Sermons

Summary: It took some time to process the traumatic and surprising events of Holy Week

3rd Sunday of Easter

When something traumatic happens in your family, perhaps a death or serious injury, do you find often that there’s at least a temptation toward chaos? This is especially true if one of the key linchpins in the family is taken out of commission for a time, or even permanently. All the other relationships are challenged, and some suffer while others flourish. When looking back later on at the situation, it’s also true that different people have different memories. Your vantage points are different. Your priorities may not be the same. And in some cases, it takes years for the family to recover its equilibrium.

It was like that, we must conclude, about the family of Jesus that He brought with Him from Galilee, in the days and weeks after His arrest. Peter and John had seen or at least heard the trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin. John actually saw their Lord crucified and dead. Most of the others fled at the arrest, and operated in great fear, learning second or third hand what had happened. So the stories we have from the Gospels and Acts reflect those differences. Whatever the story may be, all are in agreement. Jesus was guiltless, but He was arrested, tried in a kind of kangaroo court, tried again by Pilate, who didn’t find Jesus guilty but sent Him off to die anyway. Jesus died on the cross and was buried, but on the third day His tomb was empty. Several disciples saw Him alive, and even ate with Him. Then He stayed with them for a time and was taken out of sight. Ten days later His disciples had a marvelous experience of the Holy Spirit, like the OT prophets did, and changed from cowering to powerful. Instead of fearing torture and death, they welcomed it as confirmation of the Truth of Jesus.

The Church Jesus founded did what He did during His earthly life. They prayed and taught and celebrated sacraments, especially Baptism for new followers, and Eucharist, very frequently. They performed miracles, especially healing the sick and disabled. They formed a community of faith and prayer.

It took some time to reflect on and teach what had happened that first Holy Week. As you hear in this passage from the Acts, they first blamed the Jews as a whole for the passion of Jesus. Peter’s words are very stark: “you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.” But that painted the murder in Jerusalem with too broad a brush. There was a plot to get rid of this pesky fellow from Galilee, and some of the Jewish leaders and the Romans and Herod were behind it. But the majority of Jews in Jerusalem were just trying to celebrate Passover as commanded in Torah. Moreover, we know that Peter himself denied Jesus and probably even cursed Him when a little servant girl commented that Peter sounded Galilean. Who killed Jesus? The 2nd Vatican Council told us the Church’s definitive message on that: the Catechism teaches that “sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured.” It took many generations to answer the question fully. We all were responsible, but He loved us all and forgave us all even as He was being nailed to the cross.

John tells us this in his letter. He does not want us to sin, any more than the Lord does. “But if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” The story does not end with the crucifixion and death of Jesus, but with His Resurrection and His first words to the Apostles that they should be at peace, and that they have the power themselves to forgive sins as He did. Once forgiven, we daily focus on obeying Christ’s commandment to love our neighbor with self-sacrificial actions. We are challenged to love others as Christ loved us–even to laying down our lives for them.

And what is the most important way to show our love to them? We must, as Jesus said in the Gospel today, tell the story to those who either haven’t heard it, or who didn’t “get” it: preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus to all the nations. There’s a lot of chaos and trouble in the world, even in our own families. Jesus wants to be present to all, to breathe the peace of God into their hearts. He does that through us. We must listen attentively, pray fervently, and share the story of forgiveness and sanctification as others are willing to hear. This will give us joy, and them hope.

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