Listen to my homily for the Third Sunday of Easter:
In the readings for today, we find that Jesus desires us to gaze upon his risen face. There are many things that seek to cloud our vision of God, and contemplating him is an ongoing process.
Firstly we see that he has to walk through our walls. He walked through the walls of the upper room where the apostles were cowering. They did not expect him to be alive and so he said to them, as he says to us, walking through the walls of our fears, anxieties, pretenses, masks and games, saying:
Peace be with you!At the sight of the one they previously saw tortured, mocked, scourged, scorned, hated, and crucified, he says to them as he says to us, surprised by the novelty of an unmerited visit from the Lord:
In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts?'This is not a question he actually expects us to answer, even though we may try to come up with excuses and justifications why we feel unworthy or incapable of God's friendship: I am too busy, I am under stress, I don't have anyone to talk to about my problems who understands me, I am afraid. It is a rhetorical question as if he is saying to us, Why are you so upset if I am here for you. Then he invites us to encounter him, Risen from the dead, victorious over our human evil, our fear, our sinfulness saying:
Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves.
We touch Christ in the Eucharist. The Risen Saviour touches us, or rather invites us by living faith in his presence like the doubting Thomas, to touch his wounds, his scars of love, so that we may know that he is truly alive and wants to show us his love.
The love of Christ then moves us to know ourselves as love. This love, I find, is the only thing that gives us the courage to be honest with ourselves about our state. St Peter spoke of this in the first reading. It sounds at first like he is merely accusing the Jews of rejecting the Christ and his hour of visitation to his people, when in actual fact, we remember that the man speaking denied Jesus at the hour he needed him most. The truth of St Peter's conviction of sin rests firstly with himself. All have sinned and it is not just the Israelites, but all of mankind and each man to whom St Peter speaks:
It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed the prince of life.
These are the effects of sin, to reject God and to not recognize him in our lives. So St Peter's words also apply to us:
Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing
This is why Jesus prayed from the Cross and he intercedes for us before the father as St John says about him:
We have our advocate with the Father,Jesus Christ, who is just;he is the sacrifice that takes our sins away,and not only ours,but the whole world’s.
It was this Advocate who prayed for all mankind on the Cross:
Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.
We understand here that God knows that we, who still struggle in this valley of tears, this dominion of the evil one, to be free from sin. Therefore, it is not because of our merits and goodness that God appears to us and reveals himself to us, but for the very reason that we, like St Thomas, doubt the presence of God in our lives. It wasn't the holiest of apostles that Jesus said to touch him and probe the scars that were caused by man's sin and God's desire for our redemption. It was the doubter. It is the same with us. God reveals himself because we need him to.
How do we see the Face of Jesus Christ?
F - Faith: to have faith in God's mercy that causes him to reveal himself to us
A - Attentive prayer of the Rosary, where Mary teaches us to contemplate the face of Christ
C - Confession, the great Sacrament where we learn to know the Mercy of God
E - Eucharist, where we actually touch God and he heals us