Sunday, 4/18/2021, Third Sunday of Easter
Believe and Repent
First Reading Commentary: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
After healing a man who was outside of the temple and could not walk, Peter told the Israelites in the temple that he was unable to perform such a work on his own. Peter wanted the people to know that without Christ, he could do nothing but through Christ, the One who had been glorified by God, he was able to perform this work.
Indeed, we can do nothing without God. We cannot even wake up in the morning without God. None of us would even exist without God. We have no power over the things that happen in our lives and yet we decide what does or does not happen.
That is because there are consequences to every decision and choice that we make. Some of our choices will bring us closer to God and some of them will lead us away from God. We have no control over the consequence, but the choice is ours to make by way of our God given free will. In other words, God allows us to decide our own individual final destiny. Will that destiny be heaven, or will it be hell? The only control that we have: lies in our ability to choose.
Peter reminded the people in the temple that they had made a choice. They had denied Christ who was the holy and righteous one and the author of life. Instead, they chose to have a murderer released. But now, God—the Father had raised Christ from the dead and Peter was giving testimony that he and the Apostles were witnesses to that fact.
Then Peter said, “Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did.” Peter was forgiving the people for denying Christ and putting Him to death on the cross. I find that interesting because, Peter made the mistake himself of denying Christ.
There are two important messages in all of what Peter had to say. 1-It is our faith that allows God’s grace to flow to us and through us. 2- Even after we have done terrible deeds and committed grave sins, God will forgive us if we put our faith in Him and repent. Peter had done that and now he was hoping that the people would also do that.
When we put our faith in God, we have to have our faith in the Trinity, all three persons. Peter warned the people of that when he reminded them of what Moses said, “Everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be cut off from the people.” Acts 3:23 Those are very strong words but justified because the prophet that Moses was talking about is Christ.
Once again, we have to stop and think about our free will which makes it our God given right as individuals to choose. Ever since the time of Christ, there have been people who have refused to accept Christ as the second person of the Trinity. Even before the Church split into denominations in the fifteen hundreds, there have been Christians who have chosen to follow some of what Christ said and some of what Christ did but reject whatever they chose to ignore.
We need to understand that the evil one uses our free will against us. He is the one who puts thoughts of doubt and disbelief into our minds. It is the devil who is behind everything that we do that causes divisiveness.
There are those who say that the Church needs to change and catch up with the times. Well, that is a valid argument if we understand that the Church is the people and the people need to change. The Church does not have to change its doctrine and the Church should not change its doctrine since it is based on the life and teachings of Christ. We the people, lay people and clergy alike, who are the Church, need to bring ourselves closer to God recognizing the fact that He is perfect which, makes His ways perfect. But we are not perfect!
We need to change in order to change the Church and bringing ourselves closer to God which in turn, will bring us closer to God’s time is the change that we need to make. Anyone who criticizes the Church, Catholics and Non-Catholics alike, should take time to think about this.
If we are going to come together as one, which is what God wants, then we must reject the divisive thinking that the devil puts into our minds. We need to pray to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to shower us with His seven gifts of wisdom, understanding, council, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.
We have all been blessed by Christ when He gave His life on the Cross for our salvation. But we cannot take our salvation for granted. In order to be completely saved, we have to do two things. 1- We must put our faith in God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 2-We must acknowledge our sins and ask for forgiveness.
Second Reading Commentary: 1 John 2:1-5a
Like Peter, today, John tells us that Jesus Christ is the righteous one. John adds that Christ is our Advocate with the Father as well as the expiation for our sins and those of the whole world.
Before Christ ascended into heaven, He promised to send the Advocate who is the Holy Spirit. That promise was fulfilled on Pentecost Sunday. But remember, our God is a Trinity which means that the Spirit is the Spirit of both the Father and the Son. Remember too, that before Jesus took His last breath on the cross, according to Luke, He said, “Father, into your hands, I commend my Spirit.”
Who can be a better advocate for us than the Son who took on human form in every way? Who can explain our emotions, our motives, our rationale and our mistakes to the Father better than the Son who lived among us as one of us? This is why John proclaimed that Jesus Christ is our Advocate with the Father.
But Christ does not only continue to advocate for us. He nailed all of our sins to the cross—all sin, past, present and future. All we have to do to claim the benefit of Christ’s sacrifice is to admit to our sins and repent.
And how do we say, “Thank you?” John tells us to know Jesus and that the way to know Jesus is to obey His commandments. There are only two commandments to obey from Jesus. They are to love God with everything that we have and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. These two commandments encompass all of the Ten Commandments.
I have commented on these commandments many times and John tells us that if we say that we know Jesus without obeying His commandments, we are liars and the truth is not within us.
Think about it. How can the truth be within us if we do not love God and our neighbor? We cannot love one without loving the other. That is because, God is love. And that is why John tells us, “But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.”
Think about that. God’s love is made perfect within us when we love God and our neighbor. When this is true, the love that we share is perfect because God is love and God is perfect.
Christ Left No Gaps
Gospel Commentary: Luke 24:35-48
While the disciples were speaking, Christ appeared to them again. They were startled and thought that they had seen a ghost. So, Jesus showed them His hands and feet and asked them for something to eat. Then Jesus reminded them that everything about Him in the Scriptures had to be fulfilled. Jesus also reminded them that it was written, “…that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem." Then Jesus said, "You are witnesses of these things.”
Sometimes we can be so hardheaded and closed minded that we really need to be slapped in the face to get the message. This was not the first time that Jesus appeared to the disciples in a short time and yet, they thought that they were seeing a ghost. Jesus had to show them His wounds and eat in front of them to shake them out of it.
No wonder that there is so much doubt in the world today. These disciples were right there with Christ and did not believe their eyes. Here we are two thousand years later. But God is good, all the time and all the time, God is good. By eating with them, Jesus gave them the absolute proof that they needed and opened their minds. Their being witnesses to the Resurrection should provide us with all of the proof that we need today. But as I said before, it is the devil who; puts doubt into our minds. As Christ opened the disciple’s minds, He can and will open our minds if we have faith and pray.
Let’s take a look at what Jesus said, “…repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Christ was doing more than quoting Scripture when He said this. Christ validated the priesthood because the Apostles, who were the first preachers and the first bishops of the Church, began their preaching in Jerusalem. There is a connection here without any gaps.
Moses led the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt to the promised land of Jerusalem. Christ leads us in our exodus from this life to the Promised Land of the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ ended His earthly ministry in Jerusalem where He ordained His first priest instructing them to spread the Good News of the Gospel to all nations. There is no gap in the journey and there is no gap in the ministry.
But there is more. By instructing the Apostles to go and teach all nations, Christ left no gaps among the people of the world. The Good News of the Gospel is for all people which means, that God makes Himself, available to anyone who is willing to follow Him.
Finally, Christ is telling us in this Gospel, and in a personal way, that we must repent in His name for our sins which means that we should not reject the sacrament of Confession.