Easter III-B

By   April 9, 2018


Introduction: The common theme of today’s readings is the challenge to adjust our lives to the living presence of the risen Lord as we grow daily more aware of God’s presence within us and all around us as the Holy Spirit. This awareness should strengthen our hope in His promises, bring us to true repentance for our sins and the renewal of our lives, and lead us to bear witness to Christ by our works of charity. The readings also remind us that the purpose of the suffering, death and Resurrection of Jesus was to save us from our sins.

Scripture lessons: The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, gives us Peter’s second sermon addressing the Jewish assembly at the Portico of Solomon in Jerusalem. Peter forcefully declares how the messianic prophecies have been fulfilled in the crucified and risen Jesus and challenges the Jews to turn toward God so that their sins may be wiped away. In the second reading, John answers doubts raised by the heretics of his time, asserting the fundamental Christian doctrine that Jesus’ death was a sacrifice offered as expiation for our sins. Today’s Gospel describes Jesus’ appearance on the evening of His Resurrection to his apostles who were in the locked Upper Room of the Cenacle. We see Jesus remove the doubts of his apostles about his Resurrection by inviting them to touch him and by eating a piece of cooked fish. Jesus explains to them how the prophecies had been fulfilled in him. Then he commissions them to bear witness to him and preach “repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name” after receiving the Holy Spirit.     

Life messages: 1) We need to share the apostles’ “Upper Room Experience” in the Holy Mass: The same Jesus who, in the Upper Room of the Cenacle, prepared the disciples for their preaching and witnessing mission, is present with us in the Eucharistic celebration.   In the “Liturgy of the Word of God,” Jesus speaks to us. In the “Liturgy of Bread and Wine,” Jesus becomes our spiritual food and drink.  Thus, today’s Gospel scene is repeated every Sunday on our parish altars.  Like the early disciples, we come together to repent of our sins, express our gratitude for blessings received, listen to God’s word and offer our lives to God along with our petitions and His gifts of consecrated Bread and Wine.  We also share in the spiritual food Jesus supplies, thus gaining the strength necessary for sharing Christ’s message with the entire world, mainly by living transparent Christian lives.  2) Jesus needs us as witnesses to continue his mission.  Jesus needs Spirit-filled followers to be his eyes, ears and hands and to bear witness to his love, mercy and forgiveness by our interactions with our brother and sisters.

3) Our daily lives are meant to serve as a means of experiencing and sharing the risen Lord with others. Just as the disciples experienced their risen Lord in their community, let us learn to recognize the presence of Jesus in our own homes, social service centers, nursing facilities, hospitals and schools.  Jesus wants us to be a community which shares and cares, a community which knows how to recognize Jesus in the poor, the marginalized, the sick – that is, in everyone.  

EASTER III [B] Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; I Jn, 2:1-5a; Lk 24:35-48 

Anecdote # 1: The ghost story!   There is a true story in Ripley’s Believe It or Not about a judge in Yugoslavia who had an unfortunate accident.  He was “electrocuted” when he reached up to turn on the light while standing in the bathtub.  His wife found his body sprawled on the bathroom floor.  She called for help. Friends and neighbors, police–everyone showed up.  He was pronounced dead and taken to the funeral home.  The local radio picked up the story and broadcast it all over the air.  In the middle of the night, the judge regained consciousness.  When he realized where he was, he rushed over to alert the night watchman, who promptly ran off, terrified.  The first thought of the judge was to phone his wife and reassure her, using the funeral home phone.  But he got no further than, “Hello darling, it’s me,” when she screamed and fainted.  He tried calling a couple of the neighbors, but they all thought it was some sort of a sick prank.  He even went so far as to go to the homes of several friends, but they were all sure he was a ghost and slammed the door in his face.  Finally, he was able to call a friend in the next town who hadn’t heard of his death.  This friend was able to convince his family and other friends that he really was alive. Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus had to convince the disciples that he wasn’t a ghost.  He had to dispel their doubts and their fears.  He showed them his hands and his feet.  He invited them to touch him and see that he was real.  And he even ate a piece of cooked fish with them–all to prove that he was alive and not a ghost or spirit.  He stood there before them, as real and alive as he had been over the past three years. (The Autoillustrator)

# 2: The “miracle principle”.  The great promoter of positive thinking, Rev. Norman Vincent Peale (died, 1993 at 95), believed that one of the most wonderful principles known to man is called the “miracle principle”. Six words describe the principle: Expect a miracle – make miracles happen. According to him, if you keep your eyes open expectantly every day for great and wonderful things to happen, great and wonderful things will tend to happen to you. If one expects great things from God, one will receive great things from God. How then, can one go about expecting miracles and causing miracles to happen? According to Rev. Peale, the number one thing is to have a tremendous Faith, a deep Faith – a Faith that is so positively strong that it rises above doubt. He asserts that if we train ourselves to have faith in depth, it will release an astonishing power in our life to produce miracles.             Indeed, there are some people who are figuratively swimming in a sea of troubles. They are so discouraged and dismayed by so many things that it is impossible for them to believe that a life-giving miracle could ever happen in their lives. The disciples of Jesus who were devastated by the event of their Lord’s passion and death were similarly troubled with doubts, fears and despair. An Easter apparition was necessary to assure them of the reality of a stupendous miracle: The Lord’s Resurrection. To the frightened and troubled disciples who were incredulous of the beautiful reality of the “miracle”, the Risen Christ revealed himself anew, opening their minds and hearts, instructing them about the Paschal event of His death and Resurrection, and its implications in their life as Easter witnesses. (Lectio Divina)

# 3:  “What in the world happened to you?” A man showed up at Church with both his ears painfully blistered. After the service, his concerned pastor asked, “What in the world happened to you?” The man replied, “I was lying on the couch yesterday afternoon watching a ball game on TV and my wife was ironing nearby. I was totally engrossed in the game when she left the room, leaving the iron near the phone. The phone rang and keeping my eyes glued to the television, I grabbed the hot iron and put it to my ear.” “So how did the other ear get burned?” the pastor asked. “Well, I had no more than hung up and the guy called again.” [Bill Tewels, “Overheard at the Country Café,” Country (Oct-Nov 1994), p. 45.] Here is a man who was focused. He was so caught up in watching the game, he didn’t know what he was doing. In our Gospel lesson for today the disciples of Jesus have lost their focus. They are confused and weary. 

Introduction: The common theme of today’s readings is a challenge to our Faith in the living presence of the risen Lord. That Faith should strengthen our Hope in His promises, call us to true repentance for our sins and lead us to bearing witness to Christ by our works of Charity. Does our Faith do that for us?  The readings also remind us that the purpose of Jesus’ death and Resurrection was to save us from our sins. Hence, they invite us to make our bearing witness to the risen Lord more effective by repenting of our sins, renewing our lives, and meeting Jesus in the Word of God and at the Eucharistic Table.  The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles describes how Peter fulfills the mission of preaching Jesus.  In this second sermon, Peter goes on with the preaching mission begun on Pentecost in Jerusalem, and again presents Jesus as the fulfillment of all the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament.  He also asks the Jews to turn toward God so that their sins may be wiped away. In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 4) we declare our trust in God, asking, “Lord, let the Light of Your countenance “ – the Risen Jesus –“shine upon us,” and declaring, “You alone, O Lord, bring security to my dwelling” (vv 7, 9). In the second reading, John tells us that true knowledge and love of God consist in acknowledging that Jesus is the expiation for our sins. We make that acknowledgement daily by bearing witness to Him in our lives and by obeying His commandments.  Today’s Gospel leads us to reflect on Faith, doubts and crises.  It shows us how Jesus convinced his disciples of his Resurrection and how he commissioned them to be his witnesses throughout the world.  He prepared them to receive God’s power through the coming descent of the Holy Spirit upon them, and he commanded them to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  

The first reading: Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19, explained: Saint Luke wrote for an audience of cosmopolitan, middle-class Gentile converts, living in a skeptical society, yet committed to a religion with long, historic Jewish roots.  This new religion reached out to all humankind.  To tell that story, to ground his audience in their adopted religious heritage, and to keep them focused on the new religion’s mission, Luke needed to show how the story of Jesus continued in His Church in a second book, the Acts of the Apostles.  Today’s lesson is taken from the earlier part of the second of five discourses preached by Peter.  This forceful address astonished the crowd gathered at the Portico of Solomon in the Jerusalem Temple after a healing miracle. In it, Peter speaks of the Jewish heritage of Christianity, reminding his hearers and us of how the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob sent His Son Jesus as the Messiah to save the world and of how His chosen people rejected their Messiah, manipulating the Romans to execute Jesus.    Peter also reports how Jesus was raised from the dead and fulfilled all the Messianic prophecies.  This portion of the sermon concludes with the admonition to the Jews and a reminder to ourselves to repent of our sins and be converted.  “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19). Although we were not part of that crowd demanding Jesus’ death, it was our sins that Christ carried to the cross, and it was for those sins that Christ asked the Father’s forgiveness from the cross.  Hence, we also need to reform our lives and turn to God with repentant hearts.  If we believe that Christ has forgiven our sins, we must forgive the sins of others. 

Second Reading, , explained:  In liturgical year Cycle B, we read from the First Letter of Saint John on the Sundays of Easter.  This Letter was addressed to the early Christian community beset with many problems. Some members were advocating false doctrines. These errors are here recognized and rejected. Although their advocates had left the community, the threat they posed remained.  They had refused to acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who came into the world as a true man.  They had been difficult people to deal with, claiming special knowledge of God but disregarding the Divine commandments, particularly that of love of neighbor.   Likewise, they had refused to accept Faith in Christ as the source of sanctification.  Thus, they denied the redemptive value of Jesus’ death.  While neither today’s reading from Luke nor the reading from Acts explains how Jesus’ death and Resurrection frees us from sins, John in his letter provides an explanation, calling Jesus the “expiation for our sins.”  This presupposes that the death of Jesus was a sacrifice, like the sacrifices prescribed in the Old Testament (Numbers 5:8).  The sacrifice of Jesus makes up for sins, and so offers an opportunity for their forgiveness. Jesus continues to remain our advocate when we encounter the harsh reality of our sins in our lives. Hence, John advises true Christians to approach Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and to lead true Christian lives by obeying his commandments. 

Gospel exegesis: The context: This apparition of Jesus took place on Easter evening, after Jesus had appeared to the two disciples of Emmaus. The two disciples to whom Our Lord appeared on their way to Emmaus returned hurriedly to Jerusalem to report the glad news that they had met him in the person of the stranger who had explained to them the Sacred Scriptures and whom they had recognized in the breaking of the bread.  They discovered that the apostles were convinced, by that time, of the resurrection of Jesus because Simon also had seen him.  While they were discussing these things, Jesus appeared in their midst, surprising and terrifying them.  This story was told and retold and recorded by Luke for at least three reasons: (1) Jesus’ death and Resurrection fit God’s purpose as revealed in Scripture; (2) the risen Jesus is present in the breaking of bread; and (3) the risen Jesus is also physically absent from the disciples.