Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, April 19
John 20: 19-31
“Peace be with you.”
How many times Jesus uses this greeting when meeting his disciples and through them to you and me. It is easy to see that Jesus wishes us to be a people of peace.
Peace in the Old Testament is a tangible thing and indicates an ease of mind and tranquility as well as material prosperity. It is also used as a greeting or a blessing. These same meanings are also to be found in the New Testament but here something more is added. In the New Testament it is clear that “peace” finds its ultimate expression in an intimate relationship with God that is made possible by the redemptive efforts of Jesus. Jesus is declared to be the embodiment of peace bringing to us the eternally permanent reconciliation between God and humankind.
Thomas Aquinas defines peace in two Latin words: tranquilitas ordinis = the tranquility of order. Here everything is in its place. Everything is as it shold be. There is no chaos or disorder to be found. There is serenity where there is peace. Deep down in our hearts we all want this peace and it can be ours only through the Divine Mercy of Jesus our Redeemer, as we saw in the above paragraph.
We are also indebted to Pope John Paul II for his teaching on peace, further defining it for us. He tells us in his Message to the World on the World Day of Peace in January 2003, that there are four pillars of peace without which peace cannot be found to exist. A pillar is a support, something that helps something else to stand and without which it will fall. These four pillars for peace are truth, justice, love, and freedom.
When we consider these four pillars of peace, we see why it is so difficult to have peace in society at large and among the nations of the world. Peace is possible, but it obviously is going to take a lot of work to obtain it.
Perhaps we can begin our quest of peace in our families by all being honest and truthful with each other. I am sometimes surprised at learning how much lying goes on in families. All of the family members have a right to life and the pursuit of happiness, to dignity and respect. They have a right to be helped by the other members of the family, each doing what they can do to help the other. It goes without saying that family members are to love one another, that they affirm and praise each other for the good they do and to be able to confront without judgment when needed. All should be free to be themselves, to use their gifts and talents given to them by God and not to be forced to be something they are not. Family members are to forgive one another when one hurts the other.
Jesus, help us to truly seek peace in our families and our corner of the world. Help us to find it and help us to spread it to those we meet.
Monday of the Second Week of Easter, April 20
John 3: 1-8
“What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above. ‘”
Jesus further tells us in today’s Gospel that we cannot “see” the kingdom of God unless we are born from above. To “see” here means to experience and understand, and the kingdom of God, as we have said before, is not a place but a state of being or a condition in which we find ourselves. Nicodemus took the phrase “born again” in the literal, physical sense and ends up in absurdity. Jesus is speaking in the spiritual sense. We enter the kingdom by the new life promised by Jesus and through Baptism. There is a chasm between the physical and the spiritual that can only be bridged by Jesus.
In my understanding of this, I am born again when I discover first that I cannot do life all alone, that by myself I can do nothing; and, secondly, that Jesus is the way I must seek, the truth I must learn to appreciate, and the life that he gives me in abundance is the life of joy, happiness, and peace.
Jesus, help this to happen and keep happening in our lives.
Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter, April 21
John 3: 7-15
“And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
Jesus redeemed us all by his suffering and death on the cross. Without that we would be wallowing in the darkness of sin and evil. It’s bad enough the way it is. What would the world be like without the reconciliation of Jesus?
We recall in the Gospel today the story of Moses and the seraph serpents that we read during the season of Lent from the Book of Numbers, 21: 8-9. The Israelites angered God by their constant bickering and complaining over the lack of food and water so that he sent seraph serpents to bite them. Many died from the serpent’s bite. Moses again interceded for the mercy of God on the people and God told him to make a large bronze serpent and mount it on a pole. Whoever gazed upon this would be healed. The mounted seraph serpent is a sign of Jesus hanging upon the cross. The crucifixion of Jesus here is looked upon in the sense of the exaltation and glorification of Jesus and not in the negative sense of his death and dying. The serpent’s venom is human death. Jesus tells us he is the cure for this situation and will give us eternal life if we believe in him. So often the cure for our human problems is simply gazing and turning our attention to Jesus and seeking his healing love.
Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter, April 22
John 3: 16-21
“Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned.”
The word “belief” in our Gospel reading for today does not necessarily mean an intellectual agreement with doctrine. Rather it means surrendering to and being open to the way, truth, and life of Jesus. Those who do surrender and who are open to Jesus’ values are going to find an easier and happier journey through life. Those who do not believe are not going to find the answers to their desire for a happy life they would otherwise discover in Jesus. Condemnation here seems to mean that those who do not surrender to Jesus will encounter many problems they would not otherwise have.
Many of us, if not all of us, have tried to run our lives our own way and have found life lacking in what we truly desired. I have said many times in these homilies that my two great discoveries in life are that I can do nothing without Jesus (the parable of the vine and branches) and that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, not I (John 14). I am thankful, and I am sure others are too for having made these discoveries.
Thursday of the Second Week of Easter, April 23
John 3: 31-36
I read a little story about helicopters recently that I imagine is true, and I would like to share it with you. Also, I have often wished I had a helicopter and could fly it. They can go just about anywhere and land anywhere. Neat! But that is pie in the sky. Anyhow, the story I read pointed out how complex a machine the helicopter is and went on to say that despite its complexity the whole thing depends on that whirly blade or rotor that keeps it in the air and moving. The story said that these rotors are held in place by one simple hexagonal nut. And the name given to that nut is “the Jesus nut.”
Jesus, the one who comes from above, the one who speaks the words of God, is also the one who holds our lives together and permits us to “fly.”
Jesus, thank you again for your presence in my life!
Friday of the Second Week or Easter, April 24
John 6: 1-15
Today’s Gospel, although it is in a different chapter from yesterday’s Gospel, still reinforces what was said yesterday.
Jesus is the one who holds our lives together. But we have to let him into our lives, we have to surrender our will and lives to him. We have to put Jesus in control. Then, as he multiplied the loaves and fishes in today’s Gospel to feed the people, he will multiply my gifts and talents to meet the challenges that come as a result of my serving his people. It seems like we can always be a source of help to other people if we are willing to put Jesus in control. I recently felt totally inadequate in trying to help a couple who needed help badly. Somehow, I am still not sure how, Jesus came to the rescue and the story had a favorable if not completely satisfactory ending. It’s amazing what can happen when we put Jesus in control of things.
Saturday of the Second Week of Easter, April 25, Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist
“Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”
Today’s Gospel from St. Mark is from the final chapter of his Gospel telling of the Ascension of the Lord to the Father. Mark’s Gospel then closes with these words, “But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.”
For me the most important words in the above quote are the words “while the Lord worked with them.” I am sure we, like the great St. Paul, want to spread the Gospel of Jesus to the whole world – well at least to our own neighborhood. But when good things happen from our efforts, let us know that it is the Lord that is causing the good things to happen, not us. We are quite simply only his instruments. He works through us. Let’s not wander around trying to do good thinking how great we are at serving, preaching, comforting, healing, helping. Our efforts are zilch without the help of Jesus. By ourselves we can do nothing. It is Jesus working with us that makes the good happen. Let us all try and remember this.