19 April 2015
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
1 John 2:1-5
In the hours and days that followed the resurrection, the pervading atmosphere amongst the disciples was fear. They were fearful as followers of Jesus crucified that the Jewish authorities would find them and punish them severely. Gathered together in a room they see the ghostlike figure of Christ. How can he be alive? They see the wounds in his hands and side. Fear and doubt take hold of them. Remembering their own betrayal of Jesus despite all their promises to be faithful they wonder if Christ has returned for vengeance and retribution. Then they hear the wonderful transformative words of Jesus, ‘Peace be with you’, not once but twice. Their fear disappears for there is no retribution or vengeance in his heart, only love and compassion.
In the three readings today, the underlying reality is that of forgiveness and acceptance. In the first reading Peter excuses the people by telling them that neither they nor their leaders had any idea of what they were really doing in putting Jesus to death. All through his prophets God had foretold the sufferings and death of Jesus the Just One. So the Jews and their leaders are invited to repent and turn to God so that their sins may be wiped out.
In the second reading John tells us that Jesus is the sacrifice that takes our sins away. In gratitude to God we are asked to keep God’s commandments, not because he will punish us if we don’t but because it will cause pain and hurt to ourselves and others and furthermore people will not believe in a loving, forgiving God if we, who claim to be his followers don’t witness to this to others.
In the gospel we heard that Jesus opened the minds of the disciples to understand the scriptures and all that these are meant to reveal. They are meant to reveal above all that God raised up Jesus after his terrible suffering and cruel death and that in his name, repentance and forgiveness would be preached to all the nations beginning in Jerusalem. The disciples are to preach forgiveness of sins. We are all sinners, but because we belong to Christ, we are loved, saved, forgiven sinners. It is vital to accept this about ourselves and others.
The Risen Christ told his disciples to begin their preaching of the Good News, the offer of his peace and forgiveness beginning with those living in Jerusalem, then to those in the towns and countryside and finally to all the world. He invites us to realise that the place to seek for peace is first of all at the centre of our own lives, then in our immediate personal world, and then beyond. We make our impact where we can and then we let the ripples spread outwards. Let us not despair of the dark clouds and the seeming impossibility of peace and justice in our world today, but start by promoting justice in one’s own life, and avoid surrendering to the darkness.
When the Risen Lord appeared to the frightened and confused disciples they wondered if he were a ghost. But he quickly moves to reassure them by taking a piece of grilled fish and eating it. Is it not something very ordinary? God continues to appear in our daily life in very ordinary ways. God wants to open our eyes to the presence of the risen Christ in the ordinary happenings of life. It is in the small things, the everyday details of life, the moments of caring and sharing when we reach out to others that we show that Christ is risen among us. The Risen Christ is not apart from the world. He is in our midst, not controlled by religious language and practices.
Then he asks them to touch his wounds. Needless to say they are not any old wounds. They are the wounds the world inflicts on those who love God above all else. They are the wounds of those who live for others rather than themselves. Jesus didn’t hide his wounds because they were the price of his love. Neither did Jesus become embittered because of his wounds. Our own wounds maybe are those caused by betrayals by others, things like disappointments, ingratitude, being taken for granted etc. His wounds give us hope in our wounds.
‘Lord, we pray for the gift of the Spirit to open our minds to understand the scriptures and that we may have the courage to witness, especially by forgiveness and compassion, to the Risen Jesus. Amen.’
Fr. Jim. Kirstein, SMA