ReadÂ April 19, 2015 (Third Sunday of Easter) Mass readingsÂ at USCCB.org.
Listen to the homily here:
â€œLord, let your face shine on us.â€ Thatâ€™s the cry of David in todayâ€™s Responsorial Psalm. Interesting if you think about it. What is the precondition for a face? A body â€“ flesh â€“ which God did not have prior to the Incarnation. Before Jesus, the phrase â€œthe face of Godâ€ was just a poetic metaphor for Godâ€™s favor or His grace.
Then Jesus came along and changed that â€“ and indeed, everything â€“ which is Lukeâ€™s point in both our first reading from Acts and his gospel.
In Lukeâ€™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 â€“ in the worst way imaginable â€“ 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 needâ€¦oh, and Heâ€™s God. In His divine justice, what kind of retribution has He come to exact? None. Instead, He says, â€œPeace be with you.â€ What?! This canâ€™t possibly be true. It must be a ghost, or some sort of mass hallucination, or something. This doesnâ€™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, â€œLook at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.â€ He continues, â€œTouch me and see.â€ Further, â€œA ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.â€
Finally, Jesus delivers probably the funniest line in all of Sacred Scripture. â€œHave you anything here to eat?â€ You and I show up at a friendâ€™s house and ask, â€œGot anything here to eat?â€ But Jesus? Clearly, Heâ€™s trying to make a point.
However, thereâ€™s so much more here.
Back in Eden, manâ€™s troubles essentially began with â€œa bad meal.â€ 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 â€œgood mealâ€ 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 thatâ€™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, â€œThe author of life you put to death.â€ Despite the sound of it, Peter is not playing some divine blame game. What Peter really means is â€œWe put Him to death,â€ because he knows his role. He denied Jesus and ran away, so heâ€™s complicit. But he has also experienced forgiveness and mercy, which is the thrust of his message.
Peter concludes, â€œRepent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.â€ Heâ€™s urging them to â€œput on a new mind,â€ to think differently in the light of the Jesusâ€™s resurrection. I think sometimes weâ€™re a bit judgmental of some of the characters in the Old Testament and gospels. Maybe we forget they didnâ€™t have the resurrection of Jesus in the rear view mirror. Maybe we donâ€™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, â€œDo not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets: I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” So thatâ€™s it. Jesusâ€™s resurrection is the fulfillment of all Godâ€™s promises to humanity. The story has ended and our job is the same as Peterâ€™s â€“ and all the other Apostlesâ€™, too â€“ to help others â€œput on a new mindâ€ by making Jesusâ€™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.