REFLECTION: Acts of the Apostles 2:14a, 36-41 1 Peter 2:20b-25 John 10:1-10 Luke 24
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts of the Apostles 2:14a, 36-41 1 Peter 2:20b-25 John 10:1-10 Luke 24
We’re going to focus our reflection on the first two readings of the day. The first is a passage from the Acts of the Apostles. It’s part of the account of Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit overshadowed the disciples who had been in hiding since the death of Jesus. It was such a noisy event that people outside on the street thought the disciples were carrying on because they were drunk! They were, in a way. They were drunk with the Holy Spirit.
Filled with the Spirit, Peter stepped out of hiding and delivered a powerful address to the crowd. He didn’t mince his words. He stared right into the crowd. “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom your crucified.” Strangely, the crowd wasn’t angered by his words. Instead, they were “cut to the heart,” and asked Peter, “What are we to do, brothers?”
Peter answered them without any hesitation. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the Holy Spirit…Save yourself from this corrupt generation.”
I’m going to leave this scene from Acts for a moment to continue to the second reading for the day which is taken from Peter’s First letter. In this portion of the letter, Peter expands on what he declared on Pentecost by defining what it means to be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ.”
He writes: “If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.” Interesting. He says that “Christ suffered for you” but he doesn’t say that Christ suffered to appease his angry Father who was offended by our sins. Instead he’s saying that Christ suffered to show us how to suffer – “to follow in his footsteps.” We’re at the heart of Peter’s teaching here! However, we have to think of Jesus and the cross in a new way in order to understand it.
He uses the word, “Christ.” A word we use frequently, often connecting it to Jesus (Christ, the Greek translation for the Hebrew word for Messiah, opr “the anointed one.”) The readings today are inviting us to consider a fuller meaning of this word. I’m going to step away from the scriptures for a moment to listen to what two modern day mystics said about the meaning of “Christ.”
Fr. Teillard de Chardin, a Jesuit paleontologist who died in 1955, reflecting on the Christian teaching that God is love, wrote: “God’s first ‘idea’ was to become manifest – pour out divine, infinite love into finite visible forms.” Fr. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan theologian and spiritualwriter, extended Fr. Teillard de Chardin’s idea in a reflection he gave in 2018. “‘The Big Bang’ is now our scientific name for that idea; and ‘Christ’ is our Christian theological name. Both are about love and beauty exploding outward in all directions.” With their insight in mind, let’s ask ourselves a very important question. Who is Jesus “Christ?”
Jesus is the union of the human and the divine at a particular time and in a particular place – Jesus of Nazareth. “Christ” is the eternal union of matter and spirit – what Fr. Teillard de Chardin referred to as “God’s first idea.” Peter, in his Pentecost address, and in his First Letter, isn’t calling us to be like Jesus. He’s challenging us to be “Christ,” as Jesus was “Christ.”
Let’s start putting all this together. In the Pentecost address Peter asked the people “to repent and be baptized.” Repent is a very bad translation of the word “metanoia.” For English speakers, repent means to stop sinning. Metanioa means to take a new direction in life. To be baptized doesn’t mean to have one’s sins washed away. It means we redirect our lives by immersing ourselves in the “Christ” mystery, the mystery of death and resurrection.This is clearly articulated in the prayer we use to bless the baptismal water. “May all who are buried with Christ in the death of baptism rise also with him to newness of life.”
Peter’s invitation to “repent and be baptized” is a call to redirect our lives toward the “Christ” mystery. He’s teaching us that when we make the commitment to walk the way of “Christ,” we “save ourselves from this corrupt generation.” We see the Divine Love in all people and all things.
The crucified Jesus was tortured, humiliated, abandoned and shamed, and yet he prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” His desperate cry, “My God, why have you abandoned me?” embraces all of suffering creation in the healing arms of Divine Love. “Today, you will be with me in paradise” is an invitation to every person, good and bad alike, to take a new path, to walk away from the horror that “this corrupt generation” inflicts on itself and God’s earth. It calls everyone to begin to walk the road towards resurrection. Peter is teaching us today that when we see the world through the eyes of the crucified “Christ,” we begin to “follow in his footsteps.” We have begun to “put on Christ.” We have begun to attach “Christ” to our name.