Tuesday of Easter Week 2019
In Monday of Holy Week, the Divine Office gives us a snippet from one of St. Augustine’s sermons. He asks, “Why does our human frailty hesitate to believe that mankind will one day live with God?” Christ gave us the gift of His own death, so why would He not in love give us union with the Father?
Today, St. Luke gives us the story of St. Peter’s sermon to the Jews gathered for the Pentecost festival. Peter tells them that God raised up Jesus, crucified at the instigation of the Jerusalem Jewish leaders, and made Him “both Lord and Messiah.”
Now Luke’s commentary tells us that Peter’s hearers “were cut to the heart” and moved to ask what they could do to turn their lives around. I remember on several occasions in my life being “cut to the heart” when I recognized that something I had done or said, or avoided–something I thought was good–really percolated out of self-will or ego-protection instead of love. If you think about what the Jews of Jerusalem had done–from their point of view, anyway–they probably believed that by executing this Galilean carpenter, they were doing God’s work. It had taken the Jews a couple of millennia of their history to get rid of all their pagan idols and practices and worship the One God. And this Jeshua ben Joseph comes along and works great signs which their leaders interpreted to be deeds of the devil, then has the audacity to claim He is the Son of God, equal to God.
But when the apostles erupted from their baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues and using the Jewish scriptures to show that the Messiah had to suffer and die and rise again, and when they performed the same deeds Jesus had done, they were indeed “cut to the heart.” On that first day three thousand accepted baptism into the Way of Christ we call the Church.
If we are spending time each day quietly listening for the voice of God in our hearts, we are often hearing the invitation to repent and become more like Jesus and the saints. Chesterton loved to recall this scene of Mary at the tomb. She heard Jesus asking why she wept, and thought he was the gardener. In reality, Jesus was the same gardener who had planted a garden in Eden in the east. He was the gardener who planted a vine, His people, in Israel, and who had time and again come to that garden for grapes only to find sour grapes. Mary at last recognized Him as her master and “little rabbi,” and tried to embrace Him, but that was not part of the Father’s plan–to keep Him here on earth. No, the plan was for Jesus to ascend to the right hand of the Father and to send what He called a “greater advocate,” the Holy Spirit of love.
It was the Holy Spirit who infected the lives of Mary and the apostles and so many others at that Pentecost. That same Holy Spirit fills our own lives with a confidence, a hope and a love for God and our neighbor. It spills over into works of service, testimonies of changed lives, and a determination that we must each of us take part in the mission of Christ to the world. For the promise of God is to us, and to our children, and to all that are far from the kingdom, that “mankind will one day live with God.”