By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter - On the Epistle
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Observing the Lord's Day in Patmos

Acts 5:12-16 Revelation 1:9-11, 12-13, 17-19 John 20:19-31

A young man made up his mind to attend Easter vigil midnight service. The service was to begin at 9:00 pm, so he decided to watch some Saturday night movie on television to occupy himself before time for service. While watching the movie he fell asleep and woke up much later in the night. It occurred to him that he must be late for church service so he got up and ran all the way to the church. When he got to the church, there was no one in sight. The service was over. All that he saw was a big banner in front of the church which reads: “He is not here, he has risen!” Without meaning to do so, the banner was announcing the important truth that the risen Lord is not confined to church buildings, he is everywhere. The resurrection marks an important shift in the way Jesus makes himself present to his followers. In his earthly life Jesus was in one place at a time. After the resurrection there is no such limitation. Before the resurrection the usual way to encounter Jesus was in the body. After the resurrection the way to encounter Jesus is in the spirit.

Today’s second reading narrates John’s encounter with the risen Lord in the island of Patmos.

I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the spirit on the Lord's day. (Revelation 1:9-10)

The island of Patmos was not a normal city. It was a small isolated island in the Aegean sea of Asia Minor and served as a place of banishment for prisoners sentenced to isolation and hard labour rather than to execution. It was an early version of the labour camp. John was sent there “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus,” meaning, because of his loyalty to the word of God and his insistence in preaching the message of Jesus. It was a time of persecution of Christians, probably under the reign of the emperor Domitian (ad 81-96).

John identifies himself to the Christians to whom he is writing as “your brother.” Together with these Christians he shares three things: (a) the present reality of “the persecution,” (b) the future hope of “the kingdom,” and (c) the means to go from the one to the other, namely “patient endurance.” As we celebrate the glorification of Christ at Easter, the church reminds us through John that our hope of future glory can only be attained if we accept with patient endurance the persecutions and crosses that life throws at us when we resolve to live our lives in faithfulness to Jesus and his teachings.

Today’s reading is significant in that here we see, for the first time, the term “the Lord’s day” (dies dominica) used to refer to Sunday, the first day of the week. By the time John wrote, Sunday had become the holy day for Christians, comparable to what Saturday (the Sabbath) was for Jews. It was a day when Christians came together in worship and celebration, a day to connect with one another and to connect with the risen Lord.

So, John is banished to Patmos, this prison island where, obviously, there is no Christian assembly, no church. It is Sunday, the day of the Lord, and what does John do? He cannot attend a church service in Patmos since there is none. So he does the next best thing. He recollects himself and joins himself in spirit with his brothers and sisters in the faith who are worshipping elsewhere at that time. In spirit he connects with them and with the risen Lord. Since he had no liturgy to attend on earth, God admits John into the heavenly liturgy where Jesus, the lamb that was slain who now lives forever, is both priest and victim. The book of Revelation is basically an account of what he saw and heard in his privileged participation in the heavenly liturgy.

Sunday observance, the opportunity to connect with one another and with the Lord in weekly worship, should not be seen as an obligation but as a privilege. Every now and then we find ourselves in situations where it is impossible to attend Sunday service. We could be in places where there is no nearby church, we could be ill, or we could be caring for someone who is ill. Whatever be the reason, we can always recollect ourselves in God’s presence, like John did in the island of Patmos. We can read the word of God, pray, and do a spiritual communion. The Lord himself will meet us in our place of need and grant us the same blessings that he has reserved for those who worship him in spirit and in truth.

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