March 30, 2008

Second Sunday of Easter

Acts 2: 42-47; 1 Peter 1: 3-9; Jn 20: 19-31

Presented at Westminster Tower 3/27/08

Dc. Larry Brockman

I want to ask you a simple question.  Do you believe that the sun will go down tonight?  Well do you?  (Pause for response)  Yes, of course you do.  But you know something-   You don’t actually “believe it”,  Rather, you know it-  you know it.  It’s a sure thing, isn’t it?  You have seen it, over and over, so you say you “believe it”; but your experience has shown it to be so, and what you really mean is that you know it. 

Indeed, there is a big difference between “knowing” and “believing”.  Believing involves an act of faith.  It means accepting something you can’t prove.  It means accepting something you don’t know as a fact; something you accept as a fact- without hard evidence, without proof.  Like the fact that there is a God; like the fact that Jesus is God become man;  Like the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah;  Like the fact that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead; and like the fact that you receive the body and blood of Jesus at Communion.  These are all things that you have to believe, they are not things that you “know”.   

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday.  Each year, the second Sunday of Easter is designated as Divine Mercy Sunday.  Peter talks about Divine Mercy in the second reading.  Peter says, and I quote:  “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”.  There are two key things that Peter said: he talks about God’s great mercy, and he talks about the new birth to a living hope we all receive through the resurrection.  Now the mercy part of Peter’s statement is very important.  You can’t earn everlasting life through your own efforts.  No, it is a gift from God-   And that is the essence of the great mercy Peter is talking about.  God freely gives us that gift.  He gives us that gift out of his Mercy alone.  But, only if you believe- believe that he is the one God, that Jesus is God and man; that Jesus was his Messiah; that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, and that his life after that resurrection will be shared with all of us, and indeed, is already being shared with all of us through the Eucharis.  That is the living hope that you all receive through the resurrection- if you believe.   

We are told two stories today about faith and belief:  First, the story of Thomas.  If your honest, then you know that there is a little bit of the doubting Thomas in all of you.  Each year the Church goes through Advent, Christmas, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter celebrations to remind us of the essentials of our Faith.  But do we really believe them?  Do you really believe them?  Most of us would rather have the kind of proof that Thomas said he wanted, because most of us only want to accept what we know.  The real challenge you have as Christians, though, is to believe without seeing, just as Christ tells Thomas.   

The other story is the one from Acts.  This is a story about the early Christians.  These people actually believed.  Most of them were not eye witnesses themselves, no.  But, they believed on the strength of the teaching of the Apostles.  Just as you are called to believe on the strength of the teaching of the Apostles recorded in the Scriptures and handed on in the teachings of the Church.  These people experienced the awe and joy of the Easter promise.  They waited in joyful expectation of the second coming of the Lord, because they actually believed in that promise.   

The Easter season is a time for all of you to abandon your need to know that Jesus was resurrected, and embrace your faith in the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead.  It is also a time to reflect on the Divine Mercy of God.  Because no matter what you have done- no matter how great your sin and whatever hold it might have on you, all you need do to merit that gift of Divine mercy is to ask for God’s forgiveness, and believe in him.  Know that in just a few minutes, you can experience the living hope of the resurrected Jesus when you go to Communion.   

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