Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; I Jn, 2:1-5a; Lk 24:35-48
A man showed up at Church with both his ears painfully blistered. After the service, his concerned pastor asked, “What in the world happened to you?” The man replied, “I was lying on the couch yesterday afternoon watching a ball game on TV and my wife was ironing nearby. I was totally engrossed in the game when she left the room, leaving the iron near the phone. The phone rang and keeping my eyes glued to the television, I grabbed the hot iron and put it to my ear.” “So how did the other ear get burned?” the pastor asked. “Well, I had no more than hung up and the guy called again.” Here is a man who was focused. He was so caught up in watching the game, he didn’t know what he was doing. In our Gospel lesson for today the disciples of Jesus have lost their focus. They are confused and weary. They need a break.
Dear friends! Easter is too big a feast to celebrate just one day. We celebrate it for fifty days, and then we continue to celebrate it every Sunday when we gather in faith to meet our risen Lord in the Eucharist. Our gospel today takes us back to Easter Sunday. In the afternoon of Easter Sunday, Jesus appeared to two of his disciples. They were walking away from Jerusalem, discouraged and depressed over Jesus’ death. Jesus walked with them, talked to them about the scriptures, and when he broke bread with them they recognized him. They came running back to the upper room to tell the others. When they got there, they were told Jesus had appeared to Peter and then suddenly Jesus appeared to all of them.
In spite of the appearances in the early morning to the women, to the two disciples, and to Peter, Luke tells us the apostles were “terribly frightened.” I suppose that would be a normal reaction. Jesus assured them he was very much alive and very well. They could see him and touch him. To give them further proof, he asked for something to eat. He ate something they themselves had prepared to convince them he was real and that they weren’t seeing a ghost or seeing him was something out of their own imagination.
In the gospel Luke’s primary interest is to show that the risen Jesus is the same person the apostles had known prior to the crucifixion. He emphasizes the reality of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, but makes it clear that the resurrection is not a return to earthly life – Jesus has risen to a new life beyond death. Risen Lord also gives them a mission – the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness of sins.
One theme occurs in all three readings: forgiveness is available to those who repent and believe in Jesus as their Savior. In the 1st reading Peter shows great courage when he confronts the people with their part in the death of Jesus. However, he goes on to excuse them on the grounds that they acted in ignorance. In this he may have been inspired by the dying prayer of Jesus: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” He urges them to repent, assuring them that if they do, their sins will be forgiven.
The disciples themselves experienced forgiveness from the Risen Lord. Imagine! What a mess the disciples would have been in after Easter if Jesus did not forgive them for abandoning him during his Passion. Imagine the sense of shame the disciples must now feel for having abandoned Jesus during his Passion. We too feel a sense of shame when we abandon Jesus when we sin.
That is really what happens when we sin; we abandon Jesus. We choose something else above Jesus. We put Jesus in second place. Sin is always abandoning Jesus for something or someone else. So it is good when we are sensitive enough to recognize that we have abandoned Jesus and we feel a sense of shame and guilt. I say it is good because when we have a sense of shame or guilt we can turn to Jesus for healing. If we did not have a sense of shame or guilt we would remain in our sorry state of having abandoned Jesus.
But the good news is, Jesus does not want us to remain in shame or guilt. He did not want his disciples to remain in shame or guilt and so his first words to them as we heard in our Gospel were, “Peace be with you.”
Now that the disciples have received the forgiveness of Jesus he gives them a mission as we heard in the Gospel, to preach his forgiveness to others, “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.”
May the peace of the Risen Lord dwell in us as we continue to seek His mercy and forgiveness for our sins and failures!