Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Little Something Extra...Third Sunday of Easter

Facing the Truth with Hope

In today's First Reading (Acts 3:13-15, 17-19), Peter is speaking to a crowd of Jews that had gathered in Solomon's Portico. Peter and John had just healed a crippled beggar by saying to him, “ the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” The man not only rose and walked; he jumped and leaped and praised God. And he attracted a lot of attention.

Now the crowd is surrounding Peter and John, trying to figure out what has happened. Peter recognizes the opportunity to preach the Gospel to these people and to invite them to claim their share in the Kingdom of Heaven.

But first they have to face a harsh truth. Peter lays it out clearly without sugar-coating anything. Listen again to what he tells the crowd:

[God] 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. 

These are strong words, words that make people flinch, words that make consciences squirm. By the time Peter finishes these three sentences, his listeners are probably very uncomfortable, for Peter has held up their sins before them and forced them to look at what they have done and acknowledge the way they turned their back on God. Peter has make them face the truth. 

But he doesn't stop there. Now that the people understand the significance of what they have done, Peter goes on to give them hope. He assures them that he knows they acted out of ignorance and that God has brought great good out of the evil of Jesus' death. The Scriptures have been fulfilled. Jesus is risen and glorified. There is hope, even for those who put to death the Author of life.

Peter tells the crowd what they must do next: Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.

Peter promises God's forgiveness. God does not want to hold His children's sins against them. He wants to heal them and love them and poor His blessings out upon them. All they need to do is repent and change their hearts, turning back to God and embracing Him with love. Then God will wipe away their sins and give them refreshment and relief in His presence (see Acts 3:20).

We all need to face the truth of our sins. We must look at what we have done in all its ugliness and understand the pain it has brought to God and those around us. But we must also have hope, for when we repent and turn back to God, He hurries to meet us with forgiveness and love that we might bask in the glow of His radiant face.

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