THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER
1 Jn 2,1-5a
It is evident the theme that gives unity to the lectionary of this Sunday: “the forgiveness of sins.” Peter concludes his announcement of the paschal kerygma to the Jews with these words: “Now you must repent and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out” (Acts 3,19) (first reading); John alludes to the enigmatic and universal reality of sin saying: “if anyone should sin, we have our advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ who is just” (1 Jn 2,1) (second reading); and Luke, citing the words of the Lord, delineates what the Church’s mission will be: “repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Lk 24,47) (gospel). The liberation of present evil in history and in the hearts of men and women is the first fruit of Easter. The forgiveness of sin is the great gift that is born of the cross and of Christ’s glory.
The first reading (Acts 3,13-15.17-19) forms part of Peter’s discourse directed to the Jews after having healed the paralytic at the door of the Temple. In the text, is affirmed in the first place the central element of the Christian kerygma: the death and resurrection of Jesus. The author refers to God with a biblical formula (cf. Ex 3,6): “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, who has glorified his servant Jesus, the same James you handed over and then disowned” (Acts 3,13). The God that has raised Jesus from the death is the same and only God that guides history from its beginnings. The event of Jesus’ resurrection, therefore, is not a rupture with the history of the people of the ancient covenant but its fulfillment. In the same way, the Church born of Easter ought to be considered always in continuity with Israel. They refer to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as “our fathers.” Jesus begins to be mention with the term “servant,” without making allusion to the “servant of Yahweh,” but to the great biblical figures raised up by God to realize some saving function in favor of Israel. For the author, Jesus is the great eschatological prophet that realizes definitive salvation, glorified by God in the Resurrection. For this reason, he is also called “Holy” and “Just.” Though in the context, in contraposition with Barrabas (Lk 23,37), the “murderer” (Acts 3,14), the terms “holy” and “just” have clear moral connotation, express much more in relation with Jesus. He is “the Holy One,” that is to say, the consecrated par excellence that with his resurrection and glorification has been introduced completely in God’s world; and he is “the Just One,” that is to say, that always realized God’s will, obedient to the divine plan until its ultimate consequences. This Jesus, handed over and condemned by “ignorance,” “God has raised him from the death” (v. 18). In the end, Peter brings out the practical consequences of his discourse: “Now you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out” (v. 19). Two Greek verbs are utilized: metanoein (repent, being conscious of committed sin) and epistrephein (turn, orient life towards God and towards Christ, adhering to his will on the moral plane). The liberation of sin happens when man or woman accepts evangelical preaching and accepts blame of evil committed, overcoming ignorance with which he or she has acted; and in the second place, accepting Jesus as Messiah and Lord resurrected by God, to participate in his saving power. For Luke, in this consists conversion, indispensable condition to obtain the God’s forgiveness.
The second reading (1 Jn 2,1-5a) is a strong call to coherence between faith and life: “We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments” (v. 3). The authentic “knowledge” of God is shown in a behavior conforming itself to the divine will. The author speaks certainly of “knowing” in the biblical sense, a knowledge that is neither theoretical nor abstract, but affective, practical, fact of communion and love. It is with life that we show that we know God: “Anyone who says, ‘I know him’, and does not keep his commandments is a liar, refusing to admit the truth” (v. 4). Man and woman, nevertheless, with daily effort to fulfill the will of God, are seen many times dominated and enslaved by sin. For this reason, John affirms also: “I am writing this, my children, to stop you sinning; but if anyone should sin, we have our advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, who is just” (v. 1). The announcement of divine forgiveness is authentic good news. We have next to the Father someone that has offered himself for us as victim and, at the same time, an advocate, in Greek paráclito, that is to say, someone that is on our side and intercedes for us (v. 2). To the sinful man and woman, is offered forgiveness, divine mercy and expiation by means of Jesus Christ.
The gospel (Lk 24,35-48) relates another encounter with the resurrected Lord with his disciples. In the text are three fundamental elements: (1) Jesus’ initiative: “They were still talking about this when Jesus himself stood among them” (v. 36). After the resurrection, the Lord becomes present in the community and communicates to his own peace, the Easter greeting par excellence that drives our fear and communicates the joy of new life. (2) The disciples’ reaction: “In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost” (v. 37). Jesus’ resurrection is a mystery of faith, that is not verifiable with human means nor object of sensible experience. For this reason, the disciples cannot recognize him immediately. In this text, nevertheless, the “realism” of the event is stressed. Looking, touching, eating with Jesus, etc. are spoken of. In this way, it is insisted that the resurrection, in spite of being an eschatological event that realizes the fullness of history and goes beyond it, has happened in the very heart of history. The Resurrected Jesus is Jesus of Nazareth. Certainly, his existential condition is diverse, now he lives glorified without being subject to limitations of space or time, but is not a ghost, does not live separated from the community. It is possible to discover in daily life and in the history of the world living signs of his Easter. (3) The community’s mission: “you are witnesses to this” (v. 48). In this is described the root of the mission of the Church: meeting with the Resurrected One and the understanding of the Scriptures (v. 45). Jesus explains to them with the Scriptures that his death, resurrection and the preaching of conversion and forgiveness of sins in his name form part of God’s plan. He leaves us so a model of biblical reading and interpretation that will have to always accompany the Church in her evangelizing mission: to illuminate life with the Bible and with its help, discover the ways of God in history. Of all this, Jesus calls them “witnesses” (v. 48).
With Jesus’ resurrection, the world is recreated and the ways of all men and women begin anew. To live and to announce this radical newness is the mission of the ecclesial community, that lives on love and the presence of the Lord in her midst.