3rd Sunday of Easter. April 14, 2024

 3rd Sunday of Easter. April 14, 2024

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; 1 John 2:1-5a; Luke 24:35-48

 

Theme: We Are Called to Recognize the Risen Lord, Repent, and Keep His Commandments

Last Sunday, we heard the story of Jesus's double appearances to his disciples (the first without Thomas and the second with Thomas) in the account of Saint John. John told us that the disciples locked themselves in for fear of the Jews, whom they thought were looking to execute them as they did to their master, Jesus. Amid their fear, Jesus appeared to them. He wished them peace, filled them with the Holy Spirit through his breath, and sent them on a mission to forgive or retain the people's sins. Thomas, who missed the first appearance, requested physical proof to believe that Jesus was alive. Then, a week later, Jesus again appeared to them. He invited Thomas to touch the marks of his wounds. Then, Jesus exhorted him and all of us to believe in his resurrection even though we had not seen him physically. Through that Gospel, our Holy Mother Church taught us that Jesus continues to appear to each of us today amid our fears of this life. He wishes us peace, gives us the Holy Spirit, and sends us on a mission. Jesus empowered the Church, through the ordained priests, to forgive or retain our sins.

Today’s liturgy also talks about Jesus’ appearance to his disciples and all of us. Amid our fear, Jesus wishes us peace; He proves to us, through physical details and Scripture interpretation, that he has genuinely resurrected from the dead; he promises us the Holy Spirit (Luke 24: 49, the verse that the lectionary has omitted), and sends us on a mission to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Our first and second readings report how Peter and other disciples preached repentance to their people. Let us also preach repentance to our brothers and sisters wherever we live.

Before we analyze our Gospel, let us first know its historical and literary contexts, form, movement, and structure. Note that the four Gospels reflect two different traditions in their accounts of Jesus’ appearances to his disciples. Matthew and Mark point to Jesus’ appearances in Galilee, while Luke and John focus on appearances in Jerusalem and its environs. So, in our text, Luke reports that Jesus appeared to all his disciples in Jerusalem. Our Gospel is taken from chapter 24, the Resurrection narrative (24:1-53). It is immediately preceded by two stories, namely “The Women at the Empty Tomb” (24:1-12) and Jesus’s Appearance to the two Disciples of Emmaus (24:13-35). It is immediately followed by the last story about Jesus’ Ascension (24:50-53), which concludes the Resurrection narrative and the whole Gospel.

Our text is the resurrection narrative. V. 35, which normally belongs to the previous story (Jesus’ appearance to the Two Disciples of Emmaus), introduces our text, and v. 48 (with v. 49 that the lectionary has omitted) concludes it. The body of the text has two parts. Jesus uses physical details in the first part (vv. 36-43) and Scripture interpretation in the second part (vv. 44-47) to prove his resurrection.

Our pericope begins where the previous story, Jesus’ appearance to Emmaus’ disciples, left off. These two disciples experienced the resurrected Jesus on the road of Emmaus. Note that their stay in Jerusalem was because they followed Jesus. When Jesus died, there was no more reason to stay in Jerusalem. Disappointed, they decided to go back home to Emmaus. On the road, they experienced the resurrected Jesus who appeared to them. They recognized him through the Scriptures and the breaking of the bread that he shared with them. As a result, these two disciples returned to Jerusalem and rejoined their fellow disciples. They shared how Jesus appeared to them on the road of Emmaus. While they were still speaking, Jesus himself stood in their midst. Our Gospel story picks up here.

 In the Gospel passage we just heard, Luke tells us that the disciples were startled and frightened (v.37) but also amazed and filled with joy (v.41) when Jesus appeared to them. Jesus wished them peace because they were terrified, thinking they were dealing with a ghost. To prove to them that he was not a ghost but had resurrected from the dead, Jesus used two methods: physical details and Scripture interpretation. In the first method, Jesus invited them to see and touch the nail marks on his hands and feet; he also asked for a piece of baked fish and ate it in front of them. In the second method, Jesus interpreted the Scripture and opened their minds to understand that everything written in the Books of Law of Moses, Prophets, and Psalms about him must be fulfilled. The things that the Scripture wrote about him that must be fulfilled include, on the one hand, his Passion, Death, and resurrection that he fulfilled, and, on the other hand, repentance for the forgiveness of sins that the disciples must preach to fulfill. The story concludes with Jesus telling his disciples that they were the witnesses of his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. The v. 49 that the lectionary has omitted speaks of the Holy Spirit. Jesus asked them to stay in Jerusalem and not start the mission until they received the Holy Spirit.

Our Holy Mother Church wants to teach us the following lessons by suggesting this Gospel reading today. First, Jesus wished his disciples “peace be with you” as they were terrified, thinking they were seeing a ghost. Jesus wishes us peace because he knows how we are frightened by the uncertainty of this world. Let us hear the voice of our Resurrected Lord sounding to our ears, “Peace be with you.” Let us feel this peace in our hearts and minds right now. This is the peace of resurrection. It dispels all anxieties and fears that force us to believe that Jesus is not alive and that everything looks dark. Jesus’ peace resurrects the faith, hope, courage, joy, and enthusiasm of being good Christians that we lost. Jesus always stands in our midst and wishes us peace.

Second, Jesus used two methods, the physical details and Scripture interpretation, to help his disciples recognize him. In the first method, Jesus did two things. First, he invited his disciples to see and touch the nail marks on his hands and feet as evidence that he was not a ghost but had resurrected from the dead. Here, Jesus wants us to recognize him through all people who suffer and need our help. He invites us to see and touch their hands and feet, meaning to help them. When we “see and touch the hands and feet” of our fellow humans who suffer, we do it to Jesus. Jesus identifies himself through the sick, lowly, and marginalized. Second, Jesus asked for a piece of baked fish and ate it before his disciples as further evidence of his resurrection. He continues to do it at each Mass we attend. He shares with us the Eucharistic meal when we eat his Body and drink his Blood in the Holy Communion. So, to believe that Jesus is alive, we need to see and touch him through our brothers and sisters who need our help and attend Masses (especially on Sundays) when he shares the Eucharistic meal with us.

Besides the physical details, Jesus also employed Scripture interpretation to help his disciples believe in his resurrection. He continues to interpret the Scriptures to us until today. We listen to him through the Scripture readings and homilies proclaimed at each Mass we attend. We listen to him interpreting the Scriptures in the Liturgical Weekly Bible Study I teach every Friday at 6:00 p.m. in person and virtually (here is the Zoom ID: Meeting ID: 836 4516 5259 and the password: Bible.) We listen to him when we read the Bible at home, meditate on it, and share it with our family members and friends. Our Holy Mother Church encourages us to read the Bible frequently and attend Bible Study classes because we recognize our Lord Jesus through the Scriptures.

Jesus said that everything written in the Books of Moses' Law, Prophets, and Psalms about him must be fulfilled. These include his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, which he fulfilled, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins that his disciples must preach to fulfill. He revealed to his disciples that they were the witnesses of his Passion, Death, and resurrection. You and I are Jesus’ disciples and witnesses of our time. Our baptismal mission is to reach out to our fellow humans and preach to them repentance for the forgiveness of sins. In our first reading, we saw Peter and other disciples preaching Jesus’ resurrection to the Jews (Acts 3:13-15) and calling them to repentance and conversion (Acts 3:17-19). The sacred author of our second reading also preaches repentance for the forgiveness of sins to his contemporaries. He tells them and us today that the purpose of the message he wrote is that we may not commit sin. But in case we sin, he lets us know that we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous one, who is expiation for our sins and the sins of the whole world. He calls us to keep Jesus’ commandments as evidence that we know him, and we are in union with him because we cannot say that we know Jesus and we are in union with him if we do not keep his commandments (1 John 2:1-5a). On the one hand, we are called to repent and keep Jesus’ commandments. On the other hand, we are commissioned to reach out to our fellow humans and preach to them repentance for the forgiveness of their sins and invite them to keep Jesus’ commandments.   

May this liturgy of Mass enable us to recognize our risen Lord, repent, and keep his commandments. Amen.

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD 

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