Apr. 14, 2018

Third Sunday of Easter, 2018

“YOU ARE WITNESSES OF THESE THINGS” (Lk. 24:48)

Readings: 1st- Acts 3:13-15,17-19; 2nd- 1 John 2:1-5a; Gospel- Lk. 24:35-48

Two aspects of Jesus’ appearance are presented in today’s gospel: 1) the doubts of his disciples and 2) the mission to preach forgiveness of sins in his name. John describes the risen Christ as an Advocate with the Father. He reminds believers to shun the “super-man” syndrome in their relationship with God. The “super-man” syndrome is the attitude of relying on oneself and presuming that one is immune to sin. John says, “I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin”. As Christians, God invites us to a life of holiness through knowing God’s commandments and keeping them. It entails an intimate relationship with Christ who is our Advocate.  

Saint John goes on to say, “But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one” (1 Jn. 2:1). God recognizes that we are vulnerable and fallible. He sends us Jesus to advocate for us. Jesus intercedes for us before the Father. He comes to give us life in abundance. He communicates to Nicodemus how much he intercedes for us as an advocate, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (Jn. 3:16-17). Jesus is an advocate of God’s love. Saint Paul describes this mission thus, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:19).

Christ’s ministry is a ministry of suffering for the entire world. Peter exposes culpability of the Jews as well as their ignorance in crucifying Christ who is “the author of life”. He insists that, “God raised him from the dead”, and “of this we are witnesses”. The Jews put Christ to death by crooked means. The gospel records, “Now the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were seeking testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but they did not find any. For many bore false witnesses against Jesus, but their testimony was inconsistent. Then some men stood up and testified falsely against Him” (Mk. 15: 55-57).

The antecedents to his crucifixion are playing out days after Christ’s resurrection. His appearance evokes feelings of different kinds. The disciples on their journey to Emmaus encounter him and bring back their experience, how they have recognized him in the breaking of bread. Jesus appears again to reinforce their story. The disciples are troubled. They have questions in their hearts. They are imagining if he is a ghost, a phantasm. In this case, there is an encounter between Jesus of Nazareth whom the disciples know and Jesus who is risen from death. They cannot believe in ghost. But Jesus gives them proofs of his resurrected body; “Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have”. That’s the first proof which doesn’t seem sufficient for them. So, Jesus gives further proof to them. He takes the baked fish and eats it in front of the disciples. Possibly, the sense of fear and doubt in the disciples relates to their betrayal and denial at his crucifixion. Jesus turns the scene around.

Let’s think about the benefits the disciples get from Jesus during this encounter:

  1. Peace; “Peace be with you”.
  2. He flushes away their doubts; “Why do questions arise in your hearts?”
  3. He gives them compassion and shares in their meal; “Have you anything to eat?”
  4. He provides understanding; “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures”.
  5. He sends them on mission; “…that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem”.
  6. He makes them witnesses; “You are witnesses to all these things”.

It is this privilege that Peter speaks of in his address to the Jews when he says, “of this we are witnesses”. We are indeed witnesses to the resurrection.

Witnessing here reverses the false witnesses of the Jews against Christ. It cancels out the old order of sins and ignorance, of trepidation and fear. It cancels out falsehood and replaces it with “the Way, truth and life” that is Christ Jesus. We are witnesses to Christ’s love. We are witnesses when we share in the divine meal. We are witnesses when we assist our fellow human beings in their needs. We are witnesses when we protect and promote the dignity of human life from its conception to natural death. Jesus is inviting us to be His witnesses in our various vocations and professions.

Some question for us to reflect upon from today’s readings include: Can you identify one major thing in your life that casts doubt on your faith? How do you confront such doubt? Can you identify one thing that casts doubt upon your bearing witness to Christ’s love in your life? How do you confront that?

Tell Jesus to open your minds to understand the Scriptures and what the Church teaches. That way you will be able to be a true witness for Christ.