sabato 14 aprile 2018

«Paenitemini igitur et convertimini»

The appearance of the risen Lord narrated in today’s gospel is the same as the first of the two we found in last Sunday’s gospel, namely the appearance to the disciples on the evening of the very day of his resurrection. The disciples were gathered together in the place where Jesus had eaten the last supper with them, and Jesus revealed himself to them, after appearing to two of them who were going back to their village, Emmaus. After recognizing the Lord in the breaking of the bread, these two had returned to Jerusalem to inform the apostles and, while they were recounting their experience, Jesus appeared again to all of them. 

In the two accounts—John’s and Luke’s—we find several common features, which confirm the authenticity of the event. Jesus greets his disciples with the same words, “Peace be with you;” he shows them his sores; he entrusts to them the power to forgive sins. There are only minor differences: according to John, “the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord;” in Luke, besides joy we find fear, “They were startled and terrified.” In the fourth gospel, Jesus showed his hands and his side; according to Luke, his hands and his feet.

Luke’s narrative stresses the physical reality of the resurrection: since the disciples think they are seeing a ghost, Jesus invites them to touch him, “because a ghost does not have flesh and bones.” And if that was not enough, he asks them something to eat, as if to say, “Ghosts don’t eat.” Another distinctive feature of Luke’s account is the fulfillment of the Scriptures. Even on the road to Emmaus, Jesus had said to the two wayfarers, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” What had happened was no accident; it had already been predicted by the prophets. Now he reminds the disciples of the words he had spoken to them before dying, “that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opens their minds to understand the Scriptures. It is not enough to read Scripture; there is need of understanding it. In order for this to happen, our minds should be open. But only Jesus can do this; only Jesus can allow us to understand the true meaning of the Scriptures, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

In today’s liturgy we encounter two of these witnesses, the apostles Peter and John. In the first reading, Peter addresses the crowd after the healing of the crippled beggar, reproaching them for killing Jesus and inviting them to repent and be converted, so that their sins may be wiped away. John, in his letter, reminds us that, if we sin, “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.” Nowadays, instead of repenting and admonishing sinners, we are inclined to excuse ourselves and others, as if we were not sinners any more. Now even Peter excuses the Jews for their behavior, but without denying their responsibility, “I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did … Repent, therefore, and be converted (paenitemini igitur et convertimini), that your sins may be wiped away.” We deceive ourselves and others when we think we can blot out sin on our own initiative. Sin can be removed, not because ignored, but because acknowledged by us and forgiven by God on account of his Son, who “is expiation for our sins,” as he died for the forgiveness of sins. He himself has already done everything; if we want to get rid of sin, we have just to repent and be converted.