Homily for the
2nd Sunday of Easter, Cycle A
Given at St. Jude April 16, 2023
By Deacon Ken Steponaitis
Before I get started, I just want you to know that I have some really great, no better than great, some really fantastic, amazing news to tell you. I’ll let you know what that is before I finish up.
I was thinking about how the Church uses the word alleluia throughout our prayers and in the Mass during Easter.
At the end of the Mass for example, for the first 8 days of Easter the deacon sings out “Go in Peace Alleluia, Alleluia.” And we respond, “Thanks be to God Alleluia, Alleluia!
One of the great traditions of the Church that we’ve kind of lost, and something you don’t see very much in our society is something we call the paschal greeting. It used to be that as Christians passed by each other one would exclaim, "Christ is risen" and the response from the other would be "He is risen indeed. Alleluia!" That word alleluia, means, praise God.
So, why is it that we say alleluia so much during Easter? What is the message that the Church wants to get across. What is it that we are truly praising God for?
And of course, the answer is so clear and so obvious. It’s Easter!
As I thought about this Easter acclamation, I realized that my response to Easter is more matter of fact. More like, oh yea, it’s Easter. Go get the plastic eggs and Easter baskets. Let’s munch down on Reese's peanut butter bunnies, or those multicolored Peeps chickens. Ok fine, we go through this every year, and we’ll do it again next year.
And then my attention deficit disorder kicked in and my thought turned to an April Fool's joke I saw. You may have seen it on YouTube or Americas Funniest Home Videos where someone is given a fake lottery ticket and as you watch the person who received that fake lottery ticket think they have won a lot of money, how they reacted. Jumping up and down, thanking God, maybe saying Alleluia! Only to come to find out that it was a prank.
The thing is, the resurrection is not a prank. It is a very real part of our faith. In fact, if the resurrection had not happened, we would not be here today singing out Alleluia. We might as well sell off this property and close this church.
To put this in perspective: Think of experiences like the best movie you ever watched. Or all you kids, think about the greatest video game you ever played or the greatest party you ever attended. How about the most incredible sports match you ever witnessed. Or, the greatest meal you ever ate. The best gift you ever received. How about the most wonderful vacation you’ve ever been on. The most beautiful sight you've ever seen … husbands? Think of any number of great experiences you’ve ever had, and how you felt and maybe how you yearn to have that experience again. And the reality is, none of that compares to the news we hear on Easter.
And yet we have such a difficult time recognizing how truly amazing, how really fantastic, how incredibly great this news truly is. I am at a loss of words, and I don’t even know how to get myself to see how incredible this news truly is.
It was so appropriate Back in 2000, that St. Pope John Paul II extend to the entire Church the feast of Divine mercy on this Octave, the eighth day of Easter. After all, Jesus had asked St. Faustina that this be done. So, if Jesus wants it then we must ask, what is Divine Mercy? Why is this something worth exclaiming Alleluia for?
One of the best descriptions of divine mercy I found, comes from a website: www.thedivinemercy.org. You can go there and learn more about the diary of St. Faustina and the visions she had with Jesus. Anyway, they definition says:
“Divine Mercy is the form that God's eternal love takes, when He reaches out to us in the midst of our need and our brokenness … whatever the nature of our need or our misery might be - sin, guilt, suffering, or death.”
The resurrection then is about Divine Mercy. It is about a God who wants us to be freed from sin, guilt, suffering and death! So, why aren’t we dancing in the streets! Why does this message not cause us to react the way a winning lottery ticket would make us react. This is better than any lottery ticket!
I hope you are starting to get the picture. Because of the resurrection, because of Divine mercy, we are heirs to a Kingdom that has no end!
And that’s the crux of the Gospel reading today. Here we have a story of how the disciples came to believe in the resurrection. They came to have a hope that up until this point were so unsure about, so confused about. They began to see themselves as being from a place that is imperishable and eternal like the Father and the Son. And Jesus knows if we can come to recognize that, we too will return to the Father and the work we must do here can be done without fear of death or suffering. We are no longer bound by sin and guilt.
To believe in the resurrection is to believe that we have a God that loves us so much, that he wants to adopt us. God wants us to see Him as the Father that Jesus sees. A Father who wants so much for us to have a relationship with Jesus as brothers and sisters of Jesus, that we are sons and daughters as Jesus is the Son to the Father. And that we inherit the resurrection. That we too will be raised on the third day and ascend to the Father. That we participate in the divinity of Christ. This gift is given us, not because we deserve it, but because of the divine mercy of God.
When Jesus walked into the room where the disciples were, Jesus did not say, "hey, where were you while I was being persecuted. Why did you deny me?" No, he walks through the locked door where the Apostles were for fear of the Jews. He walks in and says, “peace be with you!” I am here, alive, I forgive you! I endured all I did because I don’t want to leave you behind. I want you to inherit all that I have. I want you to believe in me and where I come from, because if you do, you will go there too because that is where you are from.
And poor Thomas, he was having a most difficult time. It was not enough for him to listen to the other disciples and believe. He wanted to, "put [his] finger into the nail marks and [his] hand into [Jesus’] side." And Jesus obliged. And for some of us, like myself, there was a time when I yelled out to God, "show yourself! Prove to me who you are!" I wanted so much to see Jesus physically.
And now I can only imagine how I might react to Jesus suddenly appearing. I’d probably have a heart attack and die before I was able to proclaim Him Lord. Or I wouldn’t believe He was there talking to me.
Don’t you see? We must proclaim Alleluia!
On this Octave Day of Easter, this new beginning, which is what the octave represents, we have been offered a gift that is undeserved. We have been offered a place of eternity and have been promised this place if only we can come to the hope that the place we call heaven is the place we are from because the Father has adopted us through our baptism. We have become sons and daughters and are now heirs to the throne.
And if you are still unsure like Thomas, or if like me, there are times when you question the mercy of God, turn to Him in prayer and ask that you can touch the nail marks and place your hand into His side.
Yes, "blessed are those who do not see and yet believe," but in His mercy, Jesus is willing to do what is necessary to give you what you need to believe that you can now claim to be from the place of eternity. You can now claim to be sons and daughters of the Father. You can now claim to have inherited the Kingdom because of the mercy given us by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
When you receive the Eucharist and say, Amen, we are being given the grace of faith. We are being given the gift of mercy. And if you don’t believe it yet, pray to the Father and ask Him to help your unbelief. Because we are no longer people of this world. We are people of eternity! So, when we leave Mass and take on our mission as Christians, whenever someone asks, where are you from, our who are you? We can boldly and confidently say, I am from the Father and He has sent me to be Christ to the world. I have inherited eternal life by the Divine Mercy of a God who wants me to be with Him for eternity. Thank God for the resurrection. Alleluia!
Oh, and the great news I was going to tell you about ... you just heard it.