Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
April 24, 2014
Acts 3:11-26, Ps 8, Lk 24:35-48
To listen to a partial audio recording of this homily, please click below. The digital recorder ran out of battery juice early in the homily so only the first couple of minutes was captured.
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- There’s a very familiar pattern that we’ve been seeing in each of the readings this Easter week. At first the disciples who encounter Jesus are bewildered, shocked, fearful, unbelieving in his resurrection; no matter how many times Jesus told them exactly what would occur to him, they still didn’t believe when they saw him a couple of days after his brutal execution. The second stage is that Jesus convinces them that he’s real, that he’s alive, that he’s risen from the dead and he begins to instruct them, to show them that everything that happened to him was supposed to happen to him. Third, once they hear and see Jesus, they come to faith in his Resurrection and living Presence in front of them. Lastly, Jesus sends them out on a mission to complete his own mission. On Monday and Tuesday we see how this happened with Mary Magdalene from the perspectives of St. Matthew’s and St. John’s Gospels respectively. Yesterday we saw it with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. And in today’s Gospel, we see these same four stages occur with the apostles in the Upper Room.
- Jesus enters the other room while Cleopas and the other disciple are briefing them on what just happened on their journey home to Emmaus. The disciples were “started and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost.” They couldn’t believe that it was Jesus, even after the witness of the Emmaus disciples, of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary whom Jesus met on the way. Jesus confronts those fears straight on. He says, “Peace be with you!” He asks, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?” Then he removed their doubts about his physical reality by saying, “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.” After showing them his wounds and his feet, he proves that he’s not a ghost even more powerfully by eating a piece a baked fish, which only a real person could digest. And then he started to do for them what we saw him do with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus yesterday. He reminded them that he had to suffer, just as he and the prophets had foretold. “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” St. Luke stresses that he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, saying, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Doubtless their own hearts began to burn like the hearts of the Emmaus disciples and they began to believe. Then Jesus gave them their mission as he opened their mouths: “You are witnesses of these things.” They were to be witnesses of Christ’s resurrection, but not only his resurrection. They were to be witnesses of how Jesus fulfilled “written about [him] in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms,” that “the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead … and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name to all the nations beginning from Jerusalem.”
- We see St. Peter fulfilling that very mission in today’s first reading. As the crippled man they healed in yesterday’s Gospel was clinging to him, he started to explain the significance of the man’s healing to the assembled crowd in Solomon’s Portico in the Temple: this man was walking and healed not because of Peter or John, but because of the saving name of the Living Jesus. He used the man’s obviously miraculous healing as an opportunity to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins in that same holy name to all nations, beginning right there in the heart of Jerusalem. “Why are you amazed at this, and why do you look so intently at us as if we had made him walk by our own power or piety?” It wasn’t their power; it was the power of Jesus, “whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence, when he had decided to release him. He told them they preferred Barabbas over the “Holy and Righteous One” and murdered the “Author of life” — both of the latter terms expressions that Jesus was God. “But,” St. Peter said, “God raised him from the dead; of this we are all witnesses. And by faith in his name, this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong.” So after he helps them through their period of incredulity, he seeks to get them to the stage of faith by demonstrating how all that happened to Jesus was supposed to happen, and offer to them the same mercy through repentance and the forgiveness of sins that Jesus had offered them. “Now I know, brothers and sisters, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer.” God had also foretold the times of reconciliation, the “universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old. For Moses said: ‘A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kin; to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you. Everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be cut off from the people.’ Moreover, all the prophets who spoke, from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days. … For you first, God raised up his servant [Jesus] and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”
- Just as much as Peter who had his mind and mouth opened by the Lord to be a witness of all the things that happened to Jesus, he also became a witness by his life and not just by his lips. St. Peter had said that God prophesied that “his Christ would suffer,” and that’s not just a reference to Jesus the “anointed,” the “Messiah,” (which is what the Greek word “Christ” means) but for everyone who is anointed by God in union with Jesus. Every Christian is, literally, a little Christ and will suffer on account of our witness to him. Peter and John, immediately after this seen are going to be arrested by the very same people who conspired to have Jesus crucified. But they were unafraid because if God could raise Jesus from crucifixion on the third day, then there was no need for any of his followers to fear even brutal death. That’s why they were able to preach with a holy parrhesia, a Spirit-inspired boldness, that no one could intimidate. They weren’t afraid to suffer any longer because they knew that their sufferings would be salvific and their death would be merely a change of address, to a place where Jesus had gone to prepare for them.
- We see “all these things” being lived out and fulfilled in the life of the saint the Church celebrates today, St. Fidelis of Sigmarengen, who was martyred for proclaiming the fullness of the faith in Calvinist Austria 392 years ago today. The Calvinists used to seek to murder Catholic preachers because of their idea of predestination. Stating it somewhat simplistically, if someone were predestined for heaven, they would accept Calvinism; if they were not predestined for heaven, then they could just expedite the process of their eternal separation from God. He was being threatened with death by the Calvinists for converting back so many of their brothers. On April 24, 1622, he had an intimation at the end of a morning homily he was preaching that that day would be the last day of his life. He said, “Father Fidelis is near the day he will become food for worms.” Later in the day he was confronted by 20 Calvinist soldiers who called him a false prophet and told him to embrace Calvinism. “I am sent to you to confute, not to embrace, your heresy,” he replied. “The Catholic religion is the faith of all ages. I’m not afraid of death.” As one of soldiers started to beat him with his backsword, he prayed, “Forgive my enemies, O Lord, who blinded by passion do not know what they are doing. Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. Mary, Mother of God, help me.” Another sword stroke pierced his skull and killed him, as the soldiers stabbed him and then hacked off his left leg to punish him for his many missionary journeys. But he was “faithful” (Fidelis) to Jesus to the end, even to his words of forgiveness from the Cross. And today we celebrate that he lives with Jesus in eternity, just like he experienced his Risen life on earth.
- Today the same Jesus who met the terrified disciples in the Upper Room meets us here. Just as he led them through a “liturgy of the word” to understand how all that the prophets and he had foretold had to transpire, so he has led us on a similar journey. Just as he told them to see and touch him, so he has us behold him as the Lamb of God and not just to touch him but to be touched by him on the inside and become one with him in Holy Communion. And just as he sent them out as witnesses of risen life and his teachings to the end of the world, beginning from Jerusalem, so he will say to us at the end of this Mass, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” to all nations, beginning from Fall River. We will suffer for doing so, but it’s here that Jesus not only opens our minds and mouths but strengthens us to remain faithful when we do, so that repentance for the forgiveness of sins — and the Divine Mercy that meets that repentance — will allow people to learn how to hear, know, love and proclaim Jesus’ holy, saving name and come to share Jesus’ resurrection!
The readings for today’s Mass were:
all the people hurried in amazement toward them
in the portico called “Solomon’s Portico.”
When Peter saw this, he addressed the people,
“You children of Israel, why are you amazed at this,
and why do you look so intently at us
as if we had made him walk by our own power or piety?
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus
whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence,
when he had decided to release him.
You denied the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
The author of life you put to death,
but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.
And by faith in his name,
this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong,
and the faith that comes through it
has given him this perfect health,
in the presence of all of you.
Now I know, brothers and sisters,
that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did;
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,
and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment
and send you the Christ already appointed for you, Jesus,
whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration
of which God spoke through the mouth
of his holy prophets from of old.
For Moses said:A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you.
Everyone who does not listen to that prophet
will be cut off from the people. “Moreover, all the prophets who spoke,
from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days.
You are the children of the prophets
and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors
when he said to Abraham,
In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you
by turning each of you from your evil ways.”
PS 8:2AB AND 5, 6-7, 8-9
O LORD, our Lord,
how glorious is your name over all the earth!
What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under his feet.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
All sheep and oxen,
yes, and the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fishes of the sea,
and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread.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.He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”