Homily for second Sunday of Easter, A

Today we celebrate the second Sunday of Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday, we continue to glory in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, the Church is blessed with power and authority even at the infantry stage as we see in our first reading this morning. The early Christians remained steadfast in their faith, they held onto the teachings of the apostles. They remained faithful to the brotherhood and to the breaking of bread. By the resurrection power of Jesus Christ working in and through the Church, miracles were worked through the hands of the apostles. This Sunday, the second Sunday of Easter which is also mercy Sunday. We specially celebrate the mercy of God as St. Peter reminds us in the second reading that God the Father in His mercy has given us a new birth by raising Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus Christ therefore is for us a renewal, a rebirth and a reassurance of the promise we have in God of eternal inheritance.

When Jesus rose from the dead, He appeared to Mary Magdalene, and in the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, he appeared to the apostles behind a closed door.  Behind that close door He gave the apostles the gift of Easter; Peace. Peace be with you He said to the apostles and then He showed then His hands and His side. He showed them the mark the nails made on His hands and the one the spear made on His side from where blood and water poured out. At that moment He empowered the apostles, He recreated them, He gave them new life of Easter, He breathed on them and that breath is life.  Jesus repeated what the Father did at creation, how He gave life to Adam. He created Adam out of dust; Adam was nothing but dust until God breathed into his nostrils and gave him life. In the same way Jesus gave the apostles new life, power and authority when He breathed on them.

After the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the apostles were like nothing but dust. They were almost useless to themselves and to the society, they locked themselves up in a room for fear of the Jews; they were with no spiritual life until Jesus gave them new life by breathing on them. He resurrected their weakened bodies, he resurrected their faith and poured out the gift of mercy to the world through the apostles. He said to them; receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained. He instituted the sacrament of reconciliation, the sacrament of love and mercy and that is what the Church celebrates today in a very special way.

We celebrate the mercy of God, though some none Catholics argue against the sacrament of reconciliation, they say that in the New Testament we need no other Priest to mediate between man and God; that is very true. We actually need no other Priest because Jesus is the high Priest of our faith ( Heb. 4:14 ). But these people fail to understand the power behind the closed door; the closed door separated the apostles from others; they were set apart.  A validly ordained Catholic Priest is set apart, he shares in the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. In the Catholic Church, the Priests have no Priesthood of their own, they share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. The Priesthood is one and it is the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. Again, some other argue that Christ has made every believer a Priest (1Peter 2:5-9, Rev. 1:6 and 5:10). Yes, every believer is a Priest, we all share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ by the virtue of our baptism in Christ. However, some are specially called into the ministerial Priesthood, And one does not take the honour upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was. (Heb. 5: 4).

The apostles were specially chosen and set apart. Before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed and consecrated the apostles for the work ahead before praying for those who will hear the word of God through them (Jn. 17 ). After the resurrection of Jesus, he appeared to the apostles behind a closed door. A closed door separates rooms and people, the apostles were behind a closed door, they were separated from others, they were set apart. Jesus appeared to them behind a closed door and said to them peace be with you… as the Father has sent me, even so I send you. They were chosen and sent, he did not just send them without power and authority, he breathed on them and said, receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

This power to forgive sins was not given to every believer but only to the apostles, those behind closed door, those set apart. This apostolic authority flowed down to our generation through the laying on of hands. The laying on of hands is a symbolic act that sets one apart, that empowers, authorizes and fills one with the Holy Spirit. The power to forgive sins is of Christ, given to the apostles and it is transmitted in the Catholic Church through the apostolic succession. The Catholic Church is truly an apostolic Church because of that apostolic succession.

We celebrate the mercy of God today, we celebrate the gift of the sacrament of reconciliation to the Church. Let us not walk away from this sacrament but learn to appreciate it and appreciate the mercy of God. It is God who forgives sins, He is the one doing his work in and through the priests. The person of the priest needs mercy and forgiveness himself, for he is a man, flesh and blood. Though flesh and blood he remains a vesle in the hands of God.

Some Catholics today are tempted to walk away from this beautiful sacrament of reconciliation for lack of knowledge, they want to walk away from the body of Christ just like Thomas did. Where did Thomas go when Jesus appeared to the apostles? Why was he not in the community of the Church at the time of the appearance? And that is the same question we need to ask some Catholics today; where were you? Or where are you going? In search of what? Nobody knows where Thomas went, but the fact is that he was not there when Jesus first appeared. We must learn to be faithful to the “brotherhood” like the early Christians and to the breaking of bread. We have everything thing in the Catholic Church.

As we celebrate mercy Sunday, let us continue to glory in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ who reigns forever and ever. It is in Him we have mercy and forgiveness of sins.

Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as pastor in two different parishes, he was one time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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