We are praying with the events of the early Church so as to return spiritually to their enthusiasm, generosity, and mutuality. We pray for the grace to enter more deeply into our parishes and communities with “big souls” and hearty kindness towards those in need of gentle safety.
We are also praying to receive the ordinational blessings which lead to extending His Divine mercy through our being forgiven and sent. Jesus continues breathing upon us and sending us peacefully beyond our walls of fear and hiding.
The leaders of the first parish put everything in common as well and received the gifts of others as coming from the Divine Giver. They seem to guide rather than control and they seem to know where all these gifts had come from and where they should be distributed. The parish bulletins seem to have been the people themselves and the advertisements were the gestures of Divine Mercy they offered beyond the walls of the Temple. They lived the attractive life of self-acceptance leading to self and communal donation.
These Sundays of Easter we will be enjoying the homily-like encouragements from the spirit of St. Peter. Today’s section comes to us in three long and powerful sentences. The perfect parish would do well to read them silently and then have some perfect lector really proclaim it from the heart.
These readings from St. Peter are baptismal homilies arranged to encourage the “new born” who love the Lord even though they haven’t seen Him. These are words to encourage the “old born” as well who have experienced suffering while remaining faithful.
The Gospel is a perfect picture of the first imperfect parish or community. The scattered are “un-together” in fear and self-dejection. I picture them all sitting in the back row looking down and occasionally sideways. The Jewish leaders might just be looking for them as they sought for Jesus recently. They have lost their identity as a group and sit there in splendid isolation and suspended inanimation.
This is the scene into which the Divine Mercy enters through the walls of privacy and separateness. Jesus loves them as He finds them and finds them where they would rather not be found.
They receive the creative breath of forgiveness and reidentification. They had been unfaithful to Jesus, but even more so to their name, their true selves as companions of Jesus. They walk His walk and spoke His teachings when the sun was shining and the crowds approved. They were fine as long as the center held, but when Jesus went down, they went out. Jesus as the Great Gatherer claims them again in a baptism of Divine Mercy leading to the Divine Mission of extending that mercy to His sisters and brothers.
The imperfect parish has now come alive, ah, yes, Thomas was elsewhere during that first parish council meeting. So the First Pastor comes again and finds the skeptical sector and includes him in His embrace of mercy and mission. Jesus affirms that Thomas has believed, because he has seen. Those who will enter the parish are more “beloved” (this is the root meaning of “blessed”); those who will believe without seeing Jesus as Thomas has. We love Him not necessarily emotionally, but through believing that He was, He is and He will be.
We are celebrating these Easter weeks, the rising of Jesus and the rising of the apostles to the mission of being the imperfect, but blest new-born Body of Christ. We renew His identification of us. We know who we are! That identity is also the invitation to move beyond our walls of the unsure. The early parish did not dribble and tiptoe out of its meetings. As Jesus rolled out of the tomb, the early church exploded into the extending of Jesus’ risen life. They knew who He said they were. He says that to us and if we are not there in body or spirit, he will come again and again until we listen. When we finally “get it”, then the Church will be added to daily. Divine Mercy is not a judicial function; it is a definition of God’s name and ours as well. No more sitting in the back pew unless we want to be the first out to reveal that Jesus has truly risen in our splendidly communal and revived animation.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to
a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,
kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through
faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final
time.” 1 Peter 1:3
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