By Fr. Ruben de la Trinidad
This is the Sunday of the octave of Resurrection. That is, today we close the eight-day cycle with which the first week of Easter ends and we open the second week of this liturgical season. Easter extends for fifty days, that is, fifty days in which the Church celebrates the uncontainable joy of the Risen One.
If Resurrection Sunday was impossible to contain in a single day and we had to spend the whole week celebrating each day as the same Resurrection Sunday (this is the reason why we celebrate the Octave), now we are entering a time that surpasses the rawness and sobriety of Lent. If with 40 days we have prepared ourselves to celebrate the Sacred Triduum, now we will extend for 50 days, 7 weeks to «taste and see how good the Lord is».
His mighty arm has given us the Victory, the energy of his Resurrection fills us with a joy that the world cannot take away from us. The Church puts on her best clothes, that is why she dresses in White, and sings «Alleluia» to the slain and conquering Lamb, her Bridegroom, whom she awaits with the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit.
It is at this time that the Neophytes, the catechumens who have just received the sacraments of initiation during the Easter Vigil, will receive from Holy Mother Church the «mystagogical» catecheses, which means: the Teachings on the «mystery» they have just received. Their own life has been enlightened by Christ, they have been completely regenerated in the waters of Baptism, and they have been nourished with the Body and Blood of Christ. They have been anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Today my dear brothers and sisters, we also have a group of several candidates who after a process of formation, after a journey of deepening in the faith of the Apostles, will receive Confirmation and Holy Communion for the first time. Today, my dear brothers and sisters, we will witness how Jesus Christ himself nourishes his beloved children. Let us give thanks to God for this.
It is during this most beautiful time of Easter that the Church, who is Mother and Teacher rejoices with the gift of the new offspring (or neophytes, which is what it means) that God has given her. And so do we all. We are immersing ourselves in this unfathomable Mystery of the Passover of the Lord Jesus.
I would therefore like to say at least a few words about the readings of this beautiful Sunday, consecrated par excellence to Divine Mercy.
It is curious that we can make a connection between the three theological virtues and each of the readings.
In the first reading we have the testimony of Charity. The early believers were assiduous in practices that the Church preserves to this day:
1.They listened to the teachings of the apostles.
2.They had a fraternal communion.
3.They celebrated the breaking of bread, that is, the Eucharist.
4. They also met to pray, either in the temple or in their homes.
But the detail that marks the greatness of the lifestyle of these early believers is their fraternal and common love. They lived united in charity and helped one another in the face of different needs. Love and simplicity of heart, sincere and pure affection, marked the internal life of the first community.
It is a challenge for all of us today. For some, on the one hand, have come to say that this life of the first community is something utopian, only an ideal. And on the other hand, some have wanted to disfigure the love that was evident in these communities with human artifices. I remember once, when I had a conversation with a member of the Communist Party, in a place in the Caribbean, and he told me that Communism and Christianity were like twin brothers. I looked him straight in the face and pointed out that in Christianity the origin of our charity is not merely human conviction or a sense of political duty. In Christianity Charity is born of God and is His gift. It is born of God and returns to give glory to Him alone. There is a great difference.
And this is the challenge we have today, in the 21st century, in the city of Jacksonville, why not, in our parish of Blessed Trinity: to return to that first love that regenerates us in tenderness and joy, and softens our hearts.
The second virtue we find in the second reading is Hope. St. Paul literally says:
«Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for his great mercy, because in raising Jesus Christ from the dead, he granted us to be reborn to the hope of a new life, which cannot be corrupted or defiled and which he has reserved for us as an inheritance in heaven. Because you have faith in God, he protects you with his power, so that you may attain the salvation which he has prepared for you and which he will reveal at the end of time.»
This hope is also a theological virtue, for it can only come from God. Our salvation that has been given to us with the death and resurrection of Jesus, this eternal beatitude, will only manifest itself at the end of time. The good thing about it all is that it is secure, because its guarantor is God.
That is why we should be joyful. Even if we have to suffer a little in this world, with our crosses and our ailments. God is at the end of the road, He has the answer to each of those questions that we cannot answer now, to each of those bitter pills that appear along the way.
May our Hope be firm, joyful, confident, optimistic. If you are sad, it means that something is not working well inside. When the engine is not working well, or feels a little heavy, it sometimes means that the oil needs to be changed. Look and ask yourself how is the engine of your hope, it may already need an oil change. The oil in our life is the anointing of the Spirit. And this is done by dint of the Bible and prayer.
And the third virtue, last but not least, is the virtue of Faith. If in the Gospel of the Saturday Octave, the eleven were reproached for not believing the testimony of the Resurrection given by Mary Magdalene and the Disciples of Emmaus, now the one who is reproached is St. Thomas, the Apostle.
«Here are my hands; bring your finger closer. Bring your hand here, put it in my side and do not continue to doubt, but believe».
In St. Thomas we are all represented. All of us at one time or another have questioned God and asked him for proof to believe. We have all doubted the testimony of our brothers at some point. We have all doubted on many occasions that goodness and life can triumph over evil and death.
Christ today makes the same invitation to us: «Come and touch me, touch my wounds, touch my wounds and the wound in my side. These are the proofs of my identity. This is the proof that I love you. If I have these wounds even after I am resurrected, it is because I want to have you tattooed on me, and to have the price I paid for love of you before my eyes all the time. Come and touch the price of my cross and let yourself be enlightened by the strength of my resurrection. Open your eyes to my life and my majesty, open your heart to faith. Leave no room for doubt, and become a sincere believer. I come to give you Peace and Life. I come to cover you with my Mercy. Launch yourself without fear and without looking back. I am here, I Am.»
May our only response to the Master be the one we heard torn from the mouth of Thomas: «My Lord and my God».