The readings for the third Sunday of Easter make a simple point: knowledge of the Resurrection of Jesus impels all hearers to reassess how they’re living their daily lives. Up until Christ’s Passion, Jews who came into the presence of Jesus, made an effort to conform their behavior to Jesus’ presence and to His teaching.
Now all that has changed. Jesus shows up unexpectedly and catches them off guard. To not be caught off guard, they now need to focus more on His teachings and conforming their behavior to those teachings. This means that daily they have to re-evaluate how they think and how they behave. A new awareness of His presence means a new way of thinking and feeling. It means a new way of relating to others. It even means discovering Him in their very relationships.
In the first reading John writes: “I am writing this to keep you from sin, but if anyone should sin, we have, in the presence of the Father, Jesus Christ, an intercessor who is just.” In effect he is saying to them: “Now that you know what kind of behavior Jesus expects of you, live according to His teaching, but if you should sin, know that He is with you to forgive you.” In other words, you have a constant companion who teaches you what to do and who readily forgives you when you fail. Hence, Jesus isn’t a bad companion with whom to hang around.
In the second reading Peter is addressing the Jews who actually handed Jesus over to be crucified. He’s very blunt: “You put to death the Author of life. But God raised him from the dead, and we are His witnesses.”
Peter is speaking the bold truth, yet tempered with great compassion. “Yet I know, my brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did. God has brought to fulfillment by this means what he announced long ago through all the prophets that his Messiah would suffer. Therefore, reform your lives! Turn to God, that your sins may be wiped away!”
Peter confronts their sin with the bold truth, followed immediately by God’s mercy to heal their hearts. That’s a challenging but an acceptable formula for change. God enlightens their understanding and offers them mercy. This is how they can put on the risen Christ who is now a constant companion, showing them daily the way to live the kingdom and showing them love when they need mercy for their failures.
God’s hoped-for outcome of this approach is simple: “If that is the kind of gracious mercy God shows to me, then I also want to share that mercy with others! I can live with that approach!”
With the Gospel, the ferment in the hearts of the disciples reaches fever pitch: “The disciples recounted what had happened on the road to Emmaus and how they had come to know Jesus in the breaking of bread.” You recall that after the crucifixion two disciples left Jerusalem because of their profound grief. They wanted to put as much distance as they could between themselves and the tragedy of the crucifixion.
On that trip from Jerusalem, Jesus encountered them and listened to their profound grief. He then entered their painful memory to transform that memory with a revelation: “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that this Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
All of the disciples were rethinking their relationship with Jesus, because He could show up at any time. Sure enough, He does not disappoint: “While they were still speaking about this, He stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.”
Here, The disciples are experiencing a profound confusion. Nothing prepared them for this revolutionary experience. The kingdom of heaven is unfolding before their eyes, and they are unprepared to comprehend it!
Jesus then says to them: “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”
“While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, He asked them, ‘Have you anything to eat?’” After He had eaten the fish they gave Him, He “opened their minds to understand the scriptures. And He said to them, ‘Thus it is written that the Messiah 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.”
How much can the human spirit comprehend at one time? The disciples are now on overload! This experience will stay with them night and day for the rest of their lives. Christ is no longer the memory of someone they once knew. He is now the experience of Someone living in them, overflowing their hearts with sheer joy.
Now life makes all the sense in the world. Christ is living in their hearts. They know that they are loved. They have a clear direction that is leading them to an eternal destiny. They also have the privilege of sharing this revelation with the whole world.
The Resurrection of Jesus has led the early disciples to a profound reassessment of their lives. It’s the same reassessment you and I are undergoing daily. Christ is our ongoing, daily companion, inviting us to reassess everything we do in the light of the Resurrection, in the light of His ongoing revelations in our lives!