If there is one word that sums up today’s reading, it is reality. Now reality is something we tend to avoid at all costs. It can be hard and narrow. Jesus said that the gate that leads to destruction is wide and the road broad; many enter
through it, but the road that leads to salvation is narrow and the gate small; few shall find it. That is reality.
In the first reading, Peter is preaching after healing a lame man. He boldly reminds the people that they had “denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:14-15) This is something God had announced beforehand through the prophets, that Christ would suffer.
The people listening to Peter probably thought that Jesus was just another troublemaker like they has seen before. Perhaps they thought he was a prophet. But the certainly didn’t believe he was their Messiah. The Messiah was supposed to deliver then from the Romans, not be crucified at their hands. Yet, God had said that the Christ, the Messiah, would suffer. What God says is reality. And this Reality suffered before being raised from the dead. Peter and the others were eyewitnesses to this. That was their reality.
In the second reading, Saint John writes about the necessity of keeping God’s commandments. “The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments. Those who say, ‘I know him,’ but do not keep his commandments are liars, and the truth is not on them.” To call people liars sounds harsh. But Saint John is trying to get us to deal with reality. Many claim to believe in God. How do we know that we know God? John’s answer is that we know we know if we keep God’s commandments; then we are keeping with reality.
Today’s gospel is about the reality of the resurrection. When Christ appears to them, in their surprise they think they are seeing a ghost! To allay their fears, he invites them to look closely at him, even to touch him. John says, “He showed them his hands and his feet.” He is inviting them to see the wounds of his crucifixion. The resurrected body of Jesus, though glorified, is real. It can be clearly seen, even touched. He even eats a piece of fish on front of them. You don’t get much more real than eating!
Jesus reminds them of the reality of the Scriptures, that everything written about him must be fulfilled; that he would suffer and rise from the dead and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name to all nations.
This is the reality we are living in today. The Church is still carrying out this mission, preaching the Gospel to the world. If we wish to live in reality, we must bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our family, friends and neighbors. Like Peter and John, we do that by living a life grounded in the reality of the Gospel and by our eyewitness testimony to what Christ is doing in our lives. We are simply to tell them about Christ and his Church and to trust the Holy Spirit to open their hearts. As he worked through the disciples, he will work through us as we live in the reality of the Gospel.