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2nd SUNDAY OF EASTER (C) April 28, 2019


Acts 5: 12-16; Psalm 118; Rev 1:9-11a,12-13,17-19; John 20: 19-31

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

PRE-NOTE: Lyle May is on death row in Raleigh, North Carolina. Recently, through short telephone conversations from the prison, he spoke to a class at Ohio University about criminal justice and the death penalty. We have posted his talk on our webpage. Go to: and click on "Justice Preaching."

What characterized the disciples from the time of Jesus’ arrest in the garden, right up to today’s gospel account? Fear… Fear of the Jewish authorities who collaborated with the Romans to have Jesus executed. Peter made a bold assertion at the Last Supper: "Lord, at your side, I am prepared to face imprisonment and death itself." (Luke 22:33) That very night Peter denied knowing Jesus (Luke 22:60).

So, what happened to make the difference? What enabled the apostles to open the doors where they were huddled in fear and go out into the threatening world to proclaim the resurrection? What caused Peter and John to resist the Sanhedrin’s orders to stop preaching Christ among the people (Acts 3:11-4:22)? Certainly this complete change did not come about because the apostles braced themselves, gave each other a pep talk and then launched out to the world beyond their locked doors.

John tells us quite clearly today that it wasn’t a "What" that emboldened the timid community of Jesus’ followers – but a "Who." Before his death Jesus had promised to send an "Advocate" to teach the disciples the truth, set them free and send them out to Jerusalem and beyond. Today Jesus keeps his word and breathes his Spirit upon his followers. We know what the disciples were like during Jesus’ ministry, right up to his death. They showed early signs of ambition and rivalry, hoping Jesus was the promised Messiah who would give them positions of power in the new kingdom he was proclaiming. When their world fell apart and Jesus was arrested and killed, they fled in fear. That’s where we find them in today’s gospel – behind locked doors in fear. Again, what changed them? Jesus breathed the Spirit on them.

John’s Gospel has frequent allusions to the creation story in Genesis. Remember the opening verses of Genesis which describe the earth as "a formless void, and there was darkness over the deep..." (1:1-2)? What brought light and order to the darkness and "formless void?" Genesis tells us immediately, "God’s Spirit hovered over the water." Then God began the work of creation.

Jesus first greeted the disciples, "Peace be with you." They needed to know that, despite their previous fears and betrayals, they were reconciled with Christ and one another. That reassurance would have released them from their previous betrayal. And then what? They might have remained a peaceable little community of Jesus’ followers – meeting regularly to recall the "old days" with Jesus. But Jesus breathes the creative Spirit upon them. (This moment has been described as the "Johannine Pentecost.") John is suggesting that the work of creation, begun in Genesis, is continuing. Through Jesus, God’s gift of light has entered the world afresh and enables the disciples to go out into the "formless void," the dark world, to bring forgiveness and reconciliation among peoples – to be a "light to the nations," as Jesus was. Through Jesus’ Spirit, now given to the community of believers, the disciples will no longer be afraid and can begin their ministry proclaiming forgiveness.

But a pause here. What could – "whose sins you retain are retained" – mean? Why hold back forgiveness? Possibly, the community was not to allow entrance to new members who did not accept the gospel message. Or, maybe the church has the authority to "retain," i.e. withhold membership, to those seeking membership who refuse to reform. It is quite clear, the church is not just a social club of people who like each other. Acceptance of the gospel and a changed life is expected.

Today’s passage instructs that the primary ministry of the church, and that includes all believers, is to preach and act as Christ’s messengers of peace and forgiveness. It is Jesus’ gift of his Spirit that gives the power to disciples to overcome their fears, prejudices, and doubts and become powerful witnesses and preachers of God’s love and forgiveness. Each of us baptized has that same power, the Spirit, that urges us to move out from our comfortable places into a world that sorely needs the good news – Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. That’s who we are; that’s our job description as disciples inspired by the Spirit of Jesus.

An important theme in John’s Gospel is that Jesus was sent into the world to reveal the Father. In his appearance to the disciples in the locked room, as he prepares to return to the Father, Jesus commissions his disciples to continue his ministry: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." They will proclaim forgiveness of sins, not by their own powers, or determination, but from the power the Spirit gives them.

It is hard to ignore the second event in the story: Jesus’ appearance and invitation to Thomas to touch his wounds and so to believe. What Thomas says in response, "My Lord and my God," is the heart of our creed. Thomas and we encounter the presence of God in the risen Christ. In a beatitude Christ affirms the faith of all who come to believe. "Blessed are those who have not seen and come to believe." That faith puts us on the same level with God as the original disciples had.

Some people have a personal encounter with the risen Christ, as did the disciples. The rest of us come to experience his forgiveness and new life through the witnesses he has sent to us. Who are they in your life? We give thanks at this Eucharist for those witnesses who have been the source of the living faith we have in Jesus Christ, risen from the dead and in our midst now.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:


"I have a desire to do something in return. To do things. To give thanks. Give things. Give thoughts. Give love. So gratitude becomes the gift, creating a cycle of giving and receiving, the endless waterfall. Filling up and spilling over… perhaps not even to the river but to someone else, to whoever crosses one’s path . It is the simple passing on of the gift."

– Elizabeth Bartlett


"God’s mercy endures forever."

Psalm 118:2

How appropriate that on Divine Mercy Sunday all the readings call us to open our eyes and experience the many ways that God’s mercy touches us. Not only are we to experience God’s mercy but we have also received the mandate that God’s mercy be shared with others through our actions. A simple sharing of the gift of peace with someone who is expressing doubt about God’s love and mercy by your presence and words of reassurance is a great way to start.

From there take the time to learn of the great suffering that so many fellow Christians and others are enduring in war-torn areas. Think about all those who are fleeing violence in order to protect their families. Meditate on how racism permeates our culture as a systemic problem. Contemplate the cry of Mother Earth as her resources are being consumed with abandon and other species are being decimated. We are the ones who must be and act mercifully. We will never have peace without mercy and justice for those who suffer and for suffering creation.

Learn more about Catholic peacemaking efforts, such as Pax Christi USA:

Expand your knowledge of suffering in the world by exploring the work of Catholic Relief Services:

Practice mercy by joining the work being done by Catholic Bishops through Justice for Immigrants: or join with our local efforts by contacting Luisi Martin-Price through

For a comprehensive reflection on the racial divide in the USA, read Bishop Edward Braxton’s pastoral letter from 2015 especially the prologue:

Spend time in nature and then take action together with other Catholics at the Catholic Climate Covenant: and consider becoming part of the HNOJ Care for Creation Board at

Practice being merciful in every aspect of your life. May you bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind.

---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC


Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

Jesus said to Thomas, "Have you come to believe

because you have seen me?

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."


How can we "prove" to others that Christ is risen from the dead? Our nourishment for that task comes from the Scriptures, preaching, teaching, personal witness, liturgical celebrations etc. – ways we can help a modern doubter like Thomas come to know Christ. Today’s passage affirms that people come to believe in the Risen Christ through their experience of the believing community, people like us.

So we ask ourselves:

  • How does my life reflect the risen Christ?
  • What and who help me grow in my role as a witness to the resurrection?


"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."

---Pope Francis

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • Timothy Richardson #0492102 (On death row since 6/1/95)
  • Richard Cagle #0061528 (6/16/95)
  • William Herring #0180479 (7/22/95)

----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:

Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:


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If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

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If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

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3. Our webpage: - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.

Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.


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