Today's readings are seemingly disparate in their description
of the shepherd, the cornerstone, and us, as God's children.
They all, however, articulate the message that Christ is the
source of our salvation. Peter proclaims the message of today's
psalm, that “there is no salvation through anyone else” except
for Christ, the cornerstone. John describes Jesus as the good
shepherd, who “lay[s] down [his] life,” in the certainty of the
resurrection, by which we are all saved. And because of God's
love for us, the Father sent his only Son among us, so that we
might “be called children of God” not by adoption, but through a
change of substance, for “we shall be like him.” God thus
promises the restoration of the created order; we who were made
in the “image of God” are made more completely in God's image
through Christ. Thus, what is accomplished in Christ will be
accomplished in us as well.
This reality seems to suggest dazzling possibilities
regarding our contribution to the liberation and restoration of
the world. Through baptism we are commissioned to act as Christ
in the world - priest, prophet, and king. Yet the metaphors of
Christ as cornerstone and shepherd entail a rather unflattering
portrait of us. If Christ is the cornerstone, then we are the
rocks - living stones, perhaps, but nonetheless, rocks. And if
Jesus is the Good Shepherd, then we are sheep: stubborn,
uncomprehending and easily misled. We, ourselves, are incapable
of providing a firm foundation or leading ourselves. Peter
clarifies that our accomplishments are, first and foremost, the
accomplishments of Christ. Thus, for our ministry to be fruitful
we must acknowledge our reliance upon Christ. We are vessels,
through which the love and salvation of Christ is poured out.
Lent, with its themes of discipline and penance, seems like a
distant memory, yet the readings for today focus on sin. How can
we reconcile this emphasis on sinfulness with the joyful hymns
and jubilant alleluias of the Easter season? Has the glory of
the resurrection faded so quickly?
The theme of sin during Easter may seem surprising because of
a misunderstanding of Lent. Often viewed as a time of doom and
gloom, Lent is primarily a time of preparation for baptism. The
disciplines and sacrifices that we undertake during Lent are not
meant to be an end in themselves; rather, these practices are
meant to prepare us for a fuller celebration of Easter. In the
reading from the Acts of the Apostle, Peter addresses the sin of
those who have denied Christ and contributed to his crucifixion.
In 1 John, we hear that despite baptism, some of the early
Christians have fallen back into sin. Rather than being berated
for their sinfulness, however, the apostles tell their audiences
to repent and be forgiven.
Perhaps we failed in our Lenten discipline. Perhaps our
efforts during Lent ended on Easter day. Lent has ended and
Easter day has passed, but today we are reminded that no sin is
too great and that it is not too late to seek forgiveness. In
the Gospel Jesus appears to some disciples after he has risen,
and they recognize him in the sharing of a meal. We, too, are
offered the opportunity to repent and believe when we celebrate
another meal with him in the Eucharist.
The reaction of “Doubting Thomas” is very familiar to us. How often, when presented with news that seems unbelievable, do we not seek some sort of proof to verify the improbable claims? What is often overlooked in this Gospel story, however, is Jesus' response to Thomas of complete openness. Jesus does not evade the questions, nor lapse into a lengthy discourse about faith. Instead, Jesus offers Thomas the proof he seeks, and in Jesus' offer itself, rather than Thomas touching Jesus' wounds (which John decidedly does not mention) Thomas comes to faith in the risen Christ.
In today's reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we are presented with another instance of a faith-filled response to an out-of-the-ordinary request. The ability of the early Christians to lay all of their possessions at the feet of the Apostles suggests a faith in the openness of the Apostles themselves in the exercise of their ministry. There would have been no basis for the trust of the community if the Apostles were hoarding the collection.
When it comes to faith in Christ, we are clearly those about whom John writes in the conclusion to his Gospel - “those who have not seen and have believed.” There is, however, a vital role for the Church in evangelizing, since the Church offers others the opportunity to see the hands and side of Christ. Our challenge, as ministers of the Gospel, is to model the openness of Jesus and the integrity of the Apostles. In accepting and acting upon this responsibility, we may help others to proclaim, “My Lord and my God.”
Witnesses are big business these days - judicial proceedings and crime scene investigation and all the crime shows on television and in books rely on them. Who saw what? Are you sure you know what you saw? Easter, it seems is about witnesses too. The descriptions of the resurrection are remarkable in that no one seems to have seen Jesus rise. The guards - asleep, the disciples - hiding. The empty tomb is all that we are given today. There is no appearance in the upper room or at the seaside.
What the disciples first experienced is how we experience the joy of Easter. There is nothing but faith, and yet faith is everything for us. Jesus has risen and we know it in our hearts. And because we know it, as the second option for the second reading tells us, we are leavened; we are changed forever. The appearance of Christ, as the first option for this reading proclaims, will be at the time of our own glorification, a time when our lives will have a meaning beyond anything we could ever know. That is why we rejoice, why we sing a sequence before the Gospel, and why we will never be the same this Easter or any other day God grants us.
This day is named after the Gospel readings that we will hear.
The account of the entry into Jerusalem and the Palms the people
waved is put against the account of the passion of Christ, his death
for us told in excruciating detail. What are we to make of this
contrast? How are we to apply this to our own lives? The reading
from Isaiah with the responsorial psalm and the famous Philippians
hymn that is our second reading interpret these Gospels for us.
God sees us as all the actors in the passion. We are the ones who
wave the palms, the ones who drive the nails and the spear into
the body of Christ, we are Mary and Peter and the apostles; but
above all we are to be Christ for others, we are to lay down our
life for the love of neighbor. And because of this call to accept
the life of Christ with all its joy and pain, the glory and the
suffering, we can expect to share in the lifting up of the Philippians
hymn, sharing in the Lordship of Christ to the glory of the Father