Third Sunday of Easter (B)
After the Resurrection, Peter urged the people and their leaders: “Repent…. and be converted, that your sins may be wiped out” (Acts 3:19). Before Jesus started His public ministry, John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mk 1:4). Jesus, at the start of His ministry, called out: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15). And this is the Church’s constant and universal call to all: repent, believe, and be converted.
A priest told this story: a painter used to thin his paint with some paint thinner so that his painting work would go far and more economical on his part. One day he got a job for his lowest bid for a church. Towards the end of his work, while he was standing on the scaffold, rains came and thunder roared. He fell, and saw that the paint was coming off the walls. In fear and trembling he knelt and prayed: O God, forgive me. From the skies he heard these words: repaint, repaint, and thin no more!
So, who needs conversion?
1. The disciples of Jesus needed conversion. They had to transform their down-heartedness and fear of the Jews into the courage in the way of life that Jesus was leading them: obedience to His commands and Spirit-filled preaching of the Gospel. The disciples needed the confidence in Jesus so that they could live and preach the Gospel faithfully as authentic witnesses to His life, death and resurrection.
2. The Jews needed conversion. As Peter said, they acted out of ignorance, though their guilt was just as condescending and as sinful as their leaders’ by preferring the release of a murderer and killing the author of life. Now they must repent and turn to God, so that their sins would be wiped out (cf. Acts 3:19). They needed that faith and conversion to realize that they were part of the promised salvation. But they missed the Messiah when He came and they crucified Him in exchange for a murderer.
3. We need conversion. To be Christian means to be converted to Christ, and to walk in His ways. In his first letter, St. John says, “Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 Jn 2:4). It is, therefore, not enough to believe; it is necessary to combine works with faith. Good works make faith in Jesus more convincing.
Conversion should have a permanent quality and should be sustained permanently with the faith in the Resurrection of Jesus. Without this conviction, our faith is uncertain. Sin, any sin, big or small, venial or grave, is a rejection of the Holy and Righteous One and a crucifixion of the author of Life. Sin breaks that bond (with God) that has to be permanent. Sin raises us up to turn against Jesus who has defeated sin on the cross and has risen from the dead. When the devil overtakes us and we submit to him, we again cry out for the release of Barrabas in our hearts, instead of asking for the Author of Life. Sin makes of us ungrateful children, and liars, who do not keep the commandments of God. We need the constancy in faith and trust in Jesus. How can we live with sin when we have already died to it and we have risen with Christ particularly in the Sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation and the Eucharist? However, St. John says, “if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins” (1 Jn 2:1-2).
God does not forsake us; we just have to trust Him. Just like the Apostles, we are troubled about many things of the world. There are many questions that arise in our hearts. In many instances, it seems that in our relationships, we see ghosts. But Jesus greets us with His peace. It is not a situation that can be pacified with money, nor a condition that can be rectified by power, nor a relationship that can be worked out with influence. It is the peace that comes from genuine obedience to the commands of God and from an honest relationship with God in prayer and in works of mercy for others. It is also the peace that emanates from an authentic relationships and participation in the life of the Church, especially in the celebration of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. This peace is Jesus Himself.
Let us then celebrate this Eucharist as His people with open minds to understand the Scriptures; and as His people, whose sins are forgiven, let us be His courageous witnesses to the ends of the world.