A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(Chapter 3: 13-15,17-19)
This reading has been misinterpreted over the centuries and became a basis for the virulent anti-Semitism that caused the death and suffering of millions of our Jewish brothers and sisters. Peter said to the people, “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 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.”
There is the accusation that has led to millions of deaths. But somehow, Peter’s next words of Peter are forgotten: “Now I know brothers, 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 mouths of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”
All of the apostles were Jews, and most of the earliest Christians were as well. Moreover, the Church teaches that God’s covenant with Israel was fulfilled in Jesus, that covenant was in no way abrogated by his ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The Jewish people, the Second Vatican Council declared, “are most dear to God because of their fathers.”
“Lord, let your face shine on us.” What a great and beautiful image! Imagine that, God’s face shines upon each of us. We cannot see the face of God in this life, but the face of God shines on us. I must say that I never thought of it that way, but it is never too late to learn more of God’s powerful love for us.
A reading from the first letter of St. John
(Chapter 2: 1-5a)
“My children, I am writing this to you so that you might not commit sin.” John is no longer the young man of the Gospels. Now he is an old man and the last of the apostles. There is a possible schism in one of the communities that John knows and loves. He wants them to know, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not just for our sins only but for those of the whole world.” John wants them to know that “Whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.”
Keeping God’s word for all of those years in the face of persecution and the death of all the other brother apostles must have been a daily challenge, especially in the face of divisions within the various communities. But John knew that the Spirit of God was in him always, as it is for each of us today.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke
Remember the story of the two travelers who met Jesus along the road. They went back to Jerusalem to share with others the encounter, “how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” Then, “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 they were seeing a ghost. 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 myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as I have.” Just to be sure , Jesus asked them to give him a piece of fish, and he ate it. “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 in Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
This is an important passage, because the tradition did not say that the Messiah would suffer and die cruelly. Luke wants everyone to know that this is a suffering Messiah who gave his life for his people and now suffers no more. This is the same Jesus who is with us in the midst of our own suffering. He knows what we are going through. He went through much more.
Painting: Supper at Emmaus, Michelangelo Merisi (Caravaggio), circa 1601, National Gallery, London
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.