You act in ignorance -3rd Sunday of Easter 2018

Friends, Peter and John were on their way to the temple. At the gate of the temple called the beautiful gate, there was a paralyzed beggar. As Peter and John passed, he stretched out his hand to ask for some money. The apostles stood, looked straight into his eyes and said: "Neither silver nor gold, we do not have, but what we have, we give you. In the name of Jesus Christ: Get up and go. It happened immediately as they prayed. The man sang and danced with joy and went into the Temple with them. Curiously, the people gathered around them to hear what had happened. This is the context of Peter’s proclamation and testimony about Jesus and his resurrection from the dead (Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19).

Peter minces no word in stressing that both the leaders and the people acted out of ignorance when the handed over Jesus to be condemned to death, when the chose a murderer Barabbas instead of Jesus. Jesus confirmed this when he said, "Father forgive them because they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). Pride and prejudice made them blind. But thanks be to God In the name of Jesus everything is restored (Acts 3: 6). Notwithstanding the resistance to Jesus, many became his disciples. No true Christian can have any doubt about the resurrection of Jesus. The leaders did everything to silence the message of truth. There are always people who do not accept any evidence no matter how compelling it is. Some day we shall leave this world and meet the Lord face to face. We need to place our hope in the promise of the Scripture, that we will be as He, Jesus our Resurrection. We can feel this in our hearts. The resurrection of Christ demonstrates that every historical situation, however tragic it may seem, can be a birth process. Love has the power to take advantage of everything, transforming everything into love. One way to show our joy and gratitude for the gift of faith is to share it with others.

The Evangelist John writes in his first letter that we should not sin (1 John 2: 1-5a). He had the Gnostics in mind who claimed to know and have special knowledge of Christ yet at the same time break the law of God daily in their lives. Do we not have a similar situation today in our world and among Christians? We have people who receive the Holy Communion Sunday after Sunday, they no longer confess, they live in concubinage, some do not believe in the real presence of Jesus in the holy sacrament of the altar, others live in sinful relationships, some hate other peoples, look down on others and some also take other’s property, and steal the common resources and do not see anything wrong with that. In the name of profession, business, musician, politician, artists, journalist, human right fighter, some live and promote ways that glorify Satan and his agents while maintain that they believe in God and are Christians.

Jesus is the one who intercedes for us before the Father. Jesus reconciles our sins. Only by keeping God's command can we say that we know him and love him. The truth does not exist in those who do not keep his commandments. Therefore, truth gives birth to love. John reminds us that as humans we are inclined to sin and often sin. This is a lack in our human nature. Even though they claim special knowledge about Christianity, they do not know Christ. True knowledge brings love and obedience. Johannes believes that even the best of people can sin. Jesus search for sinners to heal and restore them. He was patient with all-he forgave all sins- Peter who denied him, the apostles who abandoned him, the soldiers who crucified him. We have a God who forgives and has left us the sacrament of Reconciliation, the sacrament of Mercy.

The two disciples on their way to Emmaus points to a disappointed group. For these, Jesus' crucifixion was the end of everything. They could not believe the women who came and informed them that Jesus had arisen. They thought it was just gossip. They thought Jesus was gone. Therefore, they decided to return to their hometown. It is striking that they do not recognize him. They receive the gift of faith not to keep it for themselves but to testify about it. Certainly, there was doubt, the despair that prevailed in Jerusalem among the apostles and disciples which led to these two leaving for their town. Basically, they had not had a personal encounter with Christ stating that he was with them for almost three years, taught, performed incredible wonders, ate, danced and lived among them. They have lost hope. What did they really seek from Jesus? Great things may be happening around us and yet we fail to notice. We do not see it because we are blinded and cannot recognize. We can have the best of parents, siblings, husbands, wives or friends and yet not discover it. Absalom could not see how great his father David was. Judas Iscariot could not see that he ate and drank with God. Jesus tries to teach them that they should not have left because everything happened as planned by God.

Jesus seeks us and meets us on the different paths of life, but he does not stay with us except we ask. "Stay with us," the disciples pray. We seek God, but he has sought us first. We get the impression that Jesus would spend the night with them. Therefore, we can ask why he disappears when they recognized him after the breaking of the bread. Here we can find that every person who meets Jesus is faced with a choice to ask him to stay or let him go although he opens the way of life for this individual. It is astonishing that the disciples left Jerusalem just under the circumstances that surrounded Jesus, their master. Why could they not wait to see how the whole event and rumours of Jesus' resurrection would play out? Perhaps Jesus refers to this when he says to them, "Do you understand so little," are you so slow to believe in what the prophets have said? "After recognizing Jesus, they immediately broke up and returned to Jerusalem. With them, we see that a real encounter with Jesus does not leave anyone untouched.

The revelation of Jesus to His disciples shows His unique being, He is true God and true human. In Him, the only God is personally present. I and the Father are one, he says. He who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14: 9). To correctly understand this, we must in particular remind us of the way in which Jesus comes to them and makes himself known. As we read how the four evangelists narrates Jesus' resurrection, each reader cannot fail to observe the differences between the stories. In Matthew only, we read how the resurrected lord appears to the women and the empty grave and for the eleven of Galilee. While in Luke, it is the Jerusalemite tradition that is told. John tells how the resurrected manifests himself in both Jerusalem and Galilee. It must be noted that none of the evangelists narrates the resurrection itself. The divine mystery is something that cannot be described or expressed by human experience.

How shall we imagine the appearances of the resurrected Jesus; He who does not return to ordinary human life but has transitioned to a new form of human existence? The risen Lord appears in the Gospels as a human being like other humans. The revelation of Jesus to the disciples resembles a Theophany in the manner of the Old Testament, which overwhelms us when we are in God's immediate presence. He walks with the disciples on their way to Emmaus, lets Tomas touch his wounds, takes a piece of fish to eat to show that he really lives. At the same time, in these stories, he is more than a person who has returned from death. It is striking that the disciples do not recognize the risen Lord at the lake of Gennesaret (John 21: 4). It was only when Jesus had said that they should cast their net into deep waters, that John recognized him. (John 21: 7). It was also a knowledge from within. Even after the catching of fish, there was still a feeling of being strangers. None of them dared ask him who he was, they understood that he was the Lord "(John 21:12). They did not know this by the observation of Jesus’ physical appearance.

Jesus comes through closed doors and suddenly stands in their midst. Similarly, he suddenly disappears. He is completely bodily and yet he is not bound by the laws of time and space. On the one hand, the Lord appears to be a human being, on the other hand, he is outside the laws of material life. In his book, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict compares the appearances in the Gospel with the Old Testament Theophany, theophany before Abraham at Mamre's Lund (Gen. 18: 1-33), three men visit Abraham, yet Abraham knows in his heart that it is the Lord who wants to be a guest with him, and the story of when Joshua suddenly sees a man with a drawn sword in his hand (Jos 5: 13ff); Gideon (Jud. 6: 11-24) and Simson (Jud. 13), the pope uses to highlight the similarities of both types of meetings. What is new is that Jesus is truly human. In each appearance, we have opportunity to have our eyes opened to recognize Jesus. For us believers, it should be easier than for the disciples of Emmaus. In the Eucharist, Christ is present and waiting for us. In the Eucharist we meet his divine and human dignity. There is no other way to make this a reality for ourselves than believing. Jesus comes suddenly and suddenly disappears like at the end of the meeting at Emmaus.

Pope Benedict observes that the encounter with the risen Lord is no internal incidents or mysterious experiences-they are truly meetings with the living, Jesus is not a "spirit" but has flesh and bone (Luke 24: 36-43). The story of the spiritist in En-Dor, which on Saul's behalf invokes Samuel's spirit, shows the difference between Jesus' appearances and spiritism (1 Sam 28: 7ff). Jesus does not come from the kingdom of the dead but from the world of the living. Before the disciples, Jesus eats a piece of of grilled fish. Chikezie Onuoha MSP

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