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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Reflection 2020-04-16 Thursday of the Octave of Easter

Acts 3:11-26; Psalm 8; Luke 24:35-48
The readings today continue from yesterday. The First Reading presents another sermon of Peter after the man who was lame from birth was healed. The Gospel shows how Jesus appeared to the eleven as the two disciples from Emmaus told them they saw Jesus. There is this sense of joy and amazement and Luke describes it: In their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering. Things seem too good to be true, because what was impossible just happened, in the case of Peter and John, a lame man was healed and in the case of Jesus, he died and he now appears in flesh and blood. He even tells the disciples to touch him and to further prove he is resurrected, with a body, he asks for food to eat.
The Psalm expresses this amazement at what has happened when it says O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! When things like these happen, the only response is to praise God.
The Gospel continues to tell us Jesus opened their minds to understand the scriptures. Then Jesus explains that Scripture should be interpreted to show the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead. At that time, many were expecting a different Messiah based on THEIR interpretation of Scripture, but Jesus gave to the Apostles the right interpretation of Scripture. Included in this interpretation is the preaching that repentance and forgiveness of sins is in his name! Preaching of the Gospel is not talking of doing good works. It is not about being nice to people. Preaching of the Gospel is about repentance AND forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus.
Preaching that does not proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus misleads people to think there is no need to change their way of life, to turn their hearts to Jesus. A preacher who does not proclaim Jesus and the power of his name, who tells us our lives will improve, that we will get rich, or we will not have problems when we accept Jesus, is a false prophet. A preacher who tells us to do good so we can go to heaven, is a false prophet. Jesus tells us the Messiah has to suffer and rise from the dead, that we are to preach the necessity of suffering, of dying to ourselves so he can raise us through the suffering and dying. This is done through repentance and allowing God to forgive our sins.
This is what Peter preached in the First Reading. He tells the people to repent and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, so that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is Jesus. Many people today are rightfully worried about this lockdown. Many have lost their jobs or loved ones. Many of our frontliners are stressed out and burnt out. This is very natural. Yet Peter said the time of refreshing comes from the presence of the Lord, when we repent and turn to God, SO THAT OUR SINS MAY BE WIPED OUT. We will never have peace if we are living in sin, because peace comes when we are reconciled with God! When we live in sin, we reject God and when we do so, we cannot expect God to help us because God respects our decision and he leaves. When he leaves, he lifts his protection from us and this is when all hell breaks lose, literally. We are left to defend ourselves from the forces of hell when we live in sin.
If we want to find peace, we need to be reconciled with God. Peace is not the absence of conflict or suffering or turmoil. It is confidence in the presence of God, who is with us in the midst of our sufferings. This is only possible when we repent AND turn to him, as Peter says, so that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, Jesus. We have peace ONLY in Jesus.
If you are worried or weary, if you are tired and searching for peace, the only way is to reject sin and allow God to forgive you and heal you. Your sufferings may continue. Your miseries will continue, but the difference is God will be with you, to see you through. This is what he wants to do. Allow him to do so.
Lord, I come to you, admitting my sin. I am overwhelmed by guilt, by shame, by my sin. Here I am, I reject sin and I accept your forgiveness. Lead me to you O Lord and I allow you to heal me. Give me peace Lord Jesus.

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