Sunday Scripture Readings

Second Sunday (Octave)

of Easter, April 7

Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 118; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31 OUR GOOD NEWS: Jesus' Resurrection intimately touches us in our daily lives. Resurrection appearances as described in the Gospels were composed in the form of historical narrative, but are not written to hand on to us details of what exactly happened. Rather, they proclaim Good News: the deeper, complex meaning for us of Christ, now risen and glorified. Moreover, Gospel narratives of post-Resurrection appearances don't just evoke awe for its own sake. They address practical problems involved in our living the Christian life. Nor did the Evangelists intend to satisfy modern human curiosity with information about Jesus' glorified state. This privilege is reserved for those - for us! - destined for eternal beatitude. What the early followers saw in the post-Easter narratives was nevertheless real - a visible apparition adapted to this-worldly conditions. Luke (first reading) recorded what happened to the very first converts, those who responded to Peter's Pentecostal preaching. He listed four issues, to which they, no less than ourselves, "devoted themselves." (1) "The apostles" qualified by their companionship with Jesus to give authoritative "teaching," of which they became guardians. This tradition is handed on by the Church and grounded in biblical testimony. (2) "Communal life" grows out of sharing the risen life of Christ. Property was not held in common but shared with the needy as occasion warranted. This practical ideal, whereby each person holds his or her goods at the disposal of others as need arises, can be lived in any culture and economic system. (3) "Breaking of bread" literally refers to a brief gesture accompanied by prayer beginning every (Jewish) meal. Here the term designates common meals held in one another's homes that included Eucharist. This practice distinguished Christians from the very start. It was - and continues to be - the sacramental anticipation of the Messianic banquet (a favorite biblical image for heavenly life). Thus aware of the risen Lord's presence and inspired by the Holy Spirit, participants respond with intensely joyful ("exultant") and frank, open, unaffected ("sincere") hearts. Since the earliest Christians were all Jews who continued to observe their religious practices, (4) "prayers" doubtless included regular times of Jewish piety, ancestor of the Church's Liturgy of the Hours. Private as well as common prayer centered on joy and thanksgiving, the proper context for petition and entreaty. The infant Church thus elicited awe from observers, for the "many wonders and signs" worked by Jesus were repeated by his "apostles." Exemplary living, rather than efficient evangelistic techniques, provided the occasion through which the Lord acted to build up his community. Above all, converts don't volunteer but are invited by God, "saved" by baptism.

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