Third Sunday of Easter – Fr. Rick Sherman
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Ps. 4:2, 4, 7- 9; 1 Jn 2:1-5a; Lk 24:35-48
April 18, 2021
Since His very birth, one of the great and confounding mysteries of Jesus is how He can be fully God and fully human at the same time. This blending of Divine and human is largely beyond human cognition. To accept this reality in our hearts requires faith, to which we are all gifted in various degrees. Today as in other Easter accounts Jesus instructs His disciples to touch His wounds and to join Him for a meal. His is a real body, although in a glorified state.
This is still apparently not easy to accept, even for professed Christians.
Despite the fact that the majority of Americans, when polled profess to be Christian, a 2020 survey (as reported by The Christian Post and conducted by Ligonier Ministries, a Florida-based Reform Church nonprofit) indicated that only 48% of Americans (of all religions or no religion) actually believe that Jesus was/is God. Surveys are always complicated depending on source, methodology, size of sample, etc., so I hesitate to even site them in a homily….. HOWEVER, since I already did… another Pew research survey in 2018-19 indicated that only about one third of American Catholics believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Among those Catholics who actually attend Mass on a regular basis, closer to two thirds believe in the Real Presence. One can always quibble with the finer nuances of any survey, and we should, but the trends toward America becoming a more secular culture are all around us. While disturbing, this is not a big shock to most of us.
Again, contemporary people struggle as much with the Divinity of Jesus and His resurrection as did people in first century Palestine. To live in the mortal and eternal, to be flesh and spirit, to be human, but made in the image of God is not an easy mix.
The footnotes from my Didache Bible, referring to our second reading today from the First Letter of John, suggests that ‘there are two ways in which “know” God. We can know academic facts about him, e.g., knowing about his attributes, or we can know Him through love, e.g., as a child knows a parent or as a person knows a friend. It is this latter sense that John has in mind. If we truly know God, we will keep His commandments in imitation of His Son. True love of God is expressed by love for those around us.’ This reasoning is more extensively expounded upon in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) in paragraphs 27-50. (A worthwhile read especially during these weeks of Easter Season).
What really determines a strong degree of faith in the Church’s teaching about Jesus? Right teaching, prayer, repentance, and community building. The readings today convey at least a couple of the main impediments to knowing and believing in the resurrected Christ: Ignorance and sin.
In the first reading today from Acts of the Apostles Peter seems to be showing some leniency when he says, “Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”
In the second reading today John says, “My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.”
Although God continues to give us remedy, ignorance in our day is no longer a legitimate excuse for most of us. Before I entered the seminary in my late 30’s, I often envisioned myself showing up at Judgement Day and pleading ignorance. Of course I knew the Commandments, but there is lots of gray area in life. Lots of ambiguity. Surely the all-merciful God will understand how confusing life is and overlook our shortcomings … as long as we are not deliberately evil. However, we know that we are really charged with more than being a ‘good’ person. High quality Catholic instructional materials and the sacraments are easily available if we make the effort. We are charged with teaching the nations and building the Kingdom of God. The reality of God who died and resurrected must be proclaimed in the world by disciples who have themselves experienced the new life that comes with being a genuine Easter People.
In the Eucharist we declare that we become one body; one spirit in Christ. As such we participate in the very life and love of the Trinity. We can in fact, act in the world with God’s wisdom, knowledge and understanding. As heirs to the Kingdom of God we participate in the Divine. We are not purely corporeal; not just flesh; not just consumptive and sensate. We are in that sense, the RESURRECTION.
If we don’t own our status as adopted children of God, then we continue to live in the constricted world of human intelligence and vision. We can see where that is getting us. The large and growing struggle with addiction in our country can also point to the natural human desire for something more. The inappropriate use of a wide variety of chemicals and behaviors seems to point to a strong desire to escape from the limitations of day to day human existence. Being ‘high’ is on some level a desire for the transcendent which is our ultimate destiny.
When we are not true believers and proclaimers it more than likely means that we are lacking in study, prayer, repentance and real community building. The prescription has not changed much over the past 2000 years. God is mysterious to be sure, but He did not make a personal relationship with Him insurmountable. An active participation in the divine life is available to all, but it does take a daily YES.
As we move more deeply into this Mass and Easter season this morning, let us commit to being more open to how the risen Christ will make Himself known to us and how we will share our experience with others.