THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER - 2018
PETER BRINGS MESSAGE OF HOPE TO HIS AUDIENCE.
In the first reading of this Sunday, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter unravels the meaning to Christ’s resurrection. Peter was ready to share the hope of salvation with his dejected audience when he offered them the gift of consolation in the midst of desolation, even though some of their leaders and some of them may have participated in hanging Christ on a tree. It was, nevertheless, God’s design from the beginning that humankind would be saved from the eternal damnation through God’s love and mercy. Then Peter assured his audience, “…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." The question that will call our attention for reflection this Sunday will be: Why did Christ have to stay around after his resurrection; rather than just ascend into heaven immediately?
Christ, I believe may have chosen to stay a while in order to affirm and strengthen the faith of his Apostles, that of his Mother, Blessed Virgin Mary and those who were very close to him. This gesture pastorally manifests his genuine love for them. In the light of this reality, Christ appeared to them many times; and in one of those appearances he greeted them: “Peace be with you.” In our Catholic Church, this greeting is of great significance. Pay attention when next time you attend a Mass presided by a Catholic Bishop. It is a greeting that only the Bishop uses at Mass when he welcomes his congregation or when he dismisses them with a blessing. While the priest uses, “The Lord be with you” – which was Saint Paul’s formal greetings when he wrote to different Churches.
The same message of hope is echoed in the Gospel of Luke, “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. Then he said 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 can see I have." And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.” My brothers and sisters, let us pay a close attention to these two endearment instances of this Gospel of Luke narrative: feeling of the body and eating of the food. It is necessary that we comprehend that the spirit does not eat food, but Jesus did eat with his Apostles. The ghost does not have a body, but Jesus welcomed his Apostles to come and touch all parts of the marks of the wounds on his body to let them realize that they were not looking at a ghost, but a living being. Now, let us note that only God could be in the form that our Lord was – it is called Jesus in his glorified Body. As God, Jesus can do all things. This is the reason why he chose to stay with his Apostles before he ascended into heaven – to strengthen them and remove all possible doubts. So, when Peter speaks authoritatively and convincingly before his audience, he speaks in unmistaken words because he knows The Truth – Christ the Lord. All this, brothers and sisters, is to strengthen our faith in Christ.
Father Uche Obikwelu