Third Sunday of Easter: Season B
Peace be with you and welcome to our Mass for this amazing celebration for the Third Sunday of Easter. Well, you might have noticed the scene from today’s Gospel reading from Luke is the same scene we heard last week presented in the Gospel of John. They are generally the same, but they are also subtly different. For example, today we’re missing that beautiful proclamation from Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” Whereas in Luke, Jesus offers everyone in the room a physical touch but the real proof he’s not just spirit is eating a piece of baked fish. Friends, you’ve heard Father Tim and I both caution over and over about using the Bible as a modern “schoolbook” type history and this is a good example for that caution. A sceptic might ask, “so, what did Jesus actually say?” Our answer should be, “we’re not really sure, but the salvation message is the same in both Gospels and that’s really what the Bible is all about.” The Catholic Church teaches the Bible is the inspired Word of God, given to us without error, for our salvation. With an emphasis for our salvation. It’s not a very good history book and it’s certainly not a science book, even though some Christians persist in trying to use it as both. The Bible is a book of faith given to us for our salvation. Amen! And that salvation message is exactly what we’re going to talk about for the next few minutes.
My sisters and brothers, the combination of our first reading today from Acts of the Apostles and our Gospel reading, both written by Saint Luke by-the-way, present us precisely with what it really means to be a Christian. They also present us with a master class in preaching our faith, which we should all be comfortable with. First, in Acts, Peter presents a very clear tension between sin and grace but note, he presents the good news of grace first. In talking about our Christian Faith always start with the Good News first. What we just heard from Peter is his very first sermon preached in the Temple precincts after Pentecost. “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.” Now that is the good news. Jesus Christ has opened the doors of grace for us all. But then, Peter drops the hammer. “You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death.” Ouch. Considering where Peter was standing at that moment and who his audience must have been, it’s lucky he survived the day. Talk about a poke in the eye.
There are a couple of key points I’d like to make here about talking the Christian Faith, however. First, our Christian Faith is Biblical. Normally it’s always Matthew who emphasizes Jesus’s Jewish roots because his Gospel was written primarily to a Jewish audience. But here we have Luke the Greek, who was writing primarily to a Greek audience, emphasizing Jesus as clearly in the Jewish Biblical linage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is important to remember when you run into people who love to turn Jesus into just another philosopher or guru of the past who was simply a nice guy who taught nice things. Friends, that’s not Biblically Christian.
The next key point I’d like to make when talking Christianity is one that’s really, really unpopular in today’s culture, and that’s sin. Unfortunately, in today’s modern world relativism has become a new religion and the masses are embracing it with enthusiasm. “If I’m not hurting anyone, what does it matter what I do?” Or “Those are you’re rules, not mine.” Or “I’m a victim. If there’s something wrong with me it’s always somebody else’s fault.” Theologians, scholars, and philosophers have written volumes on the dangers of relativism, but it is alive and well and growing fast. Black and white, right and wrong, sinfulness and righteousness sound judgmental and today that seems to be a bad thing.
Well standby folks – here comes is a statement that may shock many of you here today. When we lose sight of sin, we lose sight of Christianity. Let me repeat that, when we lose sight of sin, we lose sight of Christianity. Why would I say that? Because Christianity is a salvation religion. Christianity is a saving religion. It is not just some nice philosophy among many others in the world. Now, there is a danger when talking about our Christian Faith, however. Just like Peter did today, start with grace before talking about sin, and then always close, just like he did, with the salvation message.
Jesus laid out the whole Christian proclamation pretty clearly in the Gospel reading. He opens by first offering His grace of peace. “Peace be with you,” He said. OK, but then you might ask, when does Jesus even mention sin? Well, let me ask you this first, how do you think his Apostles might have felt when he said, “Look at my hands and my feet?” Remember, these are the same guys that all ran away at his darkest hour. Peter even denied him. But you know what? His invitation to, “Look at my hands and my feet” is an invitation for each and every one of us. Jesus’s wounds are permanently a judgement on the whole world. All of our sins did that to Him. Whenever we’re ready to say, everything is OK with me, remember the wounds of Jesus. Go home and meditate on this today. Why did Jesus appear with His wounds still present on his body at all? He certainly could have chosen not to.
Then comes the Good News. The grace of Jesus’s love and salvation breaks through. “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.”
This simply stated is it. We are all flawed people, but thank God, because of Jesus Christ, we all have divine bookends on either side of our flawed human lives. This is a proclamation of our Christian Faith. Grace, sin, and salvation. That’s it everybody. Grace, sin, and salvation.