Go in Peace, Glorifying the Lord by Your Life... By Msgr. Richard Henning
First Reading: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19 Responsorial: Psalm 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9 Second Reading: 1 John 2:1-5a Gospel: Luke 24:35-48
In the Gospels Simon becomes Peter, a change of name that reflects the singular transformation that occurs in the man. In Luke, our first glimpse of Peter shows us his humility and his stubbornness, his faith and his failure. When the Lord commands Peter to lower the nests, he reluctantly agrees. When faced with a miraculous catch of fish, Peter exclaims: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Even as Peter acknowledges his unworthiness, he is in fact giving a command to the Lord! This inherent complexity of the man continues to play out over the course of the narrative. We see a Peter who shows insight into Jesus’ identity, “the Messiah of God,” and a Peter who falls asleep in the garden. We see a Peter who is present at privileged moments in Jesus’ ministry and a Peter who denies the Lord.
If Peter’s faith waivers, Jesus’ faith in Peter remains constant. Jesus has called him and empowered him for ministry, taught him and prepared him for redemption, and prayed for him even as Peter speaks with false bravado: “I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.”
That prophetic prayer comes to pass in the Acts of the Apostles where Peter’s passion will be directed towards ministry of proclamation to Israel. Shortly before the scene in today’s passage, Peter and the other disciples were transformed and empowered by the coming of the Spirit. Then before a gathering of Jews from all around the world, Peter began to witness to Jerusalem and the Jewish world. In that Pentecost address, Peter spoke at length about the events of Jesus’ life and emphasized that everything had happened in accord with Scripture and God’s plan. Peter also confronted the people with their role in the events of the Passion in order to summon them to a change of heart. At the end of the speech many did come to faith in the Lord Jesus.
This second speech follows the healing of a lame man. In this shorter address, Peter does not repeat all of the previous truths. Instead, he focuses on the question of response to God’s definitive validation of Jesus in the resurrection. He contrasts their actions against Jesus with God’s vindication of His Son. Peter softens the accusation by acknowledging that these events had to happen according to God’s plan and that they were ignorant in their rejection of Jesus. However, the resurrection means that the time for ignorance is past and they must now repent and believe. The hopefulness of the challenge is made all the more dramatic by the story of the man who speaks. Peter, the denier, was as spiritually lame as any of them in their rejection of the Lord. In Peter, they see a man made to walk once again and learn of the power of God’s mercy.
The second reading is taken from the First Letter of John. This passage concerns itself with ongoing Christian life rather than the initial call to repentance and conversion. The language in this brief passage is quite strong as it asserts the action of Christ, who is expiation for our sins and an Advocate with the Father. The Christian must respond to this remarkable gift by concrete devotion to the Lord- that is, keeping his commandments.
The Gospel passage from Luke follows the famous scene at on the road to Emmaus where two disciples encountered the Lord and came to recognize him in the breaking of the bread. Until this point, Jesus has appeared to individuals. Now in a climactic appearance to the Eleven and the fledgling community together, Jesus demonstrates that the resurrection is real and concrete. They can touch his wounds and see him take food. And their response will be equally concrete. Their incredulous joy will become action as they preach forgiveness to all the nations beginning from Jerusalem (24:47). And notice the strong assertion of the Lord that they are his witnesses. This is not a prediction of the future, but a statement of present fact.
In the Roman Rite, one of the dismissal texts commands us to glorify the Lord by our lives. They are fitting words this Sunday. While the readings speak of our sin and our need for redemption, their ultimate message is one of healing, restoration, and the power of God to use even our flaws in the plan of salvation. As the Easter mysteries unfold, the critical question becomes that of our response to the action of God. Will we hear the words of Peter - such a fitting example of the power of grace? Will our lives give witness to the death and resurrection of the Lord?