By: Rev. Fr. Sylvanus AMEH
Readings: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Psalm 4; I John 2:1-5; Luke 24:35-48
On this third Sunday of Easter, the readings of the Mass continue to narrate some post-resurrection events. The first reading is drawn from the speech of Peter after the healing of the crippled man at the beautiful gate. Explaining that it is the power of the crucified but risen Jesus that had restored the man’s health, he called on the people to repent of their sins, including the ignorance which led them to have Jesus crucified. The second reading takes the effects of Jesus’s death and resurrection a step further by stating that Jesus is now our advocate with the Father, especially because his death and resurrection gives us victory over sin, and the grace to rise above it. Jesus appears to the disciples in the gospel text and confirms the claim of the two disciples who had encountered him on the road to Emmaus. During this apparition, he tells them, among other things, that his death and resurrection were necessary because by that mysterious event, repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be preached to every nation. All three readings therefore, have the similar theme of repentance and forgiveness of sins as fruits of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The word of God says “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is…” (Col 3:1), implying that the resurrection of Jesus should make us seek the things of heaven and thus, rise above the standards of sin. Thus, Saint John, in our second reading, encourages us to do our best not to sin. However, because we have imperfections that may make us fall into sin sometimes, he reminds us too, that all hope is not lost since Jesus is now our advocate with the Father who pleads for our forgiveness (I John 2:1). We shall therefore, draw two lessons from this.
- We must make effort to live in righteousness. In his discourse with Nicodemus as recorded in the third chapter of John’s gospel account, Jesus tells us two reasons why he came into the world: first, as an expression of God’s love for humanity (Jn 3:16) and secondly, for the salvation of the world (Jn 3:17). The death and resurrection of Jesus therefore, accomplishes these purposes. This puts us in God’s debt of gratitude because he did for us what we cannot do for ourselves. All that God demands of us in return is to live in righteousness, so that the death of Jesus is not in vain for us. Saint John says “I am writing to you so that you may not sin.” Dear child of God, if we must be true Christians, if we are grateful for Jesus’ salvific death for us, and if the mystery of Easter is to bear fruit in our lives, then we must do our best to live lives of holiness; we must make effort to shun sin and embrace righteousness.
- With God, there are second chances. One of the greatest tragedies that may befall any Christian is not to realize the forgiving power of God. No Christian must ever allow his/herself to be enveloped by despair because of a sin he/she has committed, for “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” There are times when some people commit one sin or the other and the devil shows them the enormity of the sin they have committed. He so enlarges it before them that he blinds them to the reality of God’s forgiving love that is available to all who truly repent of their sins. He tells them that their sin(s) cannot be forgiven because it is too grave. Hear me, child of God, and hear me very well: There is no sin we have ever committed or shall ever commit that is bigger than God’s mercy to handle. That is why God said “Come, let us reason together; though your sins be like scarlet, they shall be white as snow…” (Isa 1:18).
Sometimes, and indeed many times, we may fall and fall very badly, but if we are truly sorry and sincerely repent, God is ready to forgive, for he is a second-chance God. God said he is not interested in the death of sinners but in their repentance and salvation (Ezk 33:11) and Jesus says he will not cast out anyone who comes to him (Jn 6:37). So we must be encouraged to return to God despite our spiritual filth and abasement due to sin.
While we are reminded today of God’s infinite love and mercy for us, we must be careful not to see this as a license to go on sinning, thinking that we can simply come back to God to ask for forgiveness and get away with it. That will be abusing God’s mercy and there is no true repentance in that; and we must also not forget that God cannot be deceived. The bible says that because grace abounds does not mean that sin should increase (Rom 6:1). That you have a very good lawyer is not a license to live a life of crime; that Jesus is our advocate and pleads for us before the Father is not a license to live a life of sin, for is we take God’s mercy for granted, then we shall have a taste of his justice.
Dear child of God, we are invited today to return to God in sincere repentance from our sins in order to receive mercy, through the advocacy of Jesus, our mediator with the Father. There is no sin too big for God to forgive; there is no soul too filthy for God to wash clean; there is no life too damaged for God to repair. All that is required is sincere repentance. And very importantly, after God has shown us mercy, we must make effort to live in righteousness. May the Lord Jesus give us the grace of true repentance. Amen.