Forgive Each Other
In his homily for 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year B, Father Hanly tells us the only thing that we must do is forgive each other — which is the hardest thing in the world.
First Reading: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9
Second Reading: First John 2:1-5
Gospel: Luke 24:35-48
This is the Third Sunday of Easter, quite different from the Sundays that led up to, during Lent and right up to his Passion and his death, and now we have Jesus risen from the dead and we get the first impression of the disciples.
Where is God?
That’s the first question that arises: Where is God?
There’s an old rabbinical story where the Rabbi says to the young people, he says to these children, he says “My dear children, where is God? Where is God?”
And like we all used to do when we were studying our Scripture, we would say, “God is everywhere. God is everywhere.”
And the Rabbi would say to them, “No, He’s not.”
And they’d say, “But Rabbi, we know God is everywhere. God is everywhere.”
And then the Rabbi would look at them and he’d say, “Remember this, children, God is only where He is allowed to be.”
Great answer. Because, yes, God is everywhere, but unless He is loved and cared for and part of our lives, that we have basically a relationship, God is nowhere.
This might strike us as being a little harsh, but it’s not. Because when God became man, He came not as something out of the sky. He became man so that He might be related to us, not only in love and in caring, but in body and in soul and in his whole life.
And so it is that when we sit here in this church today, we do not worship an unknown quantity that is some place up in the sky. We have been chosen and we are one with Jesus, one with the Resurrected Lord, and we, too, share in the many difficulties that the original apostles had when he suddenly appeared.
According to St Luke…
You know, St Luke is the only non-Jew in all the Scriptures, the only one who ever wrote a line in all the Scriptures that was not of the Jewish people. St Luke was St Paul’s apostle and St Luke gave us perhaps the most beautiful book in the New Testament.
So now St Luke writes to us today and he gives us exactly the feeling of what it was like on that first day after the Resurrection.
The first thing he says to us is that the two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus, as you know, a stranger came to them and walked with them.
And it was Jesus, the Risen Lord, but they didn’t understand.
And they talked about this and they talked about his death, and they talked about some people saying he rose from the dead. And, finally, they looked at him and he said to them, “Well, what happened in Jerusalem?”
And they said to him, “Are you the only one in all of Jerusalem that doesn’t know that we had a Messiah, we thought he was a Messiah, and he was taken out and he was crucified?”
And then, of course, the stranger spoke of the Scriptures. And he led them into the Scriptures that they might learn from the Scriptures that this is the way it had to be. The Messiah had to suffer, had to die in order to be raised (inaudible) by his Father and to bring eternal peace and joy to all peoples.
And, of course, how would they recognise him?
Not from what he was talking about.
They recognised him when they stopped in at the inn and they invited him to a meal and he took the bread and broke it and gave it to them. He didn’t have to say, “This is my body.”
The moment that that happened, he disappeared.
And the two rushed back to Jerusalem and rushed back and said to the disciples, “We have been visited by God Himself. Jesus has risen from the dead.”
In today’s Gospel, Luke begins to talk about the first impression of the followers of Jesus when the two disciples ran back to the room where they were all hiding out for fear that they, too, would be crucified, as their Lord and Master Jesus was.
And when they heard the two men speaking, that they had seen the Lord, they didn’t know what to do. They had heard it, yes, but it was only a saying.
Did they believe it?
They didn’t know what to believe.
And then suddenly he was there. Jesus was in the midst of them.
And the first thing he said to them was, “Peace.”
Now peace is something we constantly say to each other. We say peace, and go in peace, and this peace and that peace. And what we mean is what the condition that the heart will become full of peaceful.
But this is not what Jesus…
What Jesus says, “Peace is with you.” He means that God Himself, God Himself has come. And it is God, the presence of God Himself, is the peace that he speaks of.
And, of course, then they are shocked into an understanding that the whole world has changed.
The presence of Jesus is very hard for them to accept. Because they saw him nailed to a cross, beaten and in terrible condition. And they saw him buried in the ground, in the grave. And they saw all this and they couldn’t understand.
They just were troubled, terribly troubled.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
“Haven’t you read the Old Testament? Haven’t you read the Scriptures? In the Scriptures, it said the Messiah must suffer, the Messiah must die, the Messiah will rise again.”
And then they began to believe that perhaps everything that they had felt had died actually came back to life again.
So they became full of joy but also full of confusion. And they were amazed at what was happening to them.
And then Jesus was trying to convince them that he is the same Jesus. He’s not a ghost. He’s not an apparition. He’s not something that fell from the sky. He is the Jesus who walked with them, who talked with them, who lived with them, who suffered with them, who laughed with them. He was the same, the exact same Jesus.
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.
almost to say, “Do you think ghosts come for dinner or ghosts share in these sort of things? Indeed, it is me and I am now with you.”
“Peace,” he says again. “Peace be with you. I am with you. God is with you, never to leave you, never to desert you, always to be with you. And all you have to do is have faith.”
And that is what takes place.
“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,”
And this is the final part of this marvellous day.
He was telling them that now they, in turn, have an obligation, not to sit up saying their prayers in the upper room, frightened, afraid that they will not be accepted, they must go out to the whole world.
And what are they to bring to the whole world – a sign of victory, a sign of wonder, all of these things?
No, the one thing they are told, “You must go out and tell the people all is forgiven.”
All is forgiven. All is forgiven; nothing is held back. No nation, no people, no one who feels that they have walked a crooked way and a disastrous turn of events has turned them into something else, they are to stop and hear the words of God Himself: “All is forgiven.”
And so it is that we who are gathered here today have only one obligation. Only one obligation.
We’re not to do wonders, we’re not to convince people, we’re not to give wonderful sermons and make sure that they all follow us in this wonderful kind of new world. It’s not that at all.
The only thing that we must do is forgive each other, which is the hardest thing in the world.
We must forgive each other. Because if you do not forgive, you will never feel the presence of the real Lord. You will feel something that you wish was happening or something that you think might be possible, but it’s only when you forgive with the forgiveness of God, you recreate a sad and sorrowful world.
And it is a world full of sorrow and sadness. It is a world full of fears. We must discover for ourselves that Jesus is not afraid to lead us through fearful situations. He is not afraid to face his own sorrows and pain that we, too, might be able to overcome the sorrows in our own life.
Oscar Wilde has this wonderful saying. You all know Oscar Wilde, the great poet, the great playwright. And he was put in jail for a number of years. And when he was released said he knew what it meant to be filled with sorrow. But he went to the man of sorrow. It was Jesus.
When he came to see his disciples, he didn’t show them victory signs, he showed them the nail prints in his hands and the torn side from the sword and the nail prints in his feet. And he had become the man of sorrow, one who knows the pain and agony.
And this is what Oscar Wilde said: “Of course, how else but through a broken heart can Christ Jesus enter in?”
How else but through a broken heart can Jesus Christ enter into our lives, because indeed the whole notion of Salvation is: through sorrow and pain, we reach God’s love. And we reach it because God Himself took all our sorrows into Himself and placed them in the hands of His Son who died for them on the cross.
And so today we celebrate something more than a victory: we celebrate the revelation of God as the man of sorrows who has come to wipe away every tear, when we give him only one thing. And that is compassion for our brothers and sisters, and healing for the pain and sorrow in the world.
And when we walk this walk, then we know that indeed we are worthy to be called followers of Christ, Christians in a world that awaits the healing and saving of everyone.