April 22, 2012 – Third Sunday of Easter
In today’s readings, we focus on the redemptive nature of suffering — one of the great lessons of Easter. In order for Christ to rise and break the chains of sin and death, he first had to die. But with the Easter resurrection, the suffering Christ endured on Good Friday becomes redemptive — we can see that Christ did not simply suffer for the sake of suffering itself. Rather, He suffered and died so that He could rise from the dead and redeem our sins.
This is precisely the point the biblical writers of today’s readings make.
In the first reading, we hear St. Peter tell his listeners (a mainly Jewish audience), “The God of our fathers has glorified His servant, Jesus, whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence. The author of life you put to death, but God raised Him from the dead.”
And then, in the second reading, John reminds us, “Jesus Christ is expiation for our sins.”
As we continue on through the Easter Season, we recognize that Christ is victorious over death. His passion, death, and resurrection redeem us from sin and death. Thus we can say, “oh death where is your sting?” And, as Peter explains to His listeners here, we can rejoice in the knowledge that all we need to do is repent and our sins will be wiped away. Christ’s death is indeed victorious.
In the Gospel reading, we hear an account of Jesus’ interaction with His disciples after His resurrection. Here, the disciples see Jesus face-to-face but are hard-pressed to believe that He, indeed, is alive, that what they see is not a “ghost.” So, Jesus shares food with them, and as He breaks bread with them, they recognize that it is Him. He is alive — so much so, in fact, that He can eat and drink with them.
Christ’s glorious resurrection is the central mystery of our Faith. It makes it possible for us to attain salvation, and so it gives us great hope in life everlasting.
The resurrection also shows us the redemptive nature of suffering. Without the cross, there would be no resurrection, and, at the same time, it is the resurrection that completes Christ’s paschal mystery — he suffered and died to save us from our sins and then He rose from the dead, making the reward of life everlasting possible for each one of us.
In addition, the resurrection sheds light, for us, on the redemptive nature of our own suffering. We see that there is joy after the cross. There was a purpose to Christ’s suffering that people did not understand until he rose from the dead. And so it is for us. We suffer in this life — there is no doubt about that — and we now know that when we unite those sufferings with Christ’s, when we offer them to God, they can serve a greater purpose, they can bring us and others closer to Christ, allowing us and others to celebrate with Easter joy.
Being a disciple of Christ means recognizing that all good gifts come from God and graciously praising Him for them by the giving of ourselves. But it is not only the material things that we recognize as His gifts. In fact some of the most important gifts He has given us are those we cannot see — particularly, the gift of faith. And, what’s more, being a disciple entails praising God and thanking Him throughout all of life — even when we suffer — recognizing that His plan is always greater than our own.
We are His disciples, and we are stewards of the life with which He has blessed us. As such, we are called to offer Him all that we have and all that we are at every moment of our life, believing that — in joy and in suffering — He deserves our praise and knowing that we rejoice in the resurrection that follows the pain.
It is not an easy calling, but it is an unfathomably fruitful one — both now and in life everlasting.