In my last post, I discussed euphemisms for death we use today. Now, let me go back in time to add another one that I believe sheds light on this liturgical time as we close the Octave of Easter.
In ancient Egypt the dead were euphemistically called “Westerners.” Most were buried on the west bank of the Nile, presumably because the sun sets in the west. Well, it occurs to me, that we Christians are well within our rights to call ourselves “Easter-ners.” Yes, we all will become “Westerners” sooner or later due to the sin of Adam and Eve, who thought their own will superior to God, but we all have the opportunity for eternal life due to the new Adam and Eve, Jesus and Mary, due to their “Fiat!” to the Father in perfectly following His will. Today’s Gospel (Jn 20:19-31) evokes this particularly as we recall Paul’s exhortation about an indispensable part of our faith:
[I]f Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.1 Cor 15:14
It is because of Easter that the opportunity for everlasting bliss In the presence of the Holy Trinity is ours. Here we can bring in the second reading from 1 John to find out what faith entails:
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….For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments…And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.1 Jn 5: 1, 31, 4b
It is difficult to keep the commandments; impossible without divine grace. Fortunately, the Lord provides the Spirit to help us not only to avoid sin but to go and spread the Good News, to be sent (here we think primarily of the Sacrament of Confirmation), just as He sent the apostles in the Gospel.
We cannot neglect mentioning the mercy of Jesus on this Divine Mercy Sunday. We see it immediately in the Gospel reading. Jesus does not first appear to His followers huddled in the Upper Room as angry and vengeful that His closest collaborators abandoned Him almost to a man during His recent trial, torture, and execution. Rather, His first words, said twice, were “Peace be with you,” while showing His wounds in between. Be at peace, He tells them. In my mercy I have taken on your sins and have forgiven you. Now go preach the Gospel. This message is directed to us as well. We too can find peace in the mercy of God. No sin is too great for God to forgive, just “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15). Then let the world know “how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mk 5:19). Is there any greater witness than the poor soul who can speak from personal experience about this? Yet we all are called to do so because we all have benefited from the grace of His mercy (or is it the mercy of His grace?).
(Want to start an interesting personal Bible study? Look for every instance of the word “mercy” in Scripture and read the verse. Here you go. Just 236 [!] times in the RSV. Have fun!)
Lastly, we should not move past this reading without mentioning doubting Thomas. I will leave most of the exposition to Bp. Barron, whose homily for today was another outstanding one. Near the end, he brings out two points I never considered before that are lessons for today: that Thomas finds truth only inside the Church (because he was initially away from the Rock [see Mt 16:18] and the other first bishops he did not encounter Christ) and that his exclamation “My Lord and my God” is the clearest pronouncement in Scripture of Jesus’ divinity. On that last note, it occurs to me that Thomas has the fervor of converts to the Catholic Faith — they come into the Church on fire and set ablaze others.
I can recommend the last two books I have completed (my reviews linked):
- Abp. Chaput’s latest: Things Worth Dying For
- My friend, Dr. Jim Papandrea’s, latest: Praying a Christ-Centered Rosary
ONE LAST RECOMMENDATION
I came across this video geared toward educators but useful for anyone who evangelizes (which should be all Catholics). Toward the end he lists the four most common questions from young people regarding Christianity (and the reason many leave because they don’t get satisfactory answers, or any answers whatsoever):
- How do you know God exists?
- How do you solve the problem of suffering?
- How do you know that Christianity of all the religions is the right religion?
- How do you justify the Church’s sexual teaching?
It has got me thinking. How about you? How would you answer any or all of these questions from a sincere (or sneering) interlocutor?