3rd Sunday of Easter
Today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles introduces not only the theme of the other readings but also the very reason for the mission of Jesus. A crowd of people had assembled after Peter and John had cured a lame man. The crowd was amazed to see the man walk but Peter insists that neither he nor John possessed any special power or holiness. They had healed the man through the name of Jesus.
Yes, the man was healed by the same Jesus that they had handed over to the Romans to be put to death. Peter says,
You denied the Holy and Righteous One
And asked that a murderer be released to you.
The author of life you put to death,
But God raised him from the dead, of this we are witnesses.
Nevertheless, Peter does not blame the Jews for they and their leaders had acted “out of ignorance.” They were mere unwitting accomplices in the Divine plan. The Christ would suffer to atone for the sins of man. Why did such a good person like Jesus have to die for the sins of man?
Today’s gospel also deals with atonement or forgiveness of sins. Last week’s gospel was St. John’s account of the appearance of Jesus to the doubting Apostle Thomas. In today’s gospel, St. Luke describes what happened the week before when the resurrected Lord first appeared to the Apostles.
Two disciples had returned to Jerusalem to tell the Apostles about their meeting with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. While they were conversing, Jesus appears to all of them. He shows them the signs of his wounds and assures them that he is not a ghost. He even eats some food to prove it. He then explained to them the whole meaning of his mission on earth.
Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.
We do not like to use the words “sin” or “sinner” anymore. Today, people will say “my bad” when they admit they have made a mistake. Modern parents will scold their misbehaving children by saying that their conduct is “inappropriate.” Sin and Bad are old English words that are very blunt in their simplicity. The Latin word for sin is “peccata” which means spot or stain. It is like a blot on an otherwise clean page.
In theological terms good and evil are opposites. Good implies perfection while evil implies imperfection. When we say that God is good, we also say that God is perfect. Even if we don’t like to say we are sinners, none of us would claim to be perfect. We are all imperfect. No matter what we call it, we cannot help to see the almost overwhelming presence of evil in our world today. We just have to look at the headlines in our newspaper or favorite electronic device to see it.
Sin and evil are so prevalent in the world that it makes you wonder how we can stand it. How can we put up with the awful stories from near and far that bombard us every day? I like to think that God built into us a kind of immune system that keeps us safe from such terrible stories. Only when it hits close to home is our spiritual immune system penetrated. A million people can be massacred in Asia or Africa but it means less to us than the suffering of a member of our own family.
When we look at sin or evil in this way, we must wonder how anyone could atone for even a fraction of the bad that humankind has done? Who could possibly atone for us? In today’s second reading from the first letter of John, we find the answer.
But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous one.
He is expiation for our sins,
And not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.
In that first meeting with the Apostles, Jesus told them and us not only to preach a gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sins but also to practice it in our own lives. “But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.”
Reading 1. Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19
Reading II. I John 2: 1-5a
Gospel. Luke 24: 35-48 (forgiveness of sins)