April 19, 2015 – Third Sunday of Easter
Our Easter journeys continue on this Third Sunday of Easter with a reminder from St. Peter that we are called to conversion, an indication from St. John that we are saved through the power and redemption of Jesus Christ, and the admonition from Jesus Himself that we, too, are witnesses to His Resurrection and saving grace. We are in the midst of what is traditionally called Eastertide, the 50-day period from Easter Sunday until Pentecost Sunday (May 24). In our Catholic Church the Paschal Candle was lit at the Easter Vigil Mass the night before Easter and it will continue to be prominently displayed and lit in our sanctuaries until Christ’s Ascension.
Focusing on this candle at this time in our Easter journey is worthwhile from a number of perspectives. It represents, of course, the Light of Christ, but there is more to it than that. Were you aware that this candle is made of pure beeswax, which represents the sinless Christ? There are five grains of incense embedded in it in the shape of a cross; those represent the aromatic spices used to prepare His Holy Body for burial, and the five wounds in His side, feet, and hands. Like most of what we do within the Church it is there to remind us of the importance of this season and to allow us to concentrate on our Eternal Life in Christ throughout our lives; the candle also displays the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles is a sermon given by St. Peter outside the temple. It is Peter’s second sermon reported in the Acts of the Apostles. All of Peter’s words are noteworthy, but we need to pay heed to the fact that throughout his ministry and throughout his evangelization St. Peter concentrates on Jesus the Savior, not on himself or anyone else. It is his way of reminding us and of witnessing to the importance of Jesus’ sacrifice and gift to each of us. Peter expects us to do two things: repent and be converted. Repent, of course, calls for us to change, and to change significantly. Conversion calls for us to return; it demands action from us. For us as stewards this is the conversion of mind and heart to which we are called throughout the New Testament.
In 1 John from which our second reading is drawn, St. John, like his fellow Apostle Peter, also reminds us of the power and saving grace of Jesus Christ. We are told again that God does not want us to sin, but the Lord understands that in spite of our best efforts and intentions we are sinners. Then again, we have an Advocate in Jesus Christ. Jesus is our defender and it is through Him that we are forgiven. John, like Peter before him, concentrates on Jesus, not on himself or anyone else. John calls on us to “keep His (Jesus’) Word.” This is the same as Peter requesting that we “repent” and “convert.” This challenge from John is not easy; no one ever said that being a good steward was easy, but that should be our goal.
The Gospel reading from St. Luke reports what occurred just after the experience of Jesus’ followers on the Road to Emmaus. Jesus was with them then; He is then with them all; and He is with us every day and every moment. Jesus tells them “You are witnesses of these things.” We, too, are witnesses. Just as Sts. Peter and John witnessed to the glory and joy of Jesus Christ, we, too, are called to that witness. One of the best ways as Catholics and Christians to witness to Jesus is to live lives of stewardship, which reflect that witness in everything we do.