Third Sunday of Easter
15 April 2018
Commentary on Acts 3:13-15,17-19; 1 John 2:1-5; Luke 24:35-48
TODAY WE HAVE ANOTHER ACCOUNT of Jesus appearing to his disciples on Easter Sunday. This time it is from Luke. We should not be disturbed that these various accounts do not tally,
nor should we try artificially to put them into a coherent account as used to be done by “harmonies” of the gospels in the past.
In Luke, Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into glory take place on Easter Sunday. This is all the more striking since, in the Acts of the Apostles – also written by Luke – the ascension is clearly described as taking place 40 days later. This indicates that, in dealing with these post-resurrection stories, we are dealing with something more than history.
As today’s Gospel opens, the disciples, gathered in the room, are hearing the account of the two disciples who have just returned from Emmaus after a powerful experience of meeting the Risen Jesus.
All of a sudden there is Jesus among them. He gives them the conventional greeting, “Peace to you!” (Shalom!). As was pointed out when discussing last week’s Gospel, this phrase in Greek has no verb and can be taken as a greeting wish or a statement of fact. And indeed, as we see here and in other instances in the Gospel, the presence of Jesus does bring peace and joy. It is something for us to take note of.
The disciples’ first reaction, however, is one of fear and alarm. As any normal person of the day would have reasoned, Jesus is dead and so this must be his ghost. But Jesus reassures them: he points out to the solidity of his body. He invites them to touch his hands and feet. Ghosts do not have flesh and bones. In one sense, this is not the Jesus who died on the cross (he can appear through closed doors and in widely scattered locations) but it is still fully the same person they had always known.
Now their feelings turn to inexpressible joy. As they look on him with a mixture of happiness and wonder, he pushes them a bit further and asks for food to eat. Ghosts don’t eat. Jesus is truly risen; he is still fully in our world and part of it although in a very different way from before Good Friday.
Why he suffered
He now, as he did with the disciples going to Emmaus, explained how what had happened to him was all foretold clearly in the Scriptures. His suffering and death were no tragedies; his resurrection was no surprise. It was all part of God’s plan.
But it does not stop there. In the name of that Jesus who suffered, died and rose, forgiveness of sin, that is, total reconciliation with God, was to be proclaimed to the whole world.
This is put in other words in the First Letter of John today: “Jesus is the sacrifice that takes our sins away, and not only ours, but the whole world’s.”
And then comes their mission and mandate: “You are witnesses to this.” We see this mission being carried out as Peter speaks to the people in today’s First Reading. He explains the real meaning of what happened to Jesus and how they are to respond to the message.
Our mission too
Obviously, this mission and mandate is also for us. We also, through our baptism and incorporation in the Church as the Body of Christ, have received the same mission. Without our co-operating with Jesus, the message of reconciliation and forgiveness will not be heard. It is not enough for us just to hear the message and implement it in our own lives, as we sometimes seem to think is all that is required of us.
Again from the Second Reading: “We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments. Anyone who says, ‘I know him’, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, refusing to admit the truth.”
It is clear that by “keeping the commandments” he means above all the need to follow the commandment of unconditional love, to love others as Jesus has loved us. It is for each one of us today to ask how, given the circumstances of our own lives, we can most effectively get that message across to the people around us. It means proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom among us.
All round us there are people who have never heard the message at all. Others have never heard it in all its clarity and power. Many others have heard it only in a distorted form (and that can include many Christians).
Yet the constant pursuit of money and goods, of power and status, the constant escape into drugs, nicotine, alcohol and the high incident of suicides, especially among young people, all point to people who are looking for meaning, peace and happiness in their lives.
They all need to hear that greeting: “Peace with you” and to experience the peace that only Jesus can give.Will I be the one to carry that message today to even one other person? If we all did just that, we would reach a very large number of people.