Sunday, 26 April 2020 : Third Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the third in the season of Easter, as we enter deeper into the glorious season of Easter, we are brought to focus our attention once again on Christ, our Risen Lord and Saviour. From our first reading passage today, we heard of the testimony of the faith by St. Peter the Apostle, who proclaimed courageously about the Lord Jesus before the assembled people in Jerusalem on the celebration of Pentecost. Then we heard of the same St. Peter reminding us in the Epistle he wrote, part of which is our second reading today, of God’s love and all He had done to save us. And lastly, from the Gospel we heard of the story of the encounter between the Resurrected Christ with two of His disciples who were on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus.

In our first reading today we heard St. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking before the many people gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of the Pentecost that takes place fifty days after the Passover. There were many people from various origins and places, many of them Jews who had been scattered across the world, and many among them had been in Jerusalem earlier for the Passover and had witnessed all that happened in the Passion, suffering and the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus.

They have all seen how this great Man and Teacher of the faith came to Jerusalem, welcomed by many of the people, some of whom were definitely also there before St. Peter as he spoke about this same Jesus. St. Peter spoke of how the Lord had been betrayed and handed over to be killed by the Romans, given the burden of the Cross and the massive suffering He had to endure, that He suffered before many people who saw His Passion and how He suffered and died on the Cross. Many saw Him dead there on the Cross at Calvary.

But St. Peter and the other Apostles stood up and proclaimed their faith in the Resurrected Christ, the same Christ Who had died on the Cross did not remain dead and in the tomb, but He had risen from the dead and showed Himself to the Apostles themselves and to some other people. There were in fact quite a few people who had witnessed the Risen Lord appearing in the flesh before all of them. And this included the two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus as described earlier.

As the two disciples had shown us, many of these people may have witnessed or heard about the resurrection of the Lord, and yet in their hearts and minds, they were still filled with doubts, fears and uncertainties. They could not bring it to bear to believe that the Lord had overcome their greatest enemy, that is death. Death has always been something that everyone who have lived feared, from the very beginning since death is the end of our life and worldly existence as we know it.

Many of us have also feared death because it means separation from all that we have known and loved, and we certainly do not like this at all. Yet, at the same time, we are all resigned to having death as our fate, as we know that death is a certainty to all of us, and people from time to time die even at the most unexpected time and circumstances, even those who were healthy, young and in the prime of their years. Many tried to extend their lives and to keep themselves living and young, but every single efforts had failed and none of us could stop death even if we really wanted to.

That is why so many were skeptical that the Lord had indeed risen from the dead, and this, coupled with the efforts from the Sanhedrin to hide the facts by spreading the alternative story that the disciples had stolen the Body of Jesus from His tomb made it truly challenging for many at the time to believe in the Resurrection fully, and even many of those who had witnessed the Risen Lord or heard about Him had their doubts and had not yet fully believed in this truth.

This was where then the Holy Spirit of God came upon the Apostles on Pentecost and gave them all the courage and the strength to believe and to proclaim with great zeal and dedication, the truth of the Resurrection and the Lord’s salvation which had come through the suffering and the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, which had been extended to all the people and everyone, the forgiveness of our many sins and faults, and the promise of reconciliation and new life.

The Lord had saved us all through His death, but many of us remained in the fear of death because we do not yet have that fullness of faith in Him. We still look at other, alternative sources of comfort in our world rather than putting our trust in God. And this is why today all of us are being reminded that in God is our sure salvation and hope, and if we put our trust in Him, we shall never be disappointed. God will be with His faithful ones, and He will provide for all those who trust in Him.

In our second reading, this is what St. Peter had also written on, reminding the faithful that God, our loving Father has given us such a wonderful gift and Saviour in His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, that He has brought us a new hope and a new life by the suffering and death of Christ, the Paschal Lamb, Lamb of God Who had sacrificed Himself and put forth His own Precious Body and poured His own Precious Blood for our sake. By His Blood we have been cleansed and absolved of our sins.

In our world today we are filled with plenty of darkness all around us, and many had fallen into hard times, losing hope and despairing amidst all the various challenges that they had to endure, for they feared all the uncertainties that are to come, all the possibilities of losing employments and sources of income as our whole world is now battling the harsh effects of this current pandemic and its associated complications, and of course, many feared the death that can just come and claim us at any time, as many had succumbed to this disease, and many more are still suffering from it.

What are we to do, then, as Christians? It is our calling as Christians and also our missions to reach out to our fellow brothers and sisters, even those who are strangers around us, those who are suffering and are in need, that we help them and care for them and their needs. There are many people out there who have been deprived of hope and are in despair, living in darkness and also in sin. It is now then our turn to follow the examples of St. Peter and the Apostles, to bring God’s truth and hope to the world.

Let us all bring hope and strength, faith and trust in God in the hearts and minds of our fellow brethren, just as the Lord Himself strengthened the faith of His two disciples on their way to the town of Emmaus. Those two disciples had been wavering in faith, unsure and reluctant to believe that the Lord Jesus had risen from the dead. The Lord appeared to them and reassured them, and strengthened, they became courageous witnesses of the Lord’s resurrection, reenergised and full of zeal.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all devote our energy and effort to be the faithful bearers of God’s light and truth, to bring the joy of Easter and the strength and hope to our brethren in distress. May the Lord help us and guide us in our journey and in our efforts, that we may truly be successful in bringing the hope and joy in the Risen Christ to all the whole world, in our own respective communities and to all peoples. May God bless us all and our many endeavours, now and always. Amen.