forever” (118:2-4). But that mercy has been personified for the people of the New Covenant—“the people you have made your own”—in Jesus Christ, “by whose blood they have been redeemed” and who lives now and forever as our intercessor at God’s throne (cf. Heb 7:25, 4:16).

God’s mercy is shown, God’s mercy comes to us, in his kindling our faith—that verb is suggestive of the Easter fire, which bursts out of the darkness to illumine and warm the nite, as faith bursts out of our sinfulness to illumine and warm our souls. Our faith doesn’t arise from within ourselves but comes to us as God’s gift. It’s a grace he bestows. By this faith, by the fire kindled in our hearts and minds to make us, too, the light of Christ, we are made into God’s people, a people enlightened by his mercy.
Photo by Rosalind Chan, "stolen" from The Deacon's Bench (thank you, Deacon Greg)
We pray that these graces—faith, forgiveness, incorporation with Christ—be increased. When our faith is deepened, when we become more intimately united with Christ, it’s divine mercy working again.
Our increase in faith may be like the apostles’, who were slow to believe that Jesus was risen—as we heard emphatically in yesterday’s gospel (Mark 16:9-15). But they received him with joy and, as we know, became courageous witnesses of the resurrection and of God’s mercy, conveyed by the forgiveness of sins. In how many ways are we slow to believe? to believe that God really loves us? that he has a unique plan for our lives, leading us toward a heavenly home? that Christ’s way of acting toward and speaking about other people is the way of holiness, the way of happiness, the way of wholeness, the way of community and societal well-being? Our faith has room for increase, for growth, that God’s grace bestowed on us may bear its intended fruit in holiness of life and in public witness to our Lord Jesus.

The Collect prays that the people whom God has made his own in Christ might “rightly understand in what font they have been washed, by whose Spirit they have been reborn, by whose blood they have been redeemed.” The who is obviously Jesus: his blood, his Spirit. Both are highlighted in today’s gospel, in which he breathes his Spirit upon the apostles (John 20:22) and shows his wounds to Thomas (20:27).
Doubting Thomas, by Rembrandt
The font, I would say, is the Church. We are washed clean in Baptism, which the Church preaches and administers, exercising that very charge which Jesus gave to the apostles when he breathed his Spirit upon them for the forgiveness of sins. Linked to the font of the Church, we have access to forgiveness in Baptism and in whatever other forms this font of grace makes available to us, sacramental or otherwise. The Father bestows his grace on the people he makes his own in the Church, he gives birth to new children by water and the Spirit in the Church, he offers to us the saving blood of his Son in the Church’s Eucharist. Jesus Christ comes thru water and blood (1 John 5:6), thru Baptism and Eucharist—sacramental actions of the Spirit—to forgive us, to bond us to himself, to shape us into God’s holy people.
May we be among those whom Jesus blesses because, tho we have not seen his risen body nor touched his wounds, we believe (John 20:29). And thru this belief may we have life in his name (20:31)!

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