Bible Reflection (14 April 2024)

3rd Sunday of Easter Year B

Acts 3:13-15,17-19
1 John 2:1-5
Luke 24:35-48

Guilt, healing and new hope.

Many of us carry guilt in our lives. We know Jesus’ death on the cross washes away our guilt. His resurrection brings us healing and gives us new hope. This sense of renewal and hope is none more accentuated than in the season of Easter. But how real is this to us really?

In the First Reading this week, recalling the people’s sin in crucifying Jesus, Peter reprimanded the crowd, “But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you”. (verse 14) So my brothers and sisters, let us ask ourselves, have I rejected goodness and righteousness in the same way? Through my rejection of goodness and righteousness, have I suffered guilt, the type that weighs heavily on my conscience through the years? Such guilt robs us of true joy and true peace. Indeed, we need the promise of healing and new hope that accompanies the Easter season. In the First Reading, Peter emphasised to the crowd that God is merciful and patient: “And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance” (verse 17). In the same vein, St John wrote in the Second Reading, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (verse 1-2)

The world teaches us to be self-reliant. “Do this and achieve this!” While this may be the driving force of an aspirational and meritocratic society, it is also one reason God’s mercy and healing touch do not feel real to us. For the wounds in our hearts, we cannot self-heal. We cannot offer ourselves mercy. It needs to be received. To receive this mercy, we need a docile heart to accept it. St Peter said the crowd, “Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out” (verse 19). A docile heart is one who truly knows God, not through lip services but one who knows God from the heart. It is only with such a heart that we may subsume our will under God’s and obey His Commandments. As St John wrote in the Second Reading, “Whoever says, ‘I have come to know him,’ but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist” (verse 4). This is the question the Scripture asks of us this week: Is my heart ready to acknowledge my failures? Is my heart ready to accept the forgiveness from Jesus? For until we do, we cannot heal from our past failures. My brother and sisters, let us reflect: What are my past failures that I need to heal from?

The theme of guilt and redemption continues in the Gospel his week. We read the story of how the Emmaus disciples, upon returning to the Apostle, bore witness to Jesus’ resurrection. It is interesting that on the road to Emmaus, the two disciples were so downcast that they did not recognise Jesus when our Lord appeared before them – not until the breaking of the bread. (Lk 24:30-31) Like many of us who are laden with past guilt, our hearts are closed from Jesus. The breaking of bread was a symbol of Jesus being broken for us. For the Emmaus disciples, it was not until they witnessed Jesus being broken for them that they recognised Jesus before them. It was not until then that they realised that Jesus was present before them. Isn’t this the case with us too? Laden with guilt of our past failures, we feel God is absent even though He was right in our midst. So, how can our senses be awakened to His presence? Like the Emmaus disciples, we need to witness His Passion and sacrifice. For without the cross, there can be no resurrection. Without living through the cross, we cannot experience the resurrection.

This was the case of the Apostles. In those early days, many were unsure whether Jesus has indeed resurrected. So, in the Gospel this week, to help them, Jesus appeared among them to remind them of His Passion: “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (verse 46-47). And in spite of their failures, Jesus offered them peace, as He said to the Apostles, “Peace be with you.” (verse 36) My dear friends, for our failures, let us too accept peace from Jesus. For only the peace of Jesus can drive out our shame.

This Easter season, let us reflect on His Passion and resurrection. Let us welcome the resurrected Jesus into our hearts. Let Him in, let Him heal us. Amen.