Life in the early Church, Psalm 118 Alleluia, the goal of our Easter faith, receive the Holy Spirit
Click Here for Readings at Mass
These few days of Easter already have made us more aware that the Resurrection of Christ Jesus is not just about him but the resurrection of the Church continues to take place through the power and glory of the Son of God. So we should not be surprised to listen to these sacred readings as shedding Christ’s light upon who we are and what is going on in our lives in Christ. Luke again this year sets up four criteria to examine in the present life of the Church which will tell us whether we are living the new life of the risen Lord.
1) Listening to the word of God as he speaks to us through the teaching of the Apostles;
2) Living day by day in fraternal charity, gathering with the community, sharing God’s gifts;
3) Celebrating joyfully in liturgical fashion the mysteries of Christ, our priest;
4) Joining with other believers of all ages, expressing our common faith and love in prayer.
We know that we are not perfect in every aspect of these four criteria, but our unrelenting efforts to seek perfection in this regard will be the sign to the world that the living Christ is in our midst raising us up.
Perhaps stating a resolution for each of the four might help give us the new life of Christ more this year.
a) Spend some time reflecting on the fact that God is actually speaking to us through the authorities in the Church, coming to realize that their words and actions are not mere human activity but should carry more weight than the thousands and millions of words uttered on TV or sent by texting each day.
b) Definitely and successively is God calling us to make up for the social distancing the pandemic has forced upon us. The treasure of family, friendship and Church ties the Lord has given us must not decrease but increase for the betterment of mankind and a deeper sharing in the sharing of God gifts, material and spiritual, which are the heritage God is preparing for us.
c) Thank heaven the temporary absence of liturgical life of the Church is making itself felt in our lives and has heightened our appreciation of such a gift. As we come out of this time of suspended worship gatherings we resolve to put more effort into starting up again our valued liturgical prayer. We see that in this case virtual is not the same as real. We need to reassess the many forms of Christ’s real presence in our lives.
d) A life without time of prayer is half a life at best. Man cannot live the depths of life without God every day. If the habit of prayer has waned, we must resolve to readjust our daily schedules to include study and conversation with our Creator and Redeemer. After all, we have come from God and we are meant to return to him for all eternity. We will miss much if we are not familiar with him. He might even have to say: I don’t know you. What a pity!
Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24 (1)
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
The Acts of Apostles (above) describe the daily routine of the early Christians in Jerusalem. They went to the Temple every day — they felt at home there. There was not a sharp distinction between Jews and Christians. It is only later that the Jewish authorities wanted to show a difference. So the first Christians worshipped in the Temple and sang the same psalms which they had been doing for years. They did not have to get a new songbook. That continues to this day. We the same psalms that were used in the Temple in Jesus’ day. What happened though was that the psalms took on new meaning in the light of Jesus’ death and resurrection — not cancelling out the old but welcoming the new revelation of God with respect to Christ Jesus.
We only have a few verses of Psalm 118 (there are 29 verses in all) and have been using this same psalm throughout this Easter Week — using various verses to fit our Feast. Today the response is taken from the first verse: Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting. These are the words of praise — praise of the Father for giving us his Son and raising him from the community of the dead. This shows his goodness which flows from his undying love — covenant love. The psalm itself was probably composed for the Feast of Tents during which the Israelites recreated symbolic conditions of their liberation from Egypt and God’s making of the covenant at Mt. Sinai. So it is a psalm accompanying the pilgrimage of the faithful to renew the covenant. Our Easter is the renewal of the covenant by celebrating Jesus’ Paschal Mystery. So the Church down through the years uses this psalm to commemorate and deepen the God’s everlasting covenant love which is our salvation. So just as God is the one ultimately responsible for having a Feast of Tents, so the same God with the same merciful love has given us the Easter celebrations and the greater reason, namely, our resurrection and insertion into the covenant through Christ’s lovingly giving his life for us in reconciliation with the God of the covenant. Therefore this is a time of great joy, giving us reason to have Easter solemnities, which this year has taken a different form, but the Mystery is the same.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
I was hard pressed and was falling,
but the LORD helped me.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
The joyful shout of victory
in the tents of the just:
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
This prayer of the Church speaks clearly why we have Easter year after year. It is our renewal of the covenant with the plea to God to take us deeper and deeper into his covenant plan of salvation. The second half of the prayer gives us specific “goals” God has set before us — constantly advance in our understanding, and consequently advance in sharing, of the basics of our faith in Father, Son and Spirit in which we were baptized, confirmed and participate at the Eucharistic banquet. Notice that these are the three Sacraments of Initiation in which the newly baptized generally share at the Easter Vigil.
1 Peter 1:3-9
The Church has baptized people from the beginning, following the resurrection of Jesus. You may recall that on the First Pentecost Peter gave an explanation of what was taking place in which he taught gave his life for us. The crowd then asked Peter what should we do and he responded be baptized. So evidently early on further explanation was given concerning baptism what happens to believers who go through this ritual. Even hymns were composed for the occasion of baptism putting the mystery into words. Some think that this Letter of Saint Peter was either a homily that gave or a hymn that was sang at baptism. With this in mind we can learn much about the effects of Jesus’ resurrection in someone who is turning to God through Christ and answering his call to be baptized.
Here are a couple of things in our passage today. By accepting in faith the risen Lord we praise the Father who out of love, merciful love, has brought to that faith and at the same time given us hope for our future all the way to the end of time. That hope rests on reality that Jesus is risen no more to die and therefore our attachment to him brings the promise of a life that can never be spoilt or soiled or never to fade away. This promise is guaranteed because the eternal Son of God raised from the dead is in heaven at the right hand of the Father. So our promise of eternal life is reserved for us in heaven and can never be lost. Peter calls this our heritage. So when a person is baptized the promised heritage is store up in the heavenly kingdom for us. Not only is it our hope but it is our joy — a joy that leads us to praise God. Joy is the basis of all liturgy. To be baptized means that we are welcomed into the worshipping community of persons who are to share the same heritage. No wonder baptism is necessary for salvation.
Providential for us believers is that Thomas was missing on the gathering of disciples on that first Easter evening. Also providential is that Thomas was with them the following Sunday. When I say providential I refer to the change we see in Thomas because we, too, are transitioning to greater depths of faith each Easter — and for the same reason that Thomas did. How did Thomas go from point A to point B? The others disciples were there on both Sundays. The same Jesus was there on both Sundays. What was different is that on the first Sunday Thomas did not get the chance to encounter the risen Christ. He did on the second. Thomas had been with the other disciples on many occasions. Encountering them did not bring him to faith. He did not believe them. But encountering Christ did. Encounter brings with it some sort of exchange between the persons who meet. It is not one sided. What did Christ do? What did Thomas? Jesus both spoke and produced some action in real time. He let Thomas see the deadly wounds of a living being and he said: do not be unbelieving, but believe. Thomas, for his part, did both as well in reply. He touched the wounds and while touching Jesus acclaimed him present: my Lord and my God. The merciful love of Christ was manifest in Jesus giving Thomas a second chance. Jesus did not reject him but offered him a way of repentance and he took it, accepted it. Such is the way the merciful love of God works. In our liturgies, which we miss so much, we encounter the risen Lord in much the same way. But it is Christ himself who is the celebrant of all our liturgies — Baptism, Eucharist, Penance….