2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday

Today I would like to take a look at how our readings on this Divine Mercy Sunday contrast to the way the world looks at life. 

Our reading from the Acts of the Apostles speaks of how the early church lived as a “community of believers” that was of “one heart and mind.”  What does it mean to be a community?

I’m never quite sure of what being a “community” means to the world at large.  Relativism goes against the very heart of being of “one heart and mind.”   Relativism says each person can define their own truth and believe whatever they what.  This is certainly not being of “one heart and mind.”   

On the other hand, there are those who work vigorously to help the poor in need.  Helping the poor is certainly pleasing to God.  It is part of what Jesus calls us to do (see Matthew 25:31-46). It is part of loving our neighbor and being a community who care about each other.

The world says we should build up material wealth.  Our first reading says that “no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own but they had everything in common.”  The result of this was that “there was no needy person among them.”  They all sold what they had and “distributed to each according to need.

This might seem like socialism.  Our Catholic Church does not advocate for socialism.  In fact, in paragraph 15 of Rerum Novarum the Church speaks against socialism (cf. Quadragesimo Anno and Centesimus Annus)  In fact, our Catholic Church advocates for the right to own private property (see my article reflecting on Pope Francis’ words in Fratelli Tutti on the right to own private property, “The Right to Private Property and Loving Our Neighbor”). 

The right to own private property might seem in conflict with life in the early church.  Here we must consider what the intent was of the early church community.  The lifestyle described in our first reading still exists today in religious life.  However, the principles of it are not simply for religious.  We have a right to own private property but we should not hoard material wealth.  When we have more than we need, we should use the excess to help others. There’s plenty of money to go around if everyone does a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay and shares what they have.

As to being of “one heart and mind,” this is not about getting everyone to see things as any one of us sees them individually or as a secular community.  It is about everyone uniting in God’s way.  It is about each of living with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone of our lives as we “give thanks to the Lord.” 

Shifting to our second reading, John writes, “For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome.”  Relativism denies this.  If everyone can decide their own “truth,” then one is not obligated to follow the commandments.  For those who advocate for complete freedom, the Commandments are burdensome because they restrict people’s freedom.  Here I turn to St. Pope John Paul’s words that I have been quoting a lot lately, “Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought” (“Homily of his holiness John Paul II” during his Apostolic Journey to America. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore. October 8, 1995. https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/homilies/1995/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_19951008_baltimore.html, 7.).

We make the best use of our freedom when we use our freedom not for our own personal gain but for the building up of God’s kingdom as we seek to do God’s Will.  God’s ways, God’s thoughts, are so much better than ours (see Isaiah 55:8-9 that we heard recently at the Easter Vigil).

Life for the early Catholic Church was not easy as they lived in fear of persecution.  Fearing the same people who crucified Jesus, the disciples gathered in a locked room.  The early Catholic Church followed a way that was not popular and led them to being persecuted.  Today the way of Jesus is being rejected by more and more people.  People are persecuted for our Catholic faith.  As Jesus was mocked, we are now being mocked for our faith.  At times, our Catholic teaching is even being rejected by some who say they are Catholic but reject much of our faith.  We live in a very complicated world.  A person recently commented that I write a lot on correct moral behavior without the complexities of people’s lives.  I do understand that we live in a very complex world.  As I write on what our Catholic Church teaches, I would love to be able to address the complexities but that is difficult.  Each person’s circumstances are different.  I am trying to help people understand sound Catholic teaching so that they can apply it to their circumstances.  Please pray that I help everyone understand and that they apply it in accord with God’s Will to the circumstances of their lives.  Oh, and you can always ask questions.

In our gospel reading today, we hear the story of “Doubting Thomas.”  I think Thomas’ doubt when the other disciples tell him they have seen Jesus risen is overemphasized and/or overjudged.  Place yourself in Thomas’ shoes.  No one had risen from the dead before.  What the other disciples say to Thomas makes no sense to him.  This does not mean he is closed off from believing Jesus has risen.  When he sees Jesus risen for himself, Thomas immediately believes and cries out “My Lord and my God.”  He believes. 

In your own doubts, do you actually doubt God or his existence or do you simply not understand?

More and more people seem to doubt that God exists.  I think there are two main reasons for this.  The first is they think God was only a creation of the mind to explain what the human mind couldn’t.  Now they think that science answers everything so they reject “god.” 

The second is the “problem of evil.”  There is a lot of evil in the world.  Those who doubt God exists, says that if there was a God who was all-powerful and all loving, he would not allow evil to exist.

This relates to the story of Job in the Old Testament.  Job was a righteous and God-loving man yet he suffered.  He didn’t understand why he suffered.  If you read the story of Job, you will find that he comes to understand that is his limited humanity, he isn’t going to understand why God allows suffering but he does keep his faith in God.

I find it curious that those who say there must be no God based on the “problem of evil” admit the existence of evil without accepting the existing of good and God’s Truth.  On what basis can one say there is such a thing as “evil” if there is not a universal good and truth.  If it accepts the existence of evil, relativism pulls out its cornerstone that there is no truth. 

There is evil.  The good news is the power of evil is nothing compared to the power of God who is good.  The wickedness of evil is nothing compared to the power of Jesus’ victory on the Cross. Here lies the Divine Mercy of God.


Fr. Jeff

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