The Third Sunday of Easter – April 18th 2021.
Lectionary Readings: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Psalm 4:2-4,7,9; 1 John 2:1-5; Luke 24:35-48
Theme: God our hope
Luke’s speeches in Acts are carefully constructed to contain the main points of the teaching of the early Church about the risen Christ. Jesus is both “son” and “servant” (The Greek word means both). The title “servant” is an echo of the fourth Servant Song in Isaiah (52:13-53:12), which originally referred to the whole Jewish people, the servant of God in a pagan world, and the atoning power of their suffering in his history. It could be said that Jesus, in his own life, relives the whole redemptive history of Israel. The idea of a suffering Messiah was unknown to biblical and post-biblical Judaism. It is faith in the risen Christ which leads to a different understanding of scriptures, not the scriptures which of necessity lead to Christ. “Prince of life” is better translated as “leader towards life”, which describes the role of the risen Christ for those who “turn away” from their old ways and “turn towards God”. By doing this, we gain the forgiveness of which we all have need, a new life, which has broken into this world with the resurrection.
In the Epistle of John, we read of hope and forgiveness for all – the risen Christ is now the advocate with the Father, interceding for “the whole world”.
The response to Psalm 4, “lift up the light of your face on us, O LORD”, echoes the Priestly Blessing of Numbers 6:4: “May Eternal One bless you and keep you. May the Eternal One let God’s face shine on you be gracious to you. May the Eternal One uncover God’s face to you and bring you peace”. Every shabbat morning prayer in synagogue concludes with this beautiful blessing. Restful, restorative sleep, which is prayed for un this psalm, is a recurrent motif in the Psalms. It is a manifestation of the speaker’s trust in God’s protection, and the antithesis to the tormented “blank nights” without rest of which hob speaks.
Luke started his Gospel in Jerusalem and he wants to end it there, which is why he has transferred this resurrection story from Galilee to Jerusalem. The message is of the glory which Christ now possesses for eternity that is entrusted to the apostles. Their role is to be witnesses to as event which took place in history but which goes beyond it. It is impossible to understand it without faith, so the risen Christ awakens, confirms and strengthens the faith of the apostles, for the faith of all future believers will have to rest on their witness, supported by their new understanding of the scriptures between God and the whole of humanity.
The stress on the suffering of Christ in the readings from Luke/Acts and 1 John is also meant to help us understand that our own suffering has a meaning. Through suffering, we are transformed and prepared for the glory of our won resurrection. Easter humanity is genuine humanity, as opposed to humanity distorted and defaced by sin, decay and death.
Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965).
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Sr Margaret Shepherd nds, London, UK