Reflections on the Daily Readings

April 23 - 29, 2017
The Season of Easter - The Second Week.
Readings: Sunday Cycle A; Weekday Cycle I.
Divine Office - Psalter Week I.

Sunday 23:          Second Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday
Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 117; 1Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31
Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles gives us a glimpse of how the early Christian communities lived. In the short description, we are told that the growing Christian community was united as they went about their daily lives and in which they made sure that everyone was included and looked after. Key also is their communal prayer life in which they attended the Temple every day – as the Lord himself had done when in Jerusalem – but they also gathered in their own houses for ‘the breaking of bread’ – the Eucharist – in fulfilment of the Lord’s command from the Last Supper to repeat this action. The early Christian Community had yet to break away from the Jewish faith but – while they lived in harmony and mutual support in keeping with the very best of Judaism – they didn’t celebrate the Eucharist in the Temple but still respected those who had yet to come to true belief in Jesus Christ. Their example of living faith is a challenge to us in our own days when society and the world puts forward the idea that we must look out for ourselves ahead of everyone else and, at times, at the cost of others.
This Sunday has also been designated ‘Divine Mercy Sunday’, a special day when we give thanks to God for all that we have received from him. This is brought out in the Psalm which is a hymn of praise and thanks to God.
The second reading from St Peter echoes, in some ways, what the Lord says to Thomas in the gospel passage for today. The salvation that has come through Jesus Christ was intended by God the Father and revealed in his Son and in that salvation we all have a share. At times there will be trials but these simply test the true faith of the Christian to ensure that they are worthy of that salvation. Peter speaks of those who love Jesus Christ even though they have not seen him as Peter himself would have seen him, that is to say, in the flesh. But whether we encounter him in a physical way or not, faith in Jesus Christ is key if we are to have eternal life.
The gospel for today records two appearances of the Risen Lord. We see the disciples in hiding for fear of the Jews and it is possible that this encounter takes place on the day of resurrection itself. Jesus appears among the disciples without having used the door to gain entry. To show that he is the same person who they had seen only days before he shows them the marks of the crucifixion. They recognise him and are overjoyed at seeing him. Twice he wishes them peace and also commissions them to go out and do the work that God the Father had sent him to do. On that first occasion, Thomas was absent but is present when the Lord appears again eight days later and is gently scolded by the Lord for not believing what his companions said to him days earlier. Thomas is also in stark contrast to last week’s gospel passage in which St John simply saw the empty tomb and immediately believed that Jesus had risen from the dead. Not only can Thomas see the Lord’s body he is also told to touch it so that there can be no doubting that Jesus is alive. This also demonstrates that Jesus is not a ghost or spirit creature but is very much a living body. Thomas now declares Jesus to be ‘My Lord and my God’ which is what the gospel was leading up to – the divinity and Lordship of Jesus. The episode with St Thomas is also a reminder to us that we don’t need to seek concrete and physical proof for the resurrection or the presence of Jesus Christ but should trust in the Holy Spirit and in the writings of sacred scripture and so place our faith and hope and in him.

Monday 24:         Of the Second Week of Easter
Acts 4:23-31; Psalm 2; John 3:1-8
Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles takes up where we left it on Saturday. Saints Peter and John have been released and now they continue to boldly preach the Good News in spite of the warning of the elders. We also learn that the early Christian community – rather than being depressed at the troubles and persecutions that lay ahead – fearlessly pray to God for protection. In the gospel passage, Jesus is speaking with Nicodemus and is telling him that it is essential for a person to be baptised and to live out that faith in order to be saved. This means that we must study, understand and live out our faith and develop our own spiritual lives. We, as baptised people, have an obligation to proclaim the Risen Lord as did Peter and John.

Tuesday 25:         Feast of St Mark, the Evangelist*
1Peter 5:5-14; Psalm 88; Mark 16:15-20
In our first reading for this feast, St Peter gives instruction to the people on how they should live with one another. The text is a reminder to the reader that the devil is always on the lookout for some way to cause us to fall and to deny the place of God in our lives. For Peter, the ‘true grace’ he speaks of is the persecution we receive because of our belief in God but if we stand firm in that belief then God will be with us. In the letter he makes mention of St Mark, who at this stage is one of his companions and so Peter is the source of the material that Mark used in writing the gospel.
The gospel account from Mark tells of Jesus’ commandment to his followers after the resurrection that they are to go out and ‘proclaim the Good News to all creation’. Mark himself did this through his travels with St Paul and later with Peter and particularly through the written word of his gospel which is the oldest of the four gospels.

Wednesday 26:   Of the Second Week of Easter
Acts 5:17-26; Psalm 33; John 3:16-21
We read today that St Peter and the apostles are again imprisoned for speaking about Christ. This time, they are miraculously set free and go immediately to the Temple where they again preach openly about Jesus. The text for today ends with Peter giving witness in the Jewish supreme court to the resurrection of the Christ. In the gospel, Jesus is telling Nicodemus that he was sent into the world because of the Father’s great love for his creation and that salvation awaits those who believe in him. We are called on to have belief in the Lord just as Peter and the apostles had but also to let that faith be seen by those with whom we come into contact.

Thursday 27:       Of the Second Week of Easter
Acts 5:27-33; Psalm 33; John 3:31-36
Our first reading today from St Luke’s Acts of the Apostles continues St Peter’s trial before the Jewish supreme court and he speaks so strongly about Christ that they wish to kill him but are unable to do so. In the gospel, John the Baptist is speaking to his own followers in the passage from St John and he is telling them that belief in Christ leads to eternal life. No one else can bring us to the kingdom or offer us what Christ has offered to each of us through his blood on the cross.

Friday 28:            Of the Second Week of Easter
Acts 5:34-42; Psalm 26; John 6:1-15
We read of the conclusion of the trial of St Peter and his companions before the Jewish supreme court. Peter and the others have been helped by Gamaliel – a rabbi and former teacher of St Paul – who says that if they are frauds then their preaching will come to nothing. The other elders listen to him and instruct Peter and company to be flogged having been warned not to preach again. However, it has no effect as the apostles are happy to suffer humiliation for the sake of Christ and it encourages them to preach all the more earnestly. The gospel text from St John sees a miracle of the loaves and fish taking place. It is often regarded as John’s equivalent of the Institution Narratives in the Synoptic Gospels. Christ gives bread to the people and then fish – both of which are symbolic of himself. This giving of loaves and fish was also repeated in one of the appearances of the Risen Lord to the apostles after they had been fishing all night. If we acknowledge our own poverty and our dependence on God then he will fill us with his riches.

Saturday 29:        Feast of St Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Europe*
1John 1:5-2:2; Psalm 102; Matthew 11:25-30
Our first reading from the first letter of St John calls on us to live in the light, just as St Catherine of Siena did in her life and in the way that she exhorted so many others to do. If we live in the light we will not go wrong and we will live in truth before God and our fellow men and women. But we must also acknowledge our sinfulness because if we don’t, if we say that we are without sin, then we are simply fooling ourselves and denying the truth. The text reminds us that the Lord is faithful and just: he is not seeking to judge us but to wipe away our sins and to purify us. The Psalm reminds us of this.
The gospel passage for today sees Jesus praising God because the message he brings is easily interpreted and understood by the uneducated, in other words by those who are not looking for second meanings and agendas in what he is saying. The second half of the text reminds us that the law which Jesus brings us is, in some ways, easier than the Law of the Torah which was so important to the Jews. The Lord didn’t abolish those laws but he made it easier for us to live them in our own lives. St Catherine of Siena did something similar in her day and encouraged the political and religious leaders to help the poor and to make their lives easier. We too are called to look after others and to share our belongings, our time and our life with them.

Memorials this Week:
April 25:             Feast of St Mark, the Evangelist
There is not a huge amount known about St Mark. It was thought that he was the young man referred to in Mark 14:51-52 who fled at the arrest of Jesus, though there is no proof. He was a companion of St Paul on his first missionary journey as noted by Paul in his writings. Later he joined St Peter, on whose teachings his Gospel is based and which was written for Christians who were being persecuted in Rome to show them that Christ too suffered but never gave up. According to tradition, he founded the Church in Alexandria and was probably its bishop when he was martyred about the year 74. The symbol for St Mark is the winged lion.

April 29:              Feast of St Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church & Patroness of Europe
Born in Siena, in the Tuscany region to the northeast of central Italy, in 1347, Catherine became a Dominican Tertiary at the age of sixteen and lived a life of charitable works, which saw many people – men and women, clerical and lay – join her in her work. She became involved in politics and was instrumental in getting Pope Gregory XI to leave Avignon, southern France, and return the papacy to Rome. She died in 1380 leaving behind more than 400 letters and a great mystical work, Dialogue. She was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970, and Patroness of Europe in the Jubilee Year, 2000.

© P. Breen, O.Carm. 2011
The Reflections above are available in printed form in:
Reflections on the Readings for every day of the Church's year.
Patrick J. Breen, O.Carm. Dublin: Columba Press. 2011. ISBN 978 1 85607 732 3.

Direct from the publishers: Columba Press

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