Weekly reflection on the readings of the following Sunday, written by Teresa and published in the disocesan newspaper Correio do Vouga
HOW TO RECEIVE THE VISIT OF THE RESSURECTED CHRIST
Throughout Easter we are led from adventure to adventure through the Acts of the Apostles. Children and adults alike can marvel at the great spiritual adventures told in the daily mass readings. Reading the entire Acts of the Apostles is a wonderful Easter challenge and well worthwhile to do as a family.
Think of the courage of those men, the very same men who abandoned Jesus in the Passion and who later hid themselves away in fear! What happened to them that later they would never falter in bearing witness to their faith? The “acts of Jesus”, narrated in the Gospels, reach us thanks to the Acts of the Apostles, because it is these acts that bear witness to the life of Jesus, a life that did not end at the crucifixion but that surged forth triumphantly from death. There is no Christianity without witnesses.
In today’s Reading, we hear how a revived Peter interpreted the scriptures publically. Now finally the scriptures made sense to him and it was necessary that he, Peter, as Pope, explained them to us, from Abraham to Moses and all the prophets, right up to the sacrifice of Jesus. Preaching is so important, especially the preachings of the Holy Father and priests, because it is the Church’s duty to interpret the Scriptures for each generation so that each generation can obtain the fruits of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Peter tells us that God anticipated the death of Jesus. Even our sin and ignorance were part of His great plan of salvation! God takes advantage of everything, even our wickedness, and sin can never destroy His unfaltering intent to love us. And that’s how it is possible for us to live in joy and full of hope!
John also speaks of sin in his delightful letter. “My children, I write this to you so that you do not sin.” We’re called to conversion, like Peter who denied Jesus three times and later would came to bear witness to Him fearlessly, or like the Jews who were listening on that morning. And John adds: “But if anyone does sin, we have Jesus Christ.” Only those who recognise themselves as sinners can fully taste the fruits of the passion of Jesus. “Repent because your sins are forgiven”, says Peter. He knows what he’s talking about because he experienced the power of the forgiveness of Jesus after denying Him. In the Gospel, the risen Jesus would proclaim that this is indeed the good news: “that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations”.
Those words present us with a serious problem today. It’s that Christian communities have lost the meaning of sin and few people know whether or not they need to confess. “Teresa, do we need to go to confession for Easter? But we already went to confession for Christmas! What sins are we going to say this time?” the kids from the seventh year of catechism class moan. “You almost need to make lists of sins for the kids so that they can confess, because like this there’s no point”, a priest complains to the catechist after hearing the confessions of the second year children.
Is it a sin to miss mass? Or to live with your boyfriend or girlfriend? Abort a handicapped child? Avoid paying taxes? Gossip about your neighbours? Go to fortune tellers? Delay the baptism of babies or not bring young children to catechism and mass? Adults are often surprised when we speak to them about sin and many children grow up without their parents teaching them to make a regular examination of their conscience. But without the conviction that we are sinners, the death and resurrection of Jesus will have no purpose whatsoever in our lives.
During the first days of Easter, Jesus appeared to the disciples of Emmaus, to Peter and to the women. Now he appears to the Apostles. A great joy invades their hearts! Jesus is alive and His presence is in itself a sign of his forgiving – after all, wasn’t Jesus abandoned by almost everybody at the most difficult hour of his life? What had they done to deserve the gift of His visit?
It’s not easy to believe in the resurrection. The Christian community is not made up of uncritical or unintelligent people. On the contrary, in all the accounts of the Resurrection we come across the struggle between doubt and faith. That’s why Jesus asked for something to eat. He’s not a fleshless spirit rather a glorious body, different from a corruptible body but a body nonetheless.
It’s because we believe in the resurrection of the body that we ally the corporal works of mercy to the spiritual works mercy. And there’s no sacrament that reaches the spirit without passing first through the body. So many lessons that that little piece of fish teaches us!
In glory Jesus showed the disciples his hands and feet. The resurrection glorified his wounds but did not heal them. Jesus’s wounds remain open forever as sources from where our salvation springs forth.
Now it’s our turn. When we meet together with the Christian community in the Church, we too receive the visit of the resurrected Christ. He smiles upon us, shows us His open wounds, sits down to the table and eats with us. Let us ask Him to increase our understanding of the Scriptures and to be aware of our sinfulness. And then we can experience the healing power of His wounds and will be given the ability to keep His commandments and become His witnesses, conveying Christianity to the next generations. Alleluia!