I don’t know about you, but I have found the daily Mass readings for the second week of the Easter season to be overflowing with food for meditative prayer and daily Christian living. I thought I would share ten verses that have been especially meaningful to me this week, realizing of course that I’m only scratching the surface.
And by the way, we all know that April showers bring May flowers. But what do May flowers bring? The answer is found at the end of this list of verses.
(1) “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42, Sunday).
In this short verse we see, in primitive yet unmistakable form, the four pillars of traditional catechesis: creed (teaching of the apostles), sacraments (breaking of the bread), morality (communal life), and prayer. See Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 13-17.
(2) “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe’” (Jn. 20:27, Sunday).
This episode in which Our Lord confronts “doubting” Thomas is perhaps the most compelling post-Resurrection appearance of Christ, which provides solid encouragement for those of us who have not seen, yet have believed.
(3) “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me” (Heb. 10:5, Monday).
This passage, which explicitly applies Psalm 40 to Our Lord, fittingly speaks of the Lord’s Incarnation, which we celebrated on Monday with the transferred feast of the Annunciation. But even more, we see that His becoming flesh, His taking a body, is connected to sacrifice. Our bodies too are instruments of sacrifice: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1; see also Col. 1:24).
(4) “Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word’” (Lk. 1:38, Monday).
The Annunciation is ordinarily celebrated on March 25th, exactly nine months before Christmas, but was moved this year out of deference to Easter, which is an eight-day feast in the Church. So we had a temporary break from St. John’s Gospel as we heard anew Our Lady’s remarkable “fiat,” as she consents to becoming a living tabernacle of the eternal Son of God. We too become living tabernacles whenever we worthily receive Our Lord in Holy Communion.
(5) Jesus said to Nicodemus: “‘You must be born from above’” (Jn. 3:7, Tuesday).
This famous episode points to the regenerative waters of Baptism, which truly enable us to become partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4) and heirs of heaven as God’s beloved children.
(6) “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. . . . whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God” (Jn. 3:16, 21, Wednesday).
Okay, this is a bit of a “two-fer.” Despite its familiarity, John 3:16 should never lose its freshness in our hearts. And God’s love calls forth not only a notional assent, but even more it demands a committed love, such that we not only profess the truth, but live it–even when nobody is watching.
(7) “But Peter and the Apostles said in reply, ‘We must obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:29, Thursday).
Even though this passage gets misused at times, the premise here is a crucial one. Often we can live the ambiguity, in a sense obeying both God and man. But when push comes to shove, when our faith calls us to a higher standard, do we have the integrity of St. Thomas More to obey God, not men?
(8) “He does not ration his gift of the Spirit” (Jn. 3:34, Thursday).
God is more generous, more powerful, and even more present than we often give Him credit for, at least in practice. The Christian life, when all is said and done, is life in the Spirit. If our faith isn’t all-encompassing, it’s because we’re rationing God, and not that God is rationing His Spirit.
(9) “If this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39, Friday).
These remarkably wise words of Gamaliel have proven to be prophetic, haven’t they? In addition, wisdom has a timeless quality, and so Gamaliel’s words provide sound guidance whenever we encounter purported private revelations, new spiritual movements, or other religious enterprises of questionable origin.
(10) “Jesus said, ‘Let the people recline’” (Jn. 6:10, Friday).
Okay, this one is a little tongue-in-cheek. My daughter Brenda likes to cite this verse whenever I ask her to get off the sofa and do something. But even this lighthearted anecdote shows how Scripture verses can be manipulated and taken out of context when removed from their natural habitat (i.e., the liturgy) and interpreted apart from the authority of the Church.
And by the way, the answer to my question at the beginning of this post is . . . pilgrims!