April 15 2018 Third Sunday of Easter (B)

A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)

B. Reflection and Dialogue with Questions of the Day: Walk in the Light. Sin, repentance, forgiveness of sin

A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)

First Reading (Acts 3:13-15, 17-19). You killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead. In the very early days of the church, after Christ’s death and resurrection, Peter as chief of the apostles preached the Gospel message to his own Jewish people. In this he continued the work of Jesus. His message is that they recognize what they have done, and see God’s plan in it all. Even in the tragedy of his death, Jesus fulfilled prophecy. This sermon in today’s reading, as all Christian preaching, is directed towards proper relationship with God, and when indicated turning towards God from sin through repentance. Central to Christ’s preaching, his death and resurrection, stands the forgiveness of sin – as we are reminded of in the words of consecration at every Mass.

Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 4). Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord.

Second Reading (1 John 2:1-5). He is the sacrifice that takes our sins away, and not only ours, but the whole world’s. In the section of this letter immediately preceding today’s reading, the author had admonished his readers to walk in the light, in the truth of the Christian message, and to have fellowship with one another, and then goes on to say: “And the blood of Jesus his (God’s) Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him (that is: God) a liar and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:7-9). This text does not spell out what the sins he has in mind are. In the Confiteor before Mass we confess individually that we have “greatly sinned, in thought, in word, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do”. The Christian awareness of sin is not designed to create complexes, but to be taken in conjunction with belief in the passion and resurrection of Christ, who died so that sins might be forgiven, and who is at the right hand of the Father interceding, pleading our cause, as an advocate would do. Consideration of sin calls for examination of conscience, and today’s reading goes on to speak of God’s commandments. Elsewhere in this letter the author speaks principally of two commandments, namely belief in Christ and the Christian commandment of love. By commandments we can understand all the manifestations of God’s will. God has revealed his plans for the individual human person and for humanity through Christ. In Christ the true light has shone, and that light continues to shine. The acid test of one’s love for God, of one’s knowledge of God as revealed by Christ, is a knowledge of these commandment and the keeping of them.

Gospel (Luke 24:35-48). So you see how it is written that Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead. This is Luke’s account of the last appearance of Jesus to the disciples. Belief in the risen Jesus did not come easily, and now the disciples had to ascertain that this apparent appearance of him was not as that of a ghost. The disciples were naturally disturbed, and perturbed, when Jesus appeared to them. In this reading Jesus is at pains to make clear that his was a genuine resurrection of his body; he is not a ghost. Hence his eating the prepared fish. The disciples’ belief in his resurrection was, of course, through the divine gift of faith. The text ends stating the entire purpose of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. It was to fulfil the scripture, thus in continuity with God’s work through the history of Israel. For the disciples this encounter with Jesus was to be a new beginning. His work was to continue to all peoples, with its central message of repentance for sin, accepting the gospel message. The message was for all nations, not just the Jewish people, to the ends of the world as put in other gospel texts. It is worth noting that in his Confession St Patrick’s dwells on these texts and thanks God that he had the mission of bringing the Gospel message to the “ends of the earth”, which for him was Ireland.

B. The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day: Walk in the Light. Sin, repentance, forgiveness of sin

>Today’s readings present a golden opportunity to reflect on what the Church, the Christian message, is centrally about and in the light of this to see what message they have for our own day, for the society in which we live. The second reading is from the First Letter of John. Both this letter, and the Fourth Gospel, speak a lot about walking in the light. Christ is the true light. He reveals the Father’s love and the Father’s will. As the light he shines on human behaviour, and shows up what is good, indifferent and bad. He reveals sin. The Apocalypse (Revelation) of John speaks of the Risen Lord, the Son of Man, walking among the candlesticks (the different churches) praising what is good, exhorting the lukewarm, and calling on sinners and defectors to repent, to emend their ways. Each of the letters to the seven churches of Asia addressed in this book ends with Christ’s words: “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches”.

As the Vatican Council has reminded us Christ is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. As in the Apocalypse of John, the risen Christ is still speaking, encouraging, revealing, and where required calling for repentance. All the readings in today’s Mass make mention of sin and repentance, and the gospel reading gives Christ’s command to his disciples that repentance for the forgiveness of sins be preached to all nations. Christians are to walk in the light. But what the light of Christ and its demands are must be conveyed to the believing community. With a view to this end in its document on the liturgy the Vatican Council decreed that in the Masses of Sundays and holidays, by means of a homily, the mysteries of the faith and the guiding principles of the Christian life be expounded from the sacred text during the course of the liturgical year (Vatican II, Sacred Liturgy, paragraph 52).

To walk in the truth, the truths of the Christian faith have to be known and made known to the Catholic community. There is a danger in traditionally Catholic communities, such as Ireland, that we may have a large number of what is called “cultural” rather than really practicing Catholics. The recent (2011) census of Ireland showed that 84% of the population entered themselves as Roman Catholic, which some say that if “ethnically” adjusted (that is excluding foreign nationals) could be as high as 90%. Some analysts have reflected on this that other statistics such as Sunday Mass attendance, marital and sexual morality and other matters may indicate that for many adherence to the Catholic faith is cultural rather than the practice of the Christian message. In the 2016 census the number signing themselves as Roman Catholics had decreased to 78.32%, with 9.84% signing themselves as of no religion.If we wish to “walk in the truth” we have reason to reflect on this. Let us have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to us, and seek methods on how to communicate the fuller Christian message, so that the word of God, and the power of grace, might bring us all into possession of the Christian inheritance that is ours (see Acts 20:32).

There is room for all of us, individually and nationally, to be aware of the reality of sin, and to repent and believe in the gospel.

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