Reading 1: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9
Reading 2: 1 John 2:1-5a
Gospel: Luke 24:35-48
Whenever we profess that Jesus came to inaugurate the reign of God in the world, we are making a statement of faith. How can we enter into a relationship with God so as to participate in God’s reign? The suffering of Christ makes the reign of God accessible to humankind. The early church teaches with faith and conviction on the divine origin of Christ’s suffering as an event that the prophets foretold (Acts 3:18), and Christ confirmed the necessity of his suffering with scriptural evidence (Luke 24:46).
The suffering of Christ is unique and indeed vicarious. It ends the separation between God and humanity, breaking down the stronghold of sin and evil, and ultimately making repentance and forgiveness possible. It is for this reason that in the second reading, Christ is called a sin-offering (hilasmos) on behalf of humankind (1 John 2:2). Christ’s death was a ritual of expiation of wrongdoing (“by his wounds, we are healed”) removing the barrier in humanity’s relationship with God, thereby making it possible for humankind to participate in the reign of God. But human nature is complex and human inclinations undoubtedly far-reaching, with the possibility of a strain in our relationship with God and one another. When a breakdown in our relationship with God and one another occurs, we are reminded of Christ’s other role as our advocate (paraclētos) before God against the peril of sin so. Things even when sin occurs, we are assured to experience reconciliation and acquittal, if we are repentant (1 John 2:1).
Eastertide reminds us that we are witnesses (martus) to the conciliatory death of Christ on behalf of humankind (Acts 3:15; Luke 24:48). We have been reconciled with God, and we have received the mandate to become ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18). Jesus’ words of commissioning in the gospel reading confirm the church’s ministry to preach repentance, to talk the human heart towards forgiveness, and to mend broken hearts and relationships through reconciliation (Luke 24:47). Pope Francis is emphatic in Fratelli Tutti concerning the kind of church that we should be: “we want to be a church that serves, that leaves home and goes forth from its places of worship in order to accompany life, to sustain hope, to be the sign of unity…to build bridges, to break down walls, to sow seeds of reconciliation.” In other words, to make God’s reign present in the world.
In reality, the world cries out for the prophetic voice of the church that goes forth into the world to make the experiences of repentance and reconciliation possible among peoples. The power of evil is lurking everywhere, causing individual and social sin; and the scourge of violence in our homes and on our streets is worrisome. For instance, misinformation has fractured social relationships and the confidence and trust we have in each other and in our institutions continue to wane. Misinformation has become a tool of violence as the ideologies it promotes lead to the disintegration of social trust and harmony. The church is set apart by God in truth, consecrated in truth with the word of truth (John 17:17), in a world that is overwhelmed with the evil of misinformation. Also, our world is awash with hatred, xenophobia, and forms of contempt and negation of the other on the basis of race or ethnicity or gender. The USCCB in Open Wide Our Hearts calls these forms of toxic social relationships sinful. As the witnesses of Christ’s power over sin, believers must love one another as a prerequisite for their love of God (1 John 4:20-21), and then we can repair the damage caused by sin in society by rebuilding trust and harmony among one another against the backdrop of Christ’s self-giving sacrificial suffering for humanity. Eastertide is a time of renewal, new life, and hope in better days ahead. Let us become the heralds of the message of Easter.