Second Sunday of Easter

Low Sunday

By: Fr. Norm Tanck, CSB

I have to be honest with you; I am not quite sure what we are celebrating today. Although we were clear about the liturgical name for last Sunday, the Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord – Easter Sunday, This, the Sunday after Easter, seems to be overlaid with a number of names and possible things to celebrate. Let me make a digression with a little history lesson.

For centuries, the Sunday after Easter was known as Low Sunday. Low Sunday ended the Octave of Easter. This past week, liturgically, we celebrated each day as if it were Easter Sunday. Today ends the Octave (eight days) of Easter and it is time to tone down our celebration.

Did you ever go on a retreat or a vacation that lifted your spirits, refreshed, and energized you, leaving you feeling high? Then when you returned home, you found yourself let down, feeling low.

For centuries this was known as Low Sunday, probably because the celebrations the Sunday after Easter were not as elaborate as Easter Sunday and Easter Week. It ends the octave of Easter so people may have been worn out after 8 days of Easter.

All those who were baptized at the Easter Vigil were given a white garment to wear, and they probably wore it for the week after Easter, being congratulated and praised when they were seen by older Christians. Today was the day the neophytes replaced their white garments and went back to wearing ordinary street clothes. They would go out without being noticed. That could be a downer, I suppose. So, for them this would have been a Low Sunday.”

Then with the liturgical reforms of the late 1960’s, Low Sunday became simply The Second Sunday of Easter and remained that until

2000. That year, the Jubilee Year, Pope Saint John Paul II declared Sr. Faustina Kowalska a saint on the 2nd Sunday of Easter and proclaimed, “from now on throughout the Church this Sunday will be called “Divine Mercy Sunday.” Which brings us to today’s Gospel reading, which has traditionally been the Gospel text for Low Sunday and remains the text today.

The first question I asked myself is what all these names have to do with all that is going on today among the nations, within our families, among our friends and in the Church.

In our Gospel reading we see the nascent Church present in the upper room, a week after Easter remembering their time with Jesus and praying together. And, again as he did on Easter Sunday, the Risen Lord comes to be with them and gently and lovingly leading Thomas to a deeper faith in the resurrection.

While reflecting on the story of St. Thomas in today’s Gospel my attention was brought to the image of Jesus, the Mercy of God, the picture that St. Faustina Kowalska had painted of the Lord as he appeared to her. Jesus has one hand raised in blessing and the other pointing to his heart from which rainbow-colored rays of light pour out like a shower of mercy. Most of those pictures have an inscription on the bottom that says, Jesus, I Trust You.

That picture made me wonder if Thomas’ problem was trust rather than faith. We all know how fragile relationships can be. Thomas not only believed in Jesus, but he put his trust in him. Thomas probably looked forward to many more years with Jesus, to seeing his dream of the Kingdom realized. He looked up to him, idolized him, loved him, trusted him. With the death of Jesus trust may have been threatened, he may have thought that the trust was broken.

And what about his trust in the other disciples? They ran from Jesus in the time of crisis, denied him, and hid in fear. Why should Thomas trust them when they told him that they had seen Jesus?

But when Jesus appears the community gathered in the upper room in the first Sunday after Easter, Jesus speaks the word that heals the wounds of distrust, “SHALOM, peace be with you”. Their divisions were reconciled, and their relationships restored, even deepened. Jesus says to Peter and the community we are in right relationship again.

Then Jesus showed them, again, his wounds. They may have been wounds on his glorified body, but they also may be the wounds seen on the Body of Christ, the Church, caused by division and misunderstanding.

I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that we live in a Church and in a world where trust is an issue. It keeps us from listening to each other, speaking to each other. It forces us into, as Marxists say, a hermeneutics of suspicion, trust no one . Lack of trust is pandemic in the world. Who can we trust?

Today, as we acknowledge our faith, the same faith that Thomas and the apostles had.

Let us also pray for trust, not only trust in Jesus, but trust in each other, trust in the Church, so that we can with joy and peace proclaim to the world that Jesus is Lord and God, As we proclaim, Christos Anésti: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs, granting life. Alleluia!