2d Sunday of Easter
April 26, 1987
John 20: 19-31
Acts 2: 42-47
Holy Cross, Fairfield, Conn.
This Sunday it was the deacons' turn to preach at Holy Cross in Champaign. So here's a homily from the "other" Holy Cross, 30 years ago.
Jesus appears to the disciples on Easter nite. We might note that he appears to the disciples, not just to the 11 apostles.
When he appears, he wishes them peace, commissions them, and bestows his Spirit upon them. Jesus’ triumph over death means peace, mission, the presence of the Spirit—all of which involve forgiveness,
Forgiveness of sins brings us peace—peace with God and with our neighbor. The disciples are commissioned to preach the message of peace and forgiveness. They receive the Holy Spirit, who empowers them to carry out their mission.
Jesus began his ministry by announcing the need to repent (Mark 1:14-15); the disciples are being sent to continue his ministry. Jesus was empowered by the Spirit to announce God’s grace (Luke 4:14,18-19), which is what now happens to the disciples. Jesus told Nicodemus we must be reborn of water and the Spirit if we are to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3,5). It is that kingdom of peace thru forgiveness that the disciples are to announce.
The presence of the Holy Spirit makes the individual disciples into the Church. Peace is bestowed upon and thru the Church; forgiveness of sins is announced by and effected thru the Church. For it is the Church that Christ has commissioned, just as the Father commissioned him. It is to the Church that Christ gives the Holy Spirit.
The Church’s mission then is to bring peace to mankind—peace with God and peace between nations and individuals. The Church’s mission is to bring peace by convincing us of sin in such a way that we will repent and the Church may breathe God’s spirit of forgiveness upon us, as Jesus did during his own earthly life.
Jesus Christ is for us the sacramental sign of God’s everlasting love for the human race: a sign in flesh and blood, in word and action. And now Jesus has made his disciples into the Church, a continuing sacramental sign of peace and forgiveness. There is no way to salvation but thru Jesus Christ, in whatever mysterious way that may happen for individual men and women. There is no way to Jesus Christ but thru the Church, to which he has given his Holy Spirit.
The Church, in turn, preaches peace and forgiveness by announcing the Word of God. Revelation is a gift to us from God’s Holy Spirit thru the community of God’s people; the community was inspired to write the Sacred Scriptures and to receive certain writings as inspired while rejecting others.
The Church preached peace and forgiveness by interpreting God’s Word for a new age. What do the Mosaic commandments or the Beatitudes mean today? How does one discern God’s will today and so live in his peace? The Holy Spirit continues to guide us thru the Church’s teachers.
The Church preaches peace and forgiveness by offering us the sacraments. Baptism cleanses us of sin for the 1st time and incorporates us into the Church by water and the Holy Spirit. As God’s children, we are privileged to come to his table, where Christ himself is our food and where he fills us with his peace and pardons our venial sins. In Penance we are again reconciled to God by confessing our serious sins in sorrow and opening our hearts to the Spirit’s grace. Here, in Penance, we come into intimate contact with Christ, who forgives and grants peace to us sinners.
Luke tells us that the early Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). It’s abundantly clear from Luke’s writings that such a lifestyle is the work of the Holy Spirit in out midst. The Holy Spirit bestows a rich life of peace and grace on the community of those who are saved by the forgiveness of their sins.
May the Holy Spirit be with us.