The Third Sunday of Easter
St Peter Healing The Sick With his Shadow - 1426-27 by Masaccio
A fresco in the Cappella Brancacci, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence, Italy
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READINGS: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19 1John 2:1-5 Luke 24:35-48
“Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free.”Words of sadness and disappointment on the lips of Cleopas and his companion as they made their way to Emmaus on the first Easter day. Luke tells us they were downcast as they walked away from Jerusalem when Jesus came to walk with them though they did not recognise Him; probably, in part, because they were bound up in their grief at the death of Jesus. Even when Jesus explained the scriptures to them they failed to recognise him until they were sat at table in the evening and he “took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight.”(Lk 24:30-31). Now filled with joy in knowing that he had risen from the dead they set off back the seven miles to Jerusalem, even thought it was late, to tell the others what had happened on the road and as they explained Jesus was suddenly in their midst. “Peace be with you”. It takes time for the reality of what is happening to sink in, they are frightened and think Jesus is a ghost. But then he shows them his hands and feet and invites them to touch him and see that it really is Him and they give him something to eat. Yes, this IS Jesus. The same but different. He has not returned to an earthly life, he has risen to new life beyond death. Jesus then expounds the scriptures to them, as he had done to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus pointing out to them that his life and death and resurrection fulfil the Scriptures of the Old Testament and they must now witness to this in his name’ preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all nations. Their mission is to preach the primacy of the love of God to and for the world. For now they are witnesses and missionaries who witness not to a body of laws but to a person, the risen Lord, whom they have met and who is the essence of the Christian life. Who is now their reason for living.
In the Acts of the Apostles we find Peter following the commission given them by the Lord. He and John had been the instruments of the healing of a man with disabilities, who was begging outside the Temple by invoking the name of Jesus. Peter said to the man:“I have neither silver or gold, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!” The man then leapt up and entered the Temple with them walking, jumping and praising God(Acts 3:6f). As crowds gather Peter takes the opportunity to preach to them in the words we hear today, that Jesus who was crucified is the Son of God and is raised from the dead and in his name the man has been healed. He calls on his hearers to repent so that their sins may be wiped out. Peter reminds his hearers that the disciples are indeed witnesses to the fact that Jesus has been raised from the dead.
You and I are witnesses too. At the heart of our lives is the Risen Lord and every time we come together to celebrate the Eucharist, Jesus is present to us. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we meet him at the “breaking of the bread” when he comes to feed and nourish us with his life so that we can become witnesses too. This presence of Jesus here in our midst allows his very life to flow into us and become the power by which we live so that of us it can be said “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of them who bring good news” as we seek to follow the commission of the Lord to us to give witness to his presence in the world. This is not always easy for life can be hard as at times we experience pain, suffering, loss and sadness but we are not alone for the Lord is always with us and He has experienced our human condition in its fullness in his earthly life. Through it all he encourages us to be faithful knowing that our destiny is the eternal life he has won for us in his passion, death and resurrection.
This brings to mind the story of Fr Giuseppe Berardelli a 72 year old priest from Bergamo who was ill in hospital with covid. He needed the use of a ventilator which were in short supply. He heard about a younger person in the same hospital who was as poorly as him for whom there was no ventilator. Fr Giuseppe asked to be taken off his ventilator so that it could be given to the younger patient who using the ventilator survived. Fr Giuseppe did not. His was a most wonderful witness which spoke powerfully of his faith in the Risen Lord. “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 16:25-26).
St Peter healed in the name of Jesus and this is a reminder to us of the power of Jesus’ name; yet in our culture it is used so often irreverently and very often as an expletive or expression of exasperation. How important it is then for us to use it as the name of a loved one who is our very life. For it is in his name that we pray and it has the power to heal and to lead us into communion with God. It is interesting that the Orthodox Church makes great use of the Repetitive Jesus Prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ. Son of David. Have mercy on me a sinner.’
In the name of Jesus may we be true witnesses to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
God bless you,