Today is Thursday within the Octave of Easter. It’s as if the Church does not get enough Easter on the day itself so it spreads it out over eight days. During that time the readings for Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours focus again and again on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This is one of the few times of the church year when there is no Old Testament reading. Instead, we hear the story of the resurrection community.
There are several aspects of the Acts reading that are thought provoking. A man is healed, Peter and John wonder why people look at them, as if they could heal him, and then Peter talks to the crowd about Jesus. You were complicit in the death of the Holy and Righteous one, the very “author of life,” Peter says. The God of their fathers, on the other hand, has glorified Jesus and it is through Jesus that the man has been healed. Peter then calls upon the people to turn to Jesus. If they do, their sins will be forgiven, they will experience times of refreshment, and God will send them the Christ. Jesus is coming, Peter says, but must remain in heaven “until the times of universal restoration.” I like to borrow John Milton’s language to describe human history in three parts: paradise, paradise lost, and paradise restored. In Jesus, that which is broken, lost, messed up is being restored. The apostle Paul refers to the creation as “groaning” and waiting for the revelation of the children of God. Jesus has begun the restoration and will conclude it but, in the meantime, you and I live in a world that groans and longs for our lost paradise. What then are we to do between the now and the not yet? We trust in Jesus, turn from our evil ways, and fulfill the promise made to Abraham that through his descendants all the nations will be blessed. We have been called to be a blessing in this world and that begins with God raising up Jesus and sending him to bless us. Blessed by Jesus, we become a blessing, but only if we are converted. To Peter, a converted person is one who listens to Jesus.
The psalmist seems thoroughly amazed that God cares so much about humans. Why is it, O Lord, considering how glorious you are, that you are mindful of us? You actually care for us. Then, as if that were not enough, you have made us just a little less than the angels, crowned us with glory and honor and made us like you: rulers over everything you have made. The psalmist can think of only one explanation for this: “O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!”
This is a message that disciples of Jesus have been commissioned to take to the ends of the earth. How do we do it? Luke tells us how the earliest disciples did it. Like us, they had troubles, questions, doubts, and, on occasion, were even terrified. How then did they take the good news of Jesus to their world? First, Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. They had power to share their faith because Jesus was in their minds. Second, in the breaking of the bread, they recognized Jesus. They saw him in the most mundane of things. Finally, in the midst of their greatest doubts, they remembered the words of Jesus: “Peace be with you.”
Understanding – recognition – memory; blessings to cherish during the Octave of Easter and beyond.
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