Sunday of Week 3 of Easter (Year B)

Commentary on Acts 3:13-15,17-19; 1 John 2:1-5; Luke 24:35-48

Today we have another account of Jesus appearing to his disciples on Easter Sunday. This time it is from Luke. We should not be disturbed that these various accounts do not match, nor should we try artificially to put them into a coherent account as used to be done by “harmonies” of the Gospels in the past (like that of Tatian’s Diatessaron in the 2nd century).

In Luke, Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into glory take place on Easter Sunday. This is all the more striking since, in the Acts of the Apostles – also written by Luke – the ascension is clearly described as taking place 40 days later. This indicates that, in dealing with these post-resurrection stories, we are dealing with something more than history.

As today’s Gospel opens, the disciples, gathered in ‘the room’, are hearing the account of the two disciples who have just returned from Emmaus after the powerful experience of meeting the Risen Jesus. The room is not named, and it could be any room where his followers gather – even now.

All of a sudden, there is Jesus among them. He gives them the conventional greeting, “Peace to you!” (Shalom!). As was pointed out when discussing last week’s Gospel, this phrase in Greek has no verb and can be taken as a greeting wish or a statement of fact. And indeed, as we see here and in other instances in the Gospel, the presence of Jesus does bring peace and joy. It is something for us to take note of.

The disciples’ first reaction, however, is one of fear and alarm. As any normal person of the day would have reasoned, Jesus is dead and so this must be his ghost. But Jesus reassures them: he points to the solidity of his body. He invites them to touch his hands and feet. Ghosts do not have flesh and bones. In one sense, this is not the Jesus who died on the cross (he can appear through closed doors and in widely scattered locations), but it is still fully the same person they had always known.

Now their feelings turn to inexpressible joy. As they look on him with a mixture of happiness and wonder, he pushes them a bit further and asks for food to eat. Ghosts don’t eat. Jesus is truly risen; he is still fully in our world and part of it, although in a very different way from before Good Friday.

Why he suffered
He now, as he did with the disciples going to Emmaus, explained how what had happened to him was all foretold clearly in the Scriptures. His suffering and death were no tragedies; his resurrection was no surprise. It was all part of God’s plan.

But it does not stop there. In the name of that Jesus who suffered, died and rose, forgiveness of sin – that is, total reconciliation with God – was to be proclaimed to the whole world. This is put in other words in the First Letter of John today:

…Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

And then, in the Gospel, comes their mission and mandate because they:

…are witnesses of these things.

We see this mission being carried out as Peter speaks to the people in today’s First Reading. He explains the real meaning of what Jesus did for us, and how they are to respond to his message:

…God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out…

Our mission too
Obviously, this mission and mandate is also for us. We also, through our baptism and incorporation into the Church as the Body of Christ, have received the same mission. Without our co-operating with Jesus, the message of reconciliation and forgiveness will not be heard. It is not enough for us just to hear the message and implement it in our own lives, even if we sometimes seem to think that is all that is required of us.

Again from the Second Reading:

Now by this we know that we have come to know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist…

It is clear that to “obey his commandments”, he means that above all, there is the need to follow the commandment of unconditional love – to love others as Jesus has loved us. It is for each one of us today to ask how, given the circumstances of our own lives, we can most effectively get that message across to the people around us. It means proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom among us.

All round us, there are people who have never heard this message at all. Others have never heard it in all its clarity and power. And many others may have heard it, but only in a distorted form (and that can include many Christians).

Yet the constant pursuit of money and goods, of power and status, the constant escape into drugs, nicotine, alcohol and the high incidence of suicides, especially among young people, all point to people who are looking for meaning, peace and happiness in their lives.

We all need to hear that greeting: “Peace with you” and to experience the peace that only Jesus can give. Will I be the one to carry that message today to even one other person? If we all did just that, we would reach a very large number of people.

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