THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER - Fr. Randall P. Patterson
We have another appearance of the risen Christ. This time – Jesus makes clear what will be part of every genuine Christian community: his peace – his presence - and his purpose.
He appears to the Apostles – and his first words are: Peace be with you.
Why? Up to this point the apostles were in turmoil, confusion & guilt. They had abandoned Jesus and denied him even though they strongly claimed they would never do such a thing.
They knew they had betrayed their master. They were sorry - but they couldn’t turn back the clock. Jesus knows of their repentance. He says, Peace be with you – letting them know they are forgiven. Their fear turns to joy – they are forgiven.
This is the message of Jesus at every Mass - and in all the sacraments. Note that forgiveness and repentance go together. We may be tempted to separate them. Some people love repentance and do it all the time but do not believe they are forgiven. Others want forgiveness but without repentance. But – put them together - and we have a wonderful Easter truth - no matter what we may have done – whatever our past – however horrible the things we did – our repentance can bring new life – healing – forgiveness – and peace.
St. John writes in today’s 2nd reading – If anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,Jesus Christ the righteous One. St. Peter says in the 1st reading: Repent that your sins may be wiped away. The peace that comes from forgiveness – is Jesus’ first great Easter gift to the apostles and to us.
Then – there is his real presence - It is I myself – it’s really me! Today – Jesus is truly among us through His Holy Spirit – when we pray and when we gather in faith with other Christians.
He is present in the Eucharist – the most vivid way he would remain with us – and he is with us - not as a memory or a model but - as surely as He was with the apostles - in that upper room.
The presence of Christ is a wonderful gift. Look at all the individuals here in church – the risen Jesus is at work in the lives of each of you – each of you with your own story – your own needs – your noble desires – and he is present to each of you as though you were the only one. He comes to us in the Eucharist with the particular graces that each of us needs for our life.
The enduring – lasting – permanent – real presence of Christ is Christ’s second Easter gift to the apostles and to us.
Finally – besides his peace and his presence - there is also his purpose. Jesus sent the apostles to be witnesses of this new way of life. In the middle of this old world – there is a new creation at work and growing. Jesus sends us to witness to the same truth.
The Church has had many great, heroic witnesses to Christ’s life and teaching. Think of the many saints – canonized and not yet canonized – they all had a mission to fulfill. We are given a purpose as well.
We are all used to making Lenten resolutions – what will we give up – what penance will we try to perform. Why not make some Easter resolutions – such as - sharing the peace and the presence of Christ with others or at least with one other person?
Maybe we can be a little like a spiritual Johnny Appleseed – sowing seeds of truth, care, honesty and fidelity in our world. Maybe - those seeds will become a spiritual orchard. Think of what the gift of faith in Christ has done for us – it’s taken shape as a parish – it gives stability to a community – and when it takes shape in us – it gives stability to our lives. We all have something of Christ to share with others.
The story of Easter was not finished with the Ascension of Jesus. Now – we are part of the Easter story.