Read April 19, 2015 (Third Sunday of Easter) Mass readings at USCCB.org.
Listen to the homily here:
“Lord, let your face shine on us.” That’s the cry of David in today’s Responsorial Psalm. Interesting if you think about it. What is the precondition for a face? A body – flesh – which God did not have prior to the Incarnation. Before Jesus, the phrase “the face of God” was just a poetic metaphor for God’s favor or His grace.
Then Jesus came along and changed that – and indeed, everything – which is Luke’s point in both our first reading from Acts and his gospel.
In Luke’s gospel, the two disciples who saw Jesus on the road to Emmaus have come back and are recounting the story to the others. One wonders what the others we thinking as they listened. Remember, the Apostles were huddled together in fear with the doors locked. They probably had good reason to be afraid. The One who they believed was God Himself had been killed – in the worst way imaginable – and they probably figured they were next.
In the middle of this scene, despite the fear and the locked doors, Jesus appears. The disciples might be even more terrified now. After all, He trusted them, and they abandoned Him in His hour of need…oh, and He’s God. In His divine justice, what kind of retribution has He come to exact? None. Instead, He says, “Peace be with you.” What?! This can’t possibly be true. It must be a ghost, or some sort of mass hallucination, or something. This doesn’t happen.
But it did. And Luke uses the strongest possible language and imagery to ensure his readers have no room for doubt. Jesus says, “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.” He continues, “Touch me and see.” Further, “A ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”
Finally, Jesus delivers probably the funniest line in all of Sacred Scripture. “Have you anything here to eat?” You and I show up at a friend’s house and ask, “Got anything here to eat?” But Jesus? Clearly, He’s trying to make a point.
However, there’s so much more here.
Back in Eden, man’s troubles essentially began with “a bad meal.” When Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they took for themselves what God wanted to give them as a grace. Jesus undoes this when He asks the apostles for something to eat. In sharing a “good meal” with the disciples in this and other post-resurrection scenes, Jesus definitely conveys the truth of His resurrection to them so they can go out and confidently, boldly proclaim it to the world.
And that’s what we find Peter doing in the first reading from Acts. Preaching in the Jerusalem temple, he points his finger right at his listeners when he says, “The author of life you put to death.” Despite the sound of it, Peter is not playing some divine blame game. What Peter really means is “We put Him to death,” because he knows his role. He denied Jesus and ran away, so he’s complicit. But he has also experienced forgiveness and mercy, which is the thrust of his message.
Peter concludes, “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.” He’s urging them to “put on a new mind,” to think differently in the light of the Jesus’s resurrection. I think sometimes we’re a bit judgmental of some of the characters in the Old Testament and gospels. Maybe we forget they didn’t have the resurrection of Jesus in the rear view mirror. Maybe we don’t understand how much His resurrection changed the world.
Consider what the world would be like if Jesus came in our time instead of 2000 years ago. It would likely be a tougher, harder, more barbaric place. Things like forgiveness and mercy would probably be in much shorter supply. Make no mistake, if Jesus came in our time, we would kill him, too. The only difference is that we have the benefit of the resurrection in hindsight. God broke into human history in the person of Jesus, and it changed everything.
Remember, Jesus says in Matthew 5, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets: I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” So that’s it. Jesus’s resurrection is the fulfillment of all God’s promises to humanity. The story has ended and our job is the same as Peter’s – and all the other Apostles’, too – to help others “put on a new mind” by making Jesus’s resurrection present to them, by proclaiming it not just with our words but also with the witness of our lives.
Lord Jesus, let your face shine on us. Remove from us all that separates us from you. Open our hearts to receive the grace you long to pour out in us through the Sacrament of Your Precious Body and Blood so that we might live in the light of your resurrection and truly be your disciples by proclaiming it to all the world. Amen.