Thursday in the Octave of Easter
Peter and John heal the crippled man. LDS photo library
Reading 1 ACTS 3:11-26
As the crippled man who had been cured clung to Peter and John,
all the people hurried in amazement toward them
in the portico called “Solomon’s Portico.”
When Peter saw this, he addressed the people,
“You children of Israel, why are you amazed at this,
and why do you look so intently at us
as if we had made him walk by our own power or piety?
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus
whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence,
when he had decided to release him.
You denied the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
The author of life you put to death,
but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.
And by faith in his name,
this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong,
and the faith that comes through it
has given him this perfect health,
in the presence of all of you.
Now I know, brothers and sisters,
that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did;
but God has thus brought to fulfillment
what he had announced beforehand
through the mouth of all the prophets,
that his Christ would suffer.
Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away,
and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment
and send you the Christ already appointed for you, Jesus,
whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration
of which God spoke through the mouth
of his holy prophets from of old.
For Moses said:A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you.
Everyone who does not listen to that prophet
will be cut off from the people. “Moreover, all the prophets who spoke,
from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days.
You are the children of the prophets
and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors
when he said to Abraham,
In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you
by turning each of you from your evil ways.”
Responsorial Psalm PS 8:2AB AND 5, 6-7, 8-9
R. (2ab) O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
O LORD, our Lord,
how glorious is your name over all the earth!
What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under his feet.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
All sheep and oxen,
yes, and the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fishes of the sea,
and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
Alleluia PS 118:24
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus Appears to the Disciples After the Resurrection by Imre Morocz
Gospel LK 24:35-48
The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way,
and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread.
While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.
He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”
Commentary on Acts 3:11-26 From Living Space
Immediately after the dramatic cure of the crippled beggar in the Temple, Peter takes the opportunity to address the crowds which had gathered round Peter, John and the healed beggar to explain the meaning of what they have just witnessed.
The scene takes place at “Solomon’s Portico”. This was a porch along the inner side of the wall enclosing the outer court, with rows of 27-foot high stone columns and a roof of cedar. So it was a roofed structure – somewhat similar to a Greek stoa. There was a common, but mistaken, belief that it dated back to Solomon’s time.
The message that Peter now gives the amazed crowd gathering around is similar to other addresses in the early Church: 1, an explanation of what is happening; 2, the Gospel of Jesus Christ – death, resurrection and glorification; 3, a call to repentance and change of life, symbolised by baptism.
First, Peter makes clear that the healing that has just taken place before their eyes is not by his own power or that of his companion, John. They are not to be gaped at as having supernatural powers. What has been done has been through the power of Jesus, who has been empowered by the God they all believe in, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
He is the one his hearers “handed over” to Pilate. Here again we have this “handing over”, a phrase which runs like a refrain through the Gospel. And him whom they handed over was the “Holy and Righteous One”, indicating Jesus’ special relationship to the Father and his sinlessness which are in stark contrast to the guilt of the murderous Barabbas.
Pilate was only too anxious to let Jesus go, being aware of his innocence, but he yielded to the demands of the crowd and yielded to their choice of a convicted murder, Barabbas. In a pregnant phrase – “the Author of life you put to death”. Barabbas had taken away life and is freed; Jesus will be the source of life by being condemned to death. As the sequence of the Easter Sunday Mass says: Dux vitae mortuus regnat vivus, which when literally translated means: “The Leader of life, having died, reigns alive.”
Peter and his companions are witnesses that Jesus was raised again. And it was in the name of this same Jesus that the poor beggar has been restored to health and mobility.
God has “glorified” his servant through his resurrection and ascension. The word “servant” is reminiscent of the songs of the suffering servant in Isaiah (and which we read early in Holy Week), especially Is 52:13-53:12. Jesus himself spoke of being a servant when he washed his disciples’ feet and when he said that he had come to serve and not be served. All of this did not quite fit the image of the kind of Messiah the Jews were expecting.
And it is by faith in this very Jesus that the crippled beggar, a character well known to the crowds who came regularly to the Temple, has been “made strong” again. “Faith…has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.”
Peter excuses his hearers (as Jesus himself did), saying they did not fully realise at the time what they were doing. Yet, the sufferings of the Christ had long been foretold by the prophets. The early Christians saw the sufferings and death of Jesus clearly indicated in Old Testament prophecies. The Jews, however, did not expect a suffering and dying Messiah – quite the opposite. They saw in Isaiah’s Servant Songs their own suffering as a people.
Now it is not too late for them to ‘repent’ (there is that metanoia, metanoia again), that is, radically to change their ways and thus have their sin taken away. To ‘repent’ is not just to express sorrow; it involves re-establishing one’s close relationship with God and submitting totally to his Way. The nearest English equivalent is ‘con-version’, a ‘turning round’, which means, of course, a ‘turning towards’.
Jesus, after all, is the prophet who was foretold by Moses, who, Peter tells the crowd, had said: “The Lord God will raise up a prophet like myself for you, from among your own brothers; you must listen to whatever he tells you.” This is a loose quotation from Deuteronomy (18:15). In fact, at the time of Jesus, some Jews expected a unique prophet to come in fulfilment of this text. So early Christianity applied this tradition and text to Jesus and used them especially where Christian teaching seemed to diverge from traditional Judaism.
And indeed, says Peter, every prophet from Samuel down predicted what is now taking place before their eyes. Samuel was one of the earliest of the prophets and the one who anointed David, Jesus’ ancestor, as king. So the Jews in his audience are the heirs of the prophets’ messages, they are the heirs to the covenant first made way back with Abraham: “in your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed”.
It is time now for the people to acknowledge this sacred covenant, made new through Jesus Christ, and they will do that by their accepting Jesus as their Saviour and abandoning their sinful ways to walk the Way of Jesus.
Exactly the same applies to us.
Comments Off on Thursday of week 1 of Easter – First Reading
Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
20 APRIL, 2017, Thursday within Easter Octave
FAITH IN THE RESURRECTION AS THE BASIS FOR HEALING MIRACLES
How did the early Church establish the truth of Jesus’ resurrection? Firstly, the reality of the Risen Lord is made manifest in a miracle of healing. St Peter made it clear that the healing of the crippled man was not “by our own power or holiness.” Rather, “it is the name of Jesus which, through our faith in it, has brought back the strength of this man whom you see here and who is well known to you. It is faith in that name that has restored this man to health, as you can all see.” The denial of any power on their part in the healing of the man means that the power came from somewhere. Only if the Lord were alive, could there be healing. Indeed, there are no healers except the Lord Himself who makes use of us as His instruments.
Consequently, the power to heal is dependent on whether we have faith in the Lord’s resurrection. If the Lord had healed during His earthly ministry, we should expect Him to continue the same works He did when He was on earth. In fact, we would expect Him to do more now because He is no longer limited by space and time. If the Risen Lord is the Jesus of Nazareth, then surely the Lord would want to continue His healing works. In fact, He had told the disciples earlier, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” (Jn 14:12-14)
This explains why the gospel insists on the reality of Jesus’ resurrection; that He has a body as opposed to being simply a pure spirit. The Lord said to them, “Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as if that was not sufficient, Jesus said to them, “’Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes.” Clearly, therefore, the resurrected Lord is the Jesus of Nazareth. Indeed, this was something beyond their imagination. “And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet. Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded.”
Having faith in the resurrection means to say that God is triumphant in the end. No one can hinder the plan of God. The resurrection of our Lord is His vindication. As St Peter said, “it is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, who has glorified his servant Jesus, the same Jesus you handed over and then disowned in the presence of Pilate, after Pilate had decided to release him. It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead, and to that fact we are the witnesses.” The raising of Jesus is the proof that Jesus is Lord and Saviour. Death could not imprison Him. With the resurrection, it means there is nothing the Lord cannot do for us.
What is necessary for us is to surrender our lives in faith to the Risen Lord. The question is whether we are willing to allow the Risen Lord to enter into our lives. Do we have the faith of the apostles who healed in the name of the Risen Lord? They were so sure of Jesus’ presence and assistance that they did not have any doubt that Jesus would heal the crippled man. Twice, they insisted on the necessity of faith. They said, “Through our faith in it, has brought back the strength of this man whom you see here and who is well known to you. It is faith in that name that has restored this man to health, as you can all see.” Faith therefore is the key to access the power of the Risen Lord and for Him to act in our lives. Without faith in His real presence, there can be no miracles in the Church or the sacraments.
Our faith in the Risen Lord is not just based on the testimony of the apostles but on the scriptures as well. The resurrection of our Lord, although a wholly other experience, yet it is not a total discontinuity with the faith of Israel. In truth, it is the fulfillment of the prophecies of old. This was what the Lord sought to explain and how the apostles justified the truth of the resurrection. Moses prophesied this event when he said, “The Lord God will raise up a prophet like myself for you, from among your own brothers; you must listen to whatever he tells you. The man who does not listen to that prophet is to be cut off from the people. In fact, all the prophets that have ever spoken, from Samuel onwards, have predicted these days.” Jesus in the gospel clarified the texts of the Old Testament as referring to Him. “’This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me, in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, has to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures.”
But with faith in Him, the Lord works marvelously in and through us. This is the act of God’s goodness; that He would make use of us weaklings to do His work. So like the psalmist, we can only rejoice and say, “How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth! What is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god; with glory and honour you crowned him, gave him power over the works of your hand, put all things under his feet.” God counts us worthy to be His instruments of healing and grace. Indeed, when I reflect on my own ministry, I feel completely unworthy and humbled at how God works in and through me. There have been many times when I was at a loss as to what to preach, or what to write, but the Lord inspired me again and again. There have been many situations when I felt so hopeless and helpless, but God showed Himself to be the Lord by coming to my rescue, again and again. He indeed is the Lord and the mighty one.
Thus, with faith in the resurrection, “in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.” Following the apostles, we must continue the work of healing which the Lord has begun. Healing does not need to be confined to physical healing but also the healing of emotions, the mind, the heart and the soul. That is why the proclamation of healing begins with repentance of our sins and the corollary experience of forgiveness. When we repent of our sins, we remove the causes of our misery, brokenness and bondages. By receiving forgiveness from the Lord, we are healed emotionally and spiritually. When we are liberated from fear, pride and ego, then we can be totally open to God’s full healing grace, which in turn will also affect our physical healing as well.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
Jesus teaches us to trust in God and remain at peace. All the way back to the Old Testament we see stories of men and women just like us learning to trust in God and stop flying into fits of anxiety, fear, anger and the like. The faith of the followers of Moses is tested over and over again. But when they need food, manna arrives. When they need to escape from the enemy, the sea is parted. They complain most of the way but God always “has their back” and prevents their most terrible imagined disasters.
Here, in today’s reading, Jesus Himself says “Why are you troubled?” and “Peace be with you.” In Monday’s readings, Mary Magdalene meets an angel who says, “Do not be afraid” and then sees someone she thinks is the gardener and he too says “Do not be afraid.”
Christians live in the faith that teaches peace — and Jesus is the teacher. When we are filled with anxiety, fear, anger and the more destructive emotions — we need to take a time out to remember that God is always with us — and His Son constantly reminds us “Do not be afraid.”
We have come to believe that “Do not be afraid” is one of the most often repeated messages in the Bible.
If we live in a constant state of fear, we pray that someone will remind us: “You of so little faith….”
The antidote to fear is faith.
What is the secret of letting go? Christ saw everything in the light of God’s plan. “So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning with Jerusalem.” St Peter said the same thing, “Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing; this was the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that his Christ would suffer.” He trusted in the Father’s will. He saw the big picture. He knew that there was nothing that was outside the Father’s will.
Easter Is Not The End Point of Holy Week, But The Beginning a Deeper Understanding of Our Spiritual Life Leading Us Into Eternity
Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
31 MARCH 2016, Thursday Within Easter Octave
ENCOUNTERING, SHARING AND ANNOUNCING THE GOOD NEWS
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 3:11-26; LK 24:35-48 ]What does the work of evangelization entail? Is it an attempt to propagate an ideology? Is it a matter of skills, techniques and strategizing? Is it a means to indoctrinate people or to proselytize? Is it a system of thoughts that we have arranged logically so that we can convince people of what we believe and the values we subscribe to?Nay, the work of evangelization springs primarily from a personal encounter with the Risen Lord. This is the beginning and the pre-requisite of evangelization. This is what we read in the scripture readings. The disciples encountered the Risen Lord on the way to Emmaus during the sharing of scriptures and the breaking of bread. Then we are told how the Lord appeared to them showing them His hands and feet. He even ate a piece of grilled fish before their eyes, proving that He was no ghost, nor a hallucination on the part of the disciples, not a vision but truly His resurrected body. The consequence of such an encounter brings joy, peace and hope. “Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded.”
After so great an encounter, the natural response is to share the Good News of the Risen Lord. In fact, the sure sign that you have had a personal encounter with the Risen Lord is your desire to share this encounter with others. The deeper the encounter, the greater is the enthusiasm to share with others about this experience. This is done without asking, without coercion and without obligation. Indeed, we know that those who have encountered the Risen Lord, like the women of Jerusalem, the disciples and apostles of Jesus, could not stop sharing their amazing encounter with the Risen Lord. Good News must be shared as those who receive them cannot contain them in their hearts.
Indeed, the great thing about being a Christian is that we have a group of fellow Christians whom we can share our experiences with. Every religious experience needs to be authenticated and strengthened. As Christians, we are not alone in our encounter with the Lord. When we start sharing our experiences, it is wonderful to have other Christians identify with us. Such fellowship among Christians strengthens faith and reinforces the truth of the resurrection encounter. This was what happened when the disciples at Emmaus shared with the apostles. As they recounted their story, they must have been so reassured to know that what they saw was confirmed by the apostles as well.
It is also important that in Christian sharing of their encounters with the Lord, His presence is manifested. We read how when they were sharing their story, the Lord appeared to them in their midst. “They were still talking about all this when Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost.” Very often, in the resurrection narratives, the Risen Lord is portrayed as coming from nowhere and then after manifesting Himself, disappeared to nowhere. He is also portrayed as passing through walls and doors; making Himself visible and invisible as He wishes. What is the lesson that the evangelist wants to share with us? Simply this, that whenever Christians gather together to share their faith with each other, the Lord is present always in their midst even when they do not see them with their eyes. In sharing their faith stories, the Lord will open their eyes, touch their hearts and move them to feel the reality of His presence among them. That was why the Lord told the disciples that whenever two or three are gathered together, He is among them. (Mt 18:20) Hence, we see the importance of faith-sharing among Christians. It is the failure to share our faith stories among ourselves that we begin to feel alone in our relationship with the Lord and very soon, we begin to doubt whether He is real at all. That was why the Lord said, “Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts?”
Through faith sharing too, we come to understand deeper our experience by turning to the scriptures. Again, to help the disciples ground their encounter; the Risen Lord referred them to the scriptures that foretold His coming and His paschal mystery. He opened their minds to understand the scriptures. Besides sharing faith stories, we must share and study the scriptures together if we are to grow in faith in the Risen Lord and deepen His presence in our midst because the Lord comes to us not just when we gather together but when we search the scriptures together in faith and love.
Arising from this deepening encounter and confirmation of the reality of the presence of the Risen Lord, the next natural development is to announce the Kergyma, that is, the Good News of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. This is what we read in the first reading when St Peter addressed the people who came “running towards Peter and John in great excitement, to the Portico of Solomon, as it is called, where the man was still clinging to them.” In obedience to our Lord’s command to announce the forgiveness of sins in His name, St Peter took the occasion of the miracle to make clear to them that the healing of the paralyzed man was not their work but that of the man, Jesus, whom they handed over to be crucified. “It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead, and to that fact we are the witnesses; and it is the name of Jesus which, through our faith in it, has brought back the strength of this man whom you see here and who is well known to you. It is faith in that name that has restored this man to health, as you can all see.”
It is significant that the preaching of the Good News was not a philosophical discourse on some doctrines or some lofty thoughts like Greek philosophy but it was about a miracle that happened before their very eyes. This is why the Church today cannot dispense with miracles and works of mercy in announcing the Good News, otherwise she has no power in her preaching because there is no Good News to show. Proclamation of the gospel in words without deeds will be reducible to mere propaganda of an ideology. As a consequence of a personal and direct preaching of the Risen Lord that they knew, the apostles could convict the hearts of their listeners. Effective proclamation of the gospel demands both the event and the interpretation of the event through the scriptures.
Yet, in laying the guilt upon them, St Peter was no anti-Semitist. He acknowledged their ignorance and did not lay blame on them. He justified them, saying, “Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing, this was the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that Christ would suffer.” What is important is not what happened in the past, because this was all God’s plan.
Instead of regretting our past mistakes, what is more important is that we humbly recognize our ignorance and repent, so that we can also receive the author of life. St Peter urged them, “Now you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, and so that the Lord may send the time of comfort. Then he will send you the Christ he has predestined, that is Jesus, whom heaven must keep till the universal restoration comes which God proclaimed, speaking through his holy prophets.” Truly, the goal of proclamation is to bring about a change of hearts.
The gospel is preached not to condemn or make people feel guilty but to enlighten them in their ignorance and failures so that they could repent and receive the fullness of life. That was why St Peter reminded them of how Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Moses. This is what God desires for us all, as St Peter said, “You are the heirs of the prophets, the heirs of the covenant God made with our ancestors when he told Abraham: in your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed. It was for you in the first place that God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”
Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
Commentary on Luke 24:35-48 from Living Space
We pick up from yesterday’s story of the disciples going to Emmaus. Back in Jerusalem they share their experience of the risen Jesus with their comrades who have also heard that Jesus has appeared to Simon Peter.
Suddenly Jesus himself appears in their midst. The fact that he comes suddenly, although the doors were locked, indicates that his presence is now of a different kind.
He wishes them peace. It is the ordinary Jewish greeting of ‘Shalom’ but one which has special meaning in this Easter context. Before his Passion Jesus had told his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world do I give it to you…” (John 14:27). The peace of the Risen Jesus is fully of messianic blessings.
In spite of what they had heard, they are terrified and think they are seeing a ghost. “What are you afraid of?” Jesus asks them. He shows them his pierced hands and feet. The Greeks mocked at the idea of bodily resurrection but Luke emphasises the physical reality of Christ’s risen body, that is, the wholeness of the person of the risen Jesus.
He invites them to come and touch him. Ghosts do not have flesh and bones. As he shows them the wounds in his hands and feet their fear turns to a mixture of joy and utter astonishment. They can’t believe their eyes. Jesus has to ask them to give him something to eat. Ghosts don’t eat and Jesus is no ghost, he is no disembodied soul. There is also an emphasis that death is not an escape from the body but that the whole person goes into the next life.
Jesus then goes on to explain, as he did with the Emmaus disciples, how all that had happened to him was fully in harmony with and the fulfilment of the Law, the prophets and psalms. Mentioning the three constituent parts of the Old Testament Jesus indicates that the Messiah was foretold through the whole of the Hebrew scriptures.
And out of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection comes the mission to proclaim reconciliation with God through Jesus to the whole word. “You are witnesses to this.” It is their mission to carry on the establishment of the Kingdom throughout the world. Or, as it is put here, “that repentance, for the forgiveness of sin, would be preached in the [Messiah’s] name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem”.
The Kingdom is being realised when people go through that process of radical conversion and change of life (‘repentance’ metanoia) which brings about a deep reconciliation of each one with God, with all those around them and with themselves, when all divisions fall away, when fear and hostility are replaced with a caring love for each other.
If we have not yet done so, let us become part of that great enterprise today.