Sunday, 18 April 2021 : Third Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday, the third Sunday in the season of Easter, we are all called to speak of God’s salvation that has come down into our midst through Christ, the Son of God, Who has willingly taken up on Himself all of our sins and all of the punishments due for those sins. He has endured all those sufferings, humiliations and trials for our sake, out of love for us. God has planned everything for our salvation, and we have been blessed because of that.

In our first reading today, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, the Jewish people in Antioch in Pisidia called upon St. Paul to speak to the Jewish diaspora in the synagogue on the Sabbath, to give them encouragement and strength. They were open and willing to listen to what St. Paul was to say to them about the Lord Jesus and His teachings. And thus, St. Paul spoke to them about how God rescued the ancestors of the Israelites from Egypt, how He led them out of the land of Egypt, and brought them to the Promised Land and guided them through the desert against their enemies.

Through this, St. Paul wanted to remind the people of God, the Jewish people of his time and also all of us Christians throughout the generations of the salvation promised by God, the love which He has held for all of us since the very beginning, and which He has faithfully kept as part of the Covenant that He has established with each and every one of us. And God will never abandon us to the darkness, to sin, evil and death, as He has shown how He broke the bonds of slavery from the Israelites by the Egyptians, and which He later on then showed even more wondrously by breaking the chains of sin and death from all of us.

As we heard our Gospel passage today, which was centred on the Resurrection of the Lord, we heard of how He appeared to the assembled disciples just after He appeared to the two disciples who were on their way to the village of Emmaus. At that time, the disciples hid themselves in fear in Jerusalem, because their Lord and Master had just been condemned and crucified to death by the Sanhedrin and the Romans, and they were left leaderless and lost.

When the Lord appeared before them, in all of His Risen glory, the disciples were astonished and stunned, unable to believe all that they had seen. Many would likely have thought that they had seen a ghost, and they were truly scared, as they could not believe that the Lord had truly returned to life, as death was truly something not only feared but also a certainty, from which no one could escape from. This is the fact, even when the disciples themselves had seen on few occasions how the Lord raised Lazarus and some others, including the daughter of a synagogue official from the dead.

Hence, the Lord showed them all that He was truly alive, returned from the dead, not merely a ghost or a spirit. Truly, He was risen from the dead in the Body and Spirit, having overcome death itself and destroyed the bondage of sin. As He ate before all of them, He proved to them all that He has overcome death, as no spirit or ghost could have done so. Eating is something that only the living could have done, and the Risen Lord was truly alive, in all of His risen glory.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is what we believe in, at the very core of our Christian faith, that we call ourselves as Christians because we believe in Jesus Christ, the One Whom God had sent into the world, His own only begotten Son. And through Christ, all of us have received the promise and assurance of eternal life by the Covenant which He has established with us and sealed with His own Precious Blood. We believe that the same Lord Jesus Christ has triumphed over death, and through His death and resurrection, He has shown us the proof of the saving power of God.

The Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection are fulfilment of what the prophets had been speaking about in the previous centuries before His coming. However, many of the ones who were supposed to know about the truth, such as the intellectual and wise Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who were educated about the Law, the Scriptures and the words of the prophets, refused to believe in the truth and opposed the works of the Lord and His efforts, as they viewed Him as a rival to their power and influence within the community.

What prevented them from believing in God, in His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour? It was their pride and desire, their attachment to the privileges, prestige and power they possessed, and their desire for fame and glory, for praise and acknowledgment that they wanted, and they feared to lose all of those things, and they did not want to be parted from the attachments they had to worldly glory and power. As such, these became great obstacles in their path towards believing in God.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are therefore called to live our lives from now on as a true testimony of our faith in Him, learning from the experiences of those who have been held back by their many attachments and distractions in life. We are called to live our lives each day with genuine and sincere faith that in our every actions, words and deeds we shall always live up to what the Lord had called us to do, and embrace fully the path that He has shown us.

If we truly believe in the Lord, then we should indeed make the effort to live our lives according to the way that He has shown us, and dedicate ourselves each day to be true to our respective calling and vocation in life as Christians, as those who believe in Christ and His truth. As St. John made it clear in our second reading today, in the Epistle he wrote to the faithful, that if we truly believe in Him then we ought to walk in His path and be genuine witnesses for the Lord through our lives and actions that become good inspirations for others.

Otherwise, if we do not do so, then we may end up being no better than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, many of whom outwardly expressed their faith, and yet their faith were rather empty and superficial. Their love and attachments towards their worldly power and fame ruined them and misguided them down the wrong path. That was why the Lord criticised them as hypocrites who were outwardly faithful and yet, as per St. John’s words, were liars as they did not truly have the faith for God in them.

As Christians we are all called to be genuine and true disciples of Our Lord, at all times. And as such, we should truly put our trust and faith in Him, and should not allow fear and doubt to distract us or prevent us from seeking God and doing His will. We have all been entrusted with the most important mission and commandment from the Lord, to be His witnesses in our respective communities, in all of our actions and outreach, in our every interactions with one another.

The Apostles and the disciples have seen the Risen Lord and truly witnessed the truth about His resurrection. They have also received the wisdom and truth through the Holy Spirit that they had been given at Pentecost, which they passed on to their successors and the faithful through the Church. We are inheritors of this truth, and therefore the responsibility is also passed on to us, to be faithful and committed witnesses of our Christian faith and truth, our belief in the Risen Lord and His teachings.

That is why, having received the assurance of freedom and liberation from the bondage of sin and the chains of death, all of us should share the joy of the resurrection with others, by living our lives in a genuine, most Christian manner. For it is by our lives and actions that people shall come to believe in God through us, and not through mere words alone. Worse still if our actions do not compare or even contradict what we say, how can we then expect others to believe in us? We may end up leading people further away from the Lord, and their loss will be weighed down on us on the Day of Judgment.

As we gather together on this Third Sunday of Easter, let us all discern carefully our path forward in life, that we may consider well how we are to live our lives that we may indeed be inspiration and good role models for one another, in testifying for the Christian faith and truth. We cannot be idle or act in manner that is contrary to our faith, as doing so is hypocrisy and we will end up being no better than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who once had made the same mistakes.

Instead, especially during the dark and difficult times that the world and many of our communities are enduring these past few months and throughout the past one year, due to the terrible impact of the global pandemic and other associated troubles, we should be the beacons of light and hope in our communities, among our families, our relatives and friends, our co-workers and all those whom we encounter in life, even acquaintances and strangers.

That means, when there is despair and darkness in the midst of our communities, we should bring hope and encouragement, and we should show care, concern and love for those who are needy, suffering and are struggling to make ends meet. After all, the Lord’s most important commandments are to love the Lord our God, with all of our hearts and strength, and then also to love our fellow brothers and sisters in the same way that we love God and ourselves.

Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to be charitable, caring and loving, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to make our lives truly worthy of God by our contributions and faithful commitments, no matter how small they may seem to be? We are all called to be a holy people, a people filled with the Easter hope and light, the hope and light brought by the Lord’s Resurrection. If we are not able to show that through our life, then how can we expect others to follow our examples to believe in the Lord and in His Resurrection?

Let us all therefore be the beacons of God’s light in the darkness of our world today, that through our every words, actions and deeds, we may bring the light of God into the midst of our communities, restore the hope to the downtrodden and those who are despairing, filling with love those who have been unloved and abandoned, and bringing therefore more and more people ever closer to God and His salvation. May God, our Risen Lord and Saviour, bless us all in our every good efforts and endeavours, for His greater glory. Amen.