Second Sunday of Easter C
April 3, 2016
Reginald H. Fuller
Reading I: Acts 5:12-16
Here is a vignette of the apostles’ ministry in the early community
after Pentecost. It shows the power of the risen Christ at
work in his Church. The apostolic preaching is not mentioned here,
but there are never signs and wonders without the proclamation
of the word.
The phrase “were added to the Lord” is very striking. New converts
were “added,” that is, they were brought into an already existing community.
They did not hear the message and get together to form a community of their own;
the community was already there.
And they “were added”a reverential
passive denoting that it was God who added them; it was not the Church
that added new members. The new converts did not become members on their own,
but God translated them into the redeemed community.
Responsorial Psalm: 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Psalm 118, with
its reference to the rejection of the stone and its subsequent
elevation to be the chief cornerstone, was perhaps the earliest
Old Testament passage that the primitive community applied
to Christ’s death and resurrection.
It was the basic Old
Testament passage for the “no-yes” interpretation
of the death and resurrection: the death of Jesus as Israel’s
(and all humankind’s) “no” to Jesus, and the resurrection
as God’s vindication of him, his “yes” to all that
Jesus had said and done and suffered during his earthly life.
Reading II: Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
This is the opening
vision of the Apocalypse, in which John the Seer sees the risen
Christ and receives the messages for the seven churches. Some
have held that this vision was a continuation of the post-resurrection
It is true that the language of the vision is used
about the original appearances (1
Cor 15:3-8), and that in
the earliest tradition the appearances were appearances “from heaven” (Paul;
21) rather than massive apparitions of a Christ still
on earth, as in the later tradition (Lk
But Paul (1
is emphatic that the appearance to himself on the road to Damascus was last,
not only in date but as a matter of principle.
Paul himself had later visions
of the risen Christ (2
Cor 12:1-4; note that there he pictures himself as being
transported to heaven, rather than the risen Christ as appearing from heaven
upon earth). Moreover, the resurrection appearances were revelations that formed
the Church and gave it its mission in the world.
Subsequent visions, like those
of Paul in 2
Cor 12:1-4 and of John the Seer in our reading today, only continue
what was begun at Easter. The auditory element here repeats, but does not add
to, the original Easter revelations: Christ reveals himself as alive out of death.
This, the traditional gospel
for this Sunday, describes two appearances: to the disciples on Easter evening,
which appears in various forms in Matthew, Luke, and here; and to Thomas a week
later, which is peculiar to John.
The element of doubt, which characterized the
appearance tradition almost from the beginning and which proves that the appearances
were not merely wish-fulfillment, has here been expanded for apologetic purposes,
enabling the risen One to establish his identity.
The earlier tradition had pictured
the risen One in more spiritual terms; this later emphasis on the physical reality
of the risen body preserves the truth of the identity amid-change between the
earthly Jesus and the resurrected One.
John, however, has given this story his own twist by taking up a concern of the
later Church. How could a person believe in the risen One without having received
an appearance? Answer: Seeing him is no guarantee of believing.
had to come to faith when they saw him; so those who have not seen him can still
have the blessedness of faith through believing the testimony of the first witnesses.
Reginald H. Fuller
Copyright © 1984
by The Order of St. Benedict, Inc., Collegeville,
Minnesota. All rights reserved. Used by
permission from The Liturgical Press,
Collegeville, Minnesota 56321
Preaching the Lectionary:
The Word of God for the Church Today
Reginald H. Fuller and Daniel Westberg. Liturgical Press. 1984 (Revised Edition), pp. 426-427.
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