The 8th Day – A New World Order

Second Sunday of Easter (Or Sunday of Divine Mercy)

Acts 4:32-35

The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.

1 John 5:1-6

Beloved: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God, and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by him. In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and blood. The Spirit is the one that testifies, and the Spirit is truth.

John 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair….” The famous opening line of Charles Dickens’ historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities, has captivated the imagination of many a literature lover from generation to generation. The greatest English writer of the Victorian era probably did not have this Sunday’s Mass readings in mind when he penned those remarkable words. But the masterful language used to highlight the unusual social and political conditions in London and Paris leading up to the turbulent years of the French Revolution is nonetheless a fitting characterization of the same unusual times that today’s gospel reading helps to bring alive.

It is only three days ago when the disciples’ high hope of finding the Messiah suddenly comes crumbling down, shattering and falling apart like an imploding star. Jesus the Nazarene, the holy one who they have hoped would redeem Israel, is handed over by their chief priests and rulers to a sentence of death and crucifixion on the day of Passover (cf. Luke 24:19-21, John 19:14). It is truly the worst of times.

But the worst of times may well be the best of times; the winter of despair, the foreshadowing of the spring of hope. Why? What hope is left when the savior of the world has been all but relegated to the rank of crucified criminals? The good news is: Jesus is resurrected only 3 days after his crucifixion! In today’s gospel, he appears to his disciples and, seeing that incredulity has left them stupefied, invites them to check out his hands and his side. Thomas, notoriously a late person who, according to Church tradition, also missed out on seeing Mary when it was time for her to leave this world, is absent from the scene. But when Jesus returns a week later just for him, Thomas doesn’t disappoint. He responds with the strongest declaration of faith possible: “My Lord and my God!”, thus affirming the divinity of Christ.

What is the significance of the resurrection? Why do we consider the event “the best of times” for humanity? Apparently, John shares the same view. Today’s gospel from John puts Jesus’ appearance as happening on “the evening of that first day of the week”, soon after Mary of Magdala found the empty tomb “early in the morning” (John 20:1, 19). Considering that the Johannine gospel was written to contrast Jesus’ “New Creation” with the “old” creation of Genesis, the Bible scholars have good reason to believe that “the first day of the week” is John’s way to heighten the significance of the 8th day – the beginning of a new week, the week of the New Creation, following the first week, or first 7 days, in which the old world order was created. What Mary of Magdala and the disciples are witnessing, in other words, is the beginning of a new world order – the New Creation, ushered in by Jesus through his resurrection (cf. CCC2174).

Jesus’ resurrection is an unwritten statement – or a state of the union address, if you will – made by the Son of David, the “heir” that God has promised to “raise up” to sit in David’s royal throne forever (2 Sam 7:12-13), to affirm that the power of death has been destroyed once and for all, that its unrelenting grip on humanity since the fall of Adam and Eve is no more, and that the heavenly kingdom finally has come. Put simply, as Peter did in his inaugural sermon, resurrection and ascension is the coronation and enthronement of Christ the King (cf. Acts 2:29-36); not that he in his divinity as the eternal Son needs any more glorification, but that he in his humanity as the Son of David is now royally enthroned to receive dominion, glory, and eternal kingship (Daniel 7:13-14).

No wonder in the first reading the early community of believers live as though they were in their very last days, claiming no possessions of their own and sharing everything in common. For a community that sees things through the eyes of faith after the descent of the Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13), close on the heels of the worst of times is the joy of the best of times; mired deep in the winter of despair is the glimmer of the spring of hope. What seems like an interlude now is but the beginning of everlasting happiness and glory.

Posted: April 8, 2018

Edmond Lo

 
As a Catholic speaker, writer and RCIA Catechist, Edmond is very active in promoting and defending the Catholic faith. He has a MBA, a CPA-CMA, and a MTS (Master of Theological Studies) from U.T., St. Augustine's Seminary. Having worked many years as the CFO of a non-profit organization, he retired at 55 to follow his special vocation of evangelization. The activities he conducts include the CMCC Bible Study Program, the Catechism Revisited Program, the FLL Spiritual Formation Program, Living in the Holy Tradition, RCIA, family groups and retreats, etc. Edmond is a member of the FLL Core Team. He writes Sunday Mass reflections regularly for the weekly FLL NewSpiration. His personal blog: http://elodocuments.blogspot.com/


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