April 14, 2010 // Uncategorized
Salvation accomplished by Christ
3rd Sunday of Easter
As throughout the Easter season, the Church this weekend begins the Liturgy of the Word with a reading from the Acts of the Apostles.
Actually, it is a continuation of St. Luke’s Gospel. This Gospel is alone among the four in providing a certain sequel to the actual events that involved Jesus. The underlying lesson here is that the salvation achieved by the Lord Jesus did not end with the Ascension.
The presence of Jesus in the world did not end with the Ascension. He ascended into heaven before the very eyes of the Apostles, absent the dead Judas, but continues to live in the Christian community.
This reading reports a conflict between the Sanhedrin, led by the high priest and the Apostles. The Sanhedrin was the official ruling council of Judaism at the time of Jesus. Its agenda was primarily religious, but its authority touched virtually every aspect of life.
In this argument, as elsewhere in Acts, Peter is the spokesman for all the Apostles.
Despite being ordered to stop preaching about Jesus, the Apostles boldly insisted that indeed they would continue to proclaim what they had learned from the Lord. Indeed, they said, Jesus had commissioned them to spread the Gospel.
As was the case in readings earlier in this season, Peter presents an abbreviated story of the life and mission of Christ.
The Book of Revelation is next. Probably no other book of the New Testament, and few in the Old Testament, perennially leave readers wondering as does Revelation.
(Revelation is not the more ancient, nor literarily precise, term. The older, and better, term is Apocalypse. However, most English-speaking biblical scholars have adopted the better known name of Revelation.)
Yet Revelation is clear. It is an overpowering reference to the fact that Christians stand with one foot on earth, the other in heaven, for they stand in and with Christ, Son of God and son of Mary, a woman.
A sublime revelation, it again and again depicts Jesus as the sinless Lamb of God, the title used by John the Baptist for the Lord.
St. John’s Gospel supplies the last reading. It is a Resurrection Narrative. It is wondrous and consoling. Jesus, risen from death, appears to the Apostles as, without luck, they are fishing on the Sea of Galilee. At dawn, recalling the time of the Resurrection, Jesus comes into their midst. He tells them exactly where in the lake to cast their nets.
They obey, and a huge catch follows. The beloved disciple recognizes Jesus, but Peter is central to the story. He rushes to Jesus. Then, at a meal, Jesus asks Peter if Peter really loves Jesus. Jesus puts the question to Peter three times. Each time, Peter answers affirmatively. In ancient Jewish symbolism, three represented what was complete, final and absolute. To each answer, Jesus commissions Peter to love the Good Shepherd’s flock.
It would be difficult indeed to find three readings from the New Testament that individually are so beautiful, and so expressive, and that together teach such a marvelous lesson.
The very combination of Acts with Luke’s Gospel reminds us that the salvation accomplished by Christ still lives. It was with the early Christians in the Apostles. It is with us still in the Apostles’ successors, and in the Church. The trial before the Sanhedrin reminds us that Peter’s fervor beside the sea, as Peter saw Jesus risen from the dead, never ended. After the betrayal, forgiven by Christ, Peter is worthy in his faith and love. We can rely upon his testimony and his guidance.
Finally, the reading from Revelation reminds us that disciples indeed live with one foot on earth, but the other in heaven. Nowhere else is this reality better seen than in the Eucharist.
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