“Making Known Christ’s Life”
April 3, 2016: The Second Sunday Of Easter
Acts 5: 27-32/Psalm 118: 14-29/Revelation 4: 1 – 8/John 20: 19 – 31
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
The Collect says, “Almighty and Everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery has established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith.” The new covenant of reconciliation is to have peace on earth, where God and sinners are reconciled so that we may show forth in our lives the new covenant established in the Paschal mystery. The Paschal mystery is the passion, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
God initiated the covenant. Jesus showed His life to the disciples who even in the end deserted Him. He gave them the covenant of peace. Jesus showed His disciples His hands and His side; and the disciples then rejoiced. Peter denied Jesus three times and in this event, their eyes may have met and could have made Peter weep bitterly. However, the first word that Jesus spoke to Peter was, “Peace.” Peter deserted and denied Him. Jesus died a very humiliating death, but the first word that came out of His mouth was “Peace.” He spoke this word to unbelievers, to Thomas specifically, too. He tells him, “Peace be with you. Do not be unbelieving but believing.” The result was rejoicing and faith and believing.
Sometimes, there may be the rejection at first, but eventually, the Bible prophesies that every knee will bow; every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. This is our eschatology of hope. Eschatology is what will happen in the end of times. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. The reason that it is hope is because it cannot be seen, but we have a basis for our hope – our faith and knowledge of God and Who He is through His Son.
I don’t know if you know someone who has resurrected from death. Why then do you believe in the resurrection of the dead? Have you seen Jesus personally? This is hope – something that we don’t see and yet, we believe in. Jesus said, “Blessed is he who has not seen and yet believes.” We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life to come. We look for a new creation, a new earth, a city which foundations and whose Architect and Builder is God. We look to the Kingdom that is to come based on our hope and our knowledge of God.
In the midst of anxiety, uncertainty, fear, when we always look to Jesus, He brings peace, joy, and good news. The first order of business for Jesus, after the Resurrection, is forgiveness of sin. Jesus didn’t say, “Let us form a church. Let us start with this very cell group right here. Then, let us raise funds and do church work.” What Jesus said was to forgive sins. “I have given you authority to forgive sin.” In Acts, St. Peter told the Sanhedrin, “God, through Christ, grant repentance to Israel the forgiveness of sin.”
We have hope and Christians have to experience this to be effective ambassadors of reconciliation and forgiveness and effective witnesses of Christ. They have to have this experience first. What did Jesus do? Jesus initiated by saying, “See, My hands and My sides.” He didn’t just do this to Thomas. He showed His hands and His sides to His disciples first before Thomas and He said to them, “See, feel. Put your hands at my side and your fingers in the hole of My wound. Partake of My suffering and My death and My resurrection. Partake of My Paschal Mystery.” When we do partake of the Paschal mystery, we can also partake of the power of the Resurrection.
In Philippians 3, St. Paul said, “That I would be conformed to His suffering and death that I also may participate in His resurrection.” We cannot participate in the Resurrection only. It is not only on Easter that we show up or participate. We have to go through the Paschal mystery which is suffering, death and resurrection. What are suffering and death? It is forgiveness.
The meaning of partaking of His suffering is not self-inflicted suffering. Not the flagellation or being crucified on the cross. Our participation in His suffering and death is our participation in His suffering and death. What is death? It is the forgiveness of sin. This is why the first order of the day for Jesus after His resurrection was to implement forgiveness. He said, “I died; I suffered so that you can proclaim the forgiveness of sin. Otherwise, My death would be in vain.” Jesus died for our sins. We need to proclaim it otherwise, death would be meaningless. The result of forgiving is rejoicing and peace and joy and the bringing of the good news. We have to have a realization of our rebirth of the fellowship of Christ’s body so that our lives may show it. Participate!
Obviously, the disciples did participate. In Acts 5, they had an 180 degree turn from who they are in John 20. The disciples were inside a room where the doors were locked because they were afraid. Now, they faced their very potential killers. After Peter’s little speech, the officers were going to kill them. Thank God for Gamaliel, a Pharisee, who pumped some sense into the people’s minds. This was the Peter after realizing the power of Jesus’ forgiveness and partaking of His resurrection. Their boldness obviously came from a genuine encounter with the risen Lord, the Lord of life. The reality of this encounter propelled their zeal to make known Christ's life – even with the threat of death.
Our participation is in the process toward every knee bowing, every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord. Why would we confess? How would we confess? It is when we receive the good news that we are forgiven and that God wants peace with us and initiates a covenant of reconciliation with us. We need to participate in the forgiveness and the in the death and resurrection of Christ.
In one movie, I saw John the Beloved confront Peter, “Where were you? Why did you run away?” Can you imagine the scene in Acts 1 where they were in the Upper Room? Mary, the mother of Jesus, was there with them. Imagine being a mother meeting the person who said, “I would die and be imprisoned for You, Jesus, even if these eleven disciples leave You,” and denies her Son three times. How would you feel? What did Mary do? She forgave. It was difficult to do, but she forgave by the grace of God. Imagine if you were the widow and the orphaned children of Stephen and you go to church regularly and suddenly, this one missionary comes and even changes his name from Saul to Paul, and then preaches? How would you feel? You could have said, “This man is a murderer. This is the reason I am a widow. He is the reason why my children are orphans, then he preaches love and forgiveness?”
Forgiveness is participation in the suffering and death of Christ. We do this out of our compassion and love for people that need forgiveness. It is for people needing the good news that God took Jesus and initiates a covenant of reconciliation with them, not counting men’s sins against Him. It is such an important and good news that we should not withhold it. We are actually ambassadors and bringers of that good news.
I want to share with you a testimony of one celebrity atheist, an Amercian, and a stand-up comedian. He is a publicly confessed that he doesn’t believe in God. I have heard him revile God. He said, “After a show, this nice, good, and very polite man came to me after the show, after patiently waiting for me to sign autographs and greet people. He handed me a Bible on which was written five telephone numbers and an email address. He shared with me the good news.” He continues, “I don’t respect people who don't share their faith.” He doesn’t have any respect for Christians who don’t share and proclaim the good news that they have received. He continues, “I don't respect them at all. If you believe that people are not getting eternal life, and you think it's not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward (as atheists would think that people shouldn’t be proselytized; others should keep their religion to themselves and leave them alone), how much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and yet not tell them that?” How much do you have to hate people to withhold the good news that you have received? “If I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was going to hit you and you didn’t believe it and if that truck was heading toward you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you; and this is more important than that."
Peter said in his epistle to be ready to give an account of the hope that is in you. Always be ready. As Jesus was sent by the Father to initiate a covenant of reconciliation, so Jesus sends us as He is with the right hand of the Father. We are His body now; we are His hands and His feet; and He sends us to propagate and to spread the message of forgiveness of sins.
Jesus shows the disciples His hands and His side and then, the disciples rejoiced. The disciples rejoiced after He showed them what He went through for their sake. We have to reach with our finger, see His hands and reach our hands and put it on His side so that we partake of the reality of it, and we would exclaim, “My Lord and my God.” We are first to partake if we are to be ambassadors. St. Paul said to Timothy, “The hardworking farmer must be first to partake the fruit of his crop.” Otherwise, we will just be a celebrity endorser, not using the product and broadcasting and promoting it, saying, “This is a good product.”
We have to partake and get access to that which is made available. Jesus said, “You don’t have because you don’t ask. Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be open unto you.” It is not a question or a problem of availability of resources. It is a matter of us gaining access to that which is already available. We cannot be “Juan Tamad” who would wait for the fruit to fall down on his mouth. We have to reach with our hands and actually partake of that which is available for us.
There is a video of a Christian man who went to his barber. The barber was doing his thing while the man was reading his Bible. When the barber finished, he told his client, “I don’t believe that there is a God.” The man said, “Why do you say that?” The barber said, “If there is a God, why is there suffering in the world? Why is there poverty and injustice? Why are bad things happening?” The man walked out of the barber shop silently. Upon stepping out of the door, he saw a bearded man with long hair. He needed badly a haircut and shaving. The man got this guy back inside the shop and told the barber, “There are no barbers in the world.” The barber said, “What are you talking about? I just gave you a haircut.” The man said, “If there are barbers in the world, there wouldn’t be people like this man with long hair and beard covering his face.” The barber said, “That is because they don’t come to me!” The Christian man said, “Exactly!” Scissors are available and the barber shop is there. We just need to go to the barber shop and have a haircut.
We need to partake! Reach your fingers and see and feel and partake. St. Paul says in 1John 1, “What we have heard, what we have seen, what we have touched, what we have handled in our hands, what we have experienced for ourselves, this is what we proclaim to you so that you may have fellowship with us, the God the Father and the Son, so that you are included in the covenant of reconciliation and peace. John realizes, “These things we write so that our joy may be made complete.”
Do you want the fullness of joy and your joy be made complete? Proclaim that which you already first have partaken of. We are all struggling; we are all in this journey; we fall but we pick ourselves up. Realize this: if you want to have joy, proclaim this, “The Paschal Mystery is consummated by the new and everlasting covenant that was promised to us.”
How true is this to us? Have we reached in, have we seen and heard and touched Jesus?” Let this Paschal Mystery be more and more a reality by us doing this. How often? Day and night, as in the scene of Revelation, without ceasing; then, we can better make known Christ’s life. Know God and make Him known. This is our calling; this is our mission because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.