‘You killed the Author of life, whom God has raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses...’ — Acts 3:15

In the Gospel for this weekend, Jesus questions the disciples: “Why are you troubled and why do questions arise in your hearts?” These could be our feelings, too!

Fortunately, the readings give an answer to these questions, as they rejoice in the gifts God gives to us through Jesus’ death and resurrection, especially the gift of forgiveness. Indeed, these gifts will help us in our struggles. The readings also remind us that we are called to be bearers of these gifts to others.

In our first reading (Acts 3:13-15,17-19), we backtrack from the reading last week, as we hear part of St. Peter’s homily after a crippled man has been healed. It is rather like a history of the world in a few minutes. St. Peter recalls all the ways that God has shown His love and forgiveness over the centuries; culminating in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Peter is direct and blunt as he confronts those who called for Jesus’ execution, but then he offers hope and forgiveness. The invitation is also clear and direct: “Repent….Be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”

Psalm 4 uses many beautiful and hope-filled images to sing of all that God does for us. The Lord lets His face shine upon us; He hears us when we call to Him; He fills our hearts with gladness, and He is our peace and our security. These are true and much-needed gifts indeed, and ones that we celebrate especially during the season of Easter.

In the second reading, we once again hear a passage from what we have called St. John’s letter of love (1 Jn 2:1-5a). Last week, he reminded us of our vocation to be people who both accept and then reflect God’s love. This is what it means to be a “child” of God.

However, John is also a realist and offers hope and promise for the times when we fail to live up to this calling. If we fall, then we have an advocate in Jesus Christ, for He is the one who has come to take away our sins. Of course, we celebrate and use this gift when we make use of the sacrament of reconciliation.

In the Gospel passage (Lk 24:35-48), we come in just after the two disciples have returned to Jerusalem after the encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus. We can imagine their breathless excitement and then their surprise as Jesus appears again, even as they are speaking. In this further resurrection appearance, Jesus does several fundamental things:

•  First of all, He offers again that gift He gave on Easter morning: the gift of peace. For Christians, peace is a tranquility of heart that gives strength, courage and focus. However, the disciples felt anything but peace. In fact, they were terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. Perhaps with this in mind, Jesus shows them His wounds and invites them to touch His body. He is real and in the flesh; He is not some sort of resurrected spirit.
To bring home this point, He asks for something to eat. Once again, we are taught about the reality of Jesus’ bodily resurrection and that it was not, for example, just some sort of mind-change among the disciples. No, the Lord is truly risen…alleluia!

•  Jesus then does something vital: He opens their minds to understand the Scriptures. The two words used in the original language of the Scriptures in this passage for “open” and “understand” are strong and mean an all-encompassing, complete change.

What is more, this new gift of understanding is not just for the disciples’ own benefit. Now, the disciples will go out and proclaim the joy of the Gospel to all the world. We, too, have received this gift when we were baptized: It is called the gift of enlightenment. Hopefully, as we develop and mature, we also grow in that gift of understanding the Scriptures by reading them and reflecting upon them.

We know, too, that this gift is not meant to kept to ourselves. We are commanded to share this gift with others: to be disciples and to be disciple-makers.

As we prepare for the diocesan Eucharistic Congress, we can also make a strong connection between our readings this week and the Eucharist. The Eucharist also brings about the forgiveness of sins, as the words over the cup clearly state in the eucharistic prayers. It is the sacrament of hope and a sign of how God’s face shines upon us.

The Scriptures are read at Mass so as to lead us into a deeper understanding and reception of the Eucharist. The Eucharist gives us strength so that we, too, may “go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.”