The readings for the first Sunday after Easter follow the growth of the church. The Gospel records the conversion of Thomas and his professing of Jesus to be both his “Lord and God.” Thomas will share in the apostles’ mission from Christ to bring his “peace” achieved by his death and resurrection, to all the world. This gift will be passed on in the early church through the apostolic
succession of the bishops and by extension to their priests. We encounter it today during the sacrament of reconciliation when we actually hear our sins forgiven in Christ.
The community of believers grows from the apostles to include many more converts. This earliest growth is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, which was originally joined to the Gospel of Luke. Acts is written in such a fashion as to make clear that the same divine power which flowed in Jesus of Nazareth now lives within the church. Acts will record the apostles as doing the same signs and wonders as Jesus, showing that Jesus and the church are one.
The second reading begins our Easter season journey through the Book of Revelation. It was written at or near the close of the first century after Christ when the Roman Empire was turning a wicked glance at the growing Christian community. The Christians were becoming viewed as enemies of the state because of their refusal to acknowledge the Roman emperor as having divine qualities. This acknowledgement was a crucial aspect of the Roman Empire’s unity. Thus the Christians had to either acknowledge this “truth” to show their patriotism or they would be slowly exterminated. Most pagans of the various mystery religions had no problem with this and saw no religious conflict in offering the symbolic sacrificial offering of burned incense to the emperor. For the Christian however, Jesus alone claimed the titles of “Son of God” and “Lord of Lords” and to him alone was their acknowledgement of the divine. They were thus brutally persecuted for resisting the state.
St. John, in the Book of Revelation, offers persecuted Christians a vision of God finally and convincingly defeating the empire, evil and Satan himself, who is animating this diabolic persecution. John challenges them to be steadfast and true to the living God and not bow to the pressures to conform. His book opens with Jesus himself coming to John in a vision on the “Lord’s Day” while he is exiled on the island of Patmos. Jesus commands John to record all that he will see. This vision will comprise 22 chapters at its completion and will be written in the style of the apocalyptic imagery seen in its contemporary Jewish and Christian works. Unlike the other contemporary works of John’s time, this apocalypse (revelation) will be eternally true and inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Questions for Reflection
1. What do I look to in my life to enable me to profess Jesus as “my Lord and my God”?
2. How do I mirror the works of Jesus in my life?
3. How willing am I to suffer for my faith?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.