“The Purifying Power of Witness”
Third Sunday of Easter
April 15, 2018
Acts 3: 12-19
1 John 3: 1-5
Luke 24: 36b-48
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
Hallelujah! Christ is risen! The Lord has risen indeed! Hallelujah! This should be more and more a reality in our lives because the extent of the Resurrection being alive in our hearts and in our lives will determine the power of our witness to others.
There were two things that Jesus talked about after He resurrected and appeared to His disciples. The first was saying the word, “Peace.” In the midst of fear, in the midst of anxiety, in the midst of despair and hopelessness, He said “Peace” to them. Second, Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you to proclaim forgiveness of sins.” Peace and forgiveness is what the new world in the resurrection of Jesus is all about. This is the world He comes from; and He brings to the world of hopelessness and fear peace and forgiveness.
We are invited to keep the Feast, not with the old leaven of malice, wickedness or sin, but with the unleavened bread – pure of sincerity and truth. There is no place for leaven or sin in the new world which Jesus broke into as the old have passed, and the new has come.
The Canticle “Paschal Nostrum” is based on three verses, but I will quote two. One is Romans 6:9 which says, “Christ’s being raised from the dead dies no more. Death has no more dominion over Him.” The death that Jesus died, He died once. Jesus was called the Second Adam. The first Adam died and did not rise again and he will wait to rise again when Jesus calls him. Jesus died to die no more. The other verse is 1Corinthians 15:20-22 which says, “Jesus is the first fruits of those who are asleep.” He is the firstborn of those who died. “By man came death; by man came also the resurrection of the dead.”
We believed that we inherited sin from Adam. When he sinned, we were in his loins and as representative of the entire mankind, when he sinned, all sinned. We say that we inherited the sin that he committed and its consequences of death. St. Paul says that in the same way that we believed that we inherited sin from Adam, even so, in the same way we inherited life eternal from Jesus. “As in Adam all died, even so in Christ, all will be made alive.” The most holy person that we know inherited the sin of Adam, but even the most unholy person we know also inherited the life of Christ!
In Colossians 1:15-20, reading from the Phillips translation, it says, “Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through him that everything was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen. Through him, and for him, also, were created power and dominion, ownership and authority. In fact, every single thing was created through and for him. He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation. And now he is the head of the body which is composed of all Christian people. Life from nothing began through him, and life from the dead began through him, and he is, therefore, justly called the Lord of all. It was in him that the full nature of God chose to live, and through him God planned to reconcile in his own person, as it were, everything on earth and everything in Heaven by virtue of the sacrifice of the cross.”
Life from nothing began through Him. There was no light before and God spoke, “Let there be light!” He also said, “Let there be sun, moon, plants, flowers, animals…” These all came from nothing, and He spoke them into existence through Jesus Christ, His Son. Life from the dead begins through Him, and there He is justly called the Lord of all. If God spoke existence of creation from nothing, now, God speaks life from death and He does it through Jesus Christ. Life from nothing began through Christ; life from the dead begins through Christ as well.
St. Athanasius said that God employed the same Agent, Jesus Christ, in creation and He employed the same agent, Jesus Christ, in the renewal and the making of all things. We have been translated from the kingdom of darkness, the old creation tainted by sin and death, into the Kingdom of His beloved Son. Before, we were in Adam, in sin and death. There is a change of status now. St. Paul says in Colossians 1:13, “Now, we are in Christ.” God translated us from sin and death in the kingdom of His Son, now, we are no longer in Adam, but we are in Christ.
Scriptures has a lot of verses that says about “in Christ,” and you will see the benefit being in Christ. In Christ, we are a new creation. In Christ, He has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. In Christ, He has raised us from the dead. In Christ, He has done all things because we are no longer in Adam, but in Him. It is a change of status. We have been translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.
There is one interesting thing that the early Christians did. They called Easter the 8th day. They did not see each day of creation as a cycle, but the whole week of creation has been tainted and has been subject to evil and death. Jesus, after the whole week, started the 8th day breaking through the old into the new. It is a new creation. It is the new heavens and the new earth.
The baptismal font that they used before had eight sides. Eight represents that breakthrough, and being baptized in this octagonal font proclaims an entrance to a new world where all things are being made new. Circumcision during the time of Israel was on the eight day because eight meant a new beginning, a new creation.
St. Peter taught metaphorically about the ark of Moses to talk about baptism. Baptism now saves us. It is not the removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal for a clear conscience to God. He said that the ark of Moses contained eight souls passed from the old to the new because it is a new beginning. 2Corinthians 5:17 says that the old has passed, and the new has come. If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done, so there is nothing new under the sun.” Now, Easter comes and says, “No!” Now, there is something new under the sun. In fact, all things are being made new. All things are being purified and restored, and this started on Easter Sunday, 2000 years ago.
A famous theologian named GF Chesterton said, “On the third day the friends of Christ, coming at daybreak to the place, found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways, they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, not in the cool of the evening but of the dawn.” It is a new day breaking through; it is a new day dawning. See His glory come down. See the new heaven and the new earth in the resurrection of Jesus Christ because behold, He is making all things new.
Jesus asked His disciples, “It is a new day. It is the beginning of a new heaven and new earth. Why are you then troubled? Why do doubts arise in your hearts?” This happened because the disciples were out of touch with Him so Jesus said to them, “Come, touch Me and you will see.” It was both a command and a promise.
In the Eucharist, we will encounter Him. We will not just touch Him, but we will taste and see the goodness of the Lord. We will partake of Him; we will assimilate Him into our whole being, and this hopefully will make us see. The two disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus saw Him when He broke the bread, and their eyes were opened, and they touched Jesus. This is one way to be intimate with Him.
Another way to be intimate with Jesus and to touch Him is to spend time with Him in prayer, in worship and in meditation. This is important. Doing this, we will be able to touch Him and see Him. We will not be troubled and doubts will not arise in our hearts. Reading the Scriptures will help us see and touch Jesus and be intimate with Him. All of Scriptures is written for Him and about Him.
We can touch Jesus when we touch the lives of others. Whatever we do to the least of His brethren, we do it unto Him. When was the last time we touched Jesus through the least of His brothers? The needy? The prisoner? The naked? The widow and the orphans? Those who are being bullied? Those who are in bondage? Do we ignore them or did we touch their lives? If we disown them, we disown Jesus like the Israelites did before. We are out of touch, and so we don’t see. We are troubled and doubts arise in our hearts, and so we are defeated by the challenges of the world. Discover Jesus in the least of His brothers and touch Him!
I have shared with you the story of Mother Teresa who was washing the wounds of a poor man, and a tourist saw her and said, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.” Mother Teresa looked up and replied, “I wouldn’t do this for a million dollars either.” She was doing it to touch Jesus. She was doing it so that her heart would not be troubled. She was doing it so that she can taste and see the goodness of the Lord. To be intimate with Jesus, we will see Jesus and we will have the strength of God in the joy of the Lord in us.
Another way to touch Jesus is through the Body of Christ, through the Church. The Body, the Church, is composed of nice people and not so nice people. Touch the Lord through His Body. We are all part of the Body and we touch the Body through our fellowship, through our involvement, and through our commitment to each other. We are not looking down on our brothers and sisters. We are not despising them. We are accepting all of them including their weaknesses because Jesus is in them. If we want to touch and see Jesus, we have no choice but do it through our brothers and sisters in the Body. Jesus chose to be present through our brothers and sisters. If we don’t taste and see Jesus, our iniquities will overtake us, and the worries of the world and the deceitful of riches and the desire for things will all blind us. Suddenly, we find ourselves turned towards self, which is the definition of sin. It becomes a survival for self, which is sin, and we become frightened and startled because we don’t touch and see Him. We become slaves to all kinds of problems, and number one of this is fear.
Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” God doesn’t want us to be in fear. Perfect love cast out fear. We have been enslaved to fear for so long, and we need to be delivered from this. What we need to do is to touch Him, to taste Him, and to see His goodness and be filled with joy and amazement.
Easter is all about joy and amazement. When we are in this place, then, we participate in the work of Jesus of translating everyone else from darkness into the kingdom of light, in the kingdom of the Beloved Son. We have been translated -- the forgiveness of sin in His Name, for all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Jerusalem is us, and it starts from this, but it doesn’t stop here. We have been translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of life and it began only in Jerusalem, but it continues until all nations, all people have been transferred from darkness to light.
A Christmas song says, “Life and light to all He brings; risen with healing in His wings.” In the Eucharist, we pray, “In Him, You have brought us out of error into truth, out of sin to righteousness, and out of death into life.” Thank God that He did this for us, but it doesn’t stop with us. We are to participate in the work of Jesus of getting everybody else out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, and out of death into life. In fact, the work still continues in us because we are not yet totally out of error into truth. We are not yet totally out of darkness. We are not yet totally out of death. Jesus is still working in us.
Peace and forgiveness is what the new world is all about. This is what the new Kingdom is about. It should be a reality in us. Saying it again, the extent of peace and forgiveness being alive in us, and it being a reality in us is the extent of our power of our witness as sons of the Resurrection. This is so that we can participate in Jesus’ ministry. He went to a place of fear, and He brought peace.
St. Francis’ prayer was for God to bring him to a place where there is hatred, so that he can bring love; where there is injury, he can bring pardon. Where there is doubt, he can bring faith. Where there is despair, he can bring hope. Where there is darkness, he can bring light. Where there is sadness, he can bring joy. Let us not run away from this because Jesus is right there waiting for us to touch Him – in the least of His brothers.
Let us keep the Feast not with the old leaven of malice, of wickedness, of sin, of unforgiveness, of anger, of hatred, of despising one another, on looking down on others, of thinking of ourselves as more important than others. This is of the old world. We have been translated into the new world.
Brothers and sisters, this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God!