Home » Gospel Encouragement – Sunday 18th April 2021 – 3rd Sunday of Easter

Gospel Encouragement – Sunday 18th April 2021 – 3rd Sunday of Easter

Dear sisters and brothers,

In these last few weeks we have seen a few more funerals than normal here at St Martin’s, at least in the 2.5 years that I’ve been here, and, of course, this weekend we’ve had the funeral of Prince Philip as well.  Preaching at all these – except Prince Philip’s of course – has focused my mind very clearly on the need to prepare for death.  You might think that I’m being rather morbid, or returning to the themes of Lent, rather than Eastertide, by reflecting on this, but today’s readings encourage us to do the same.  In fact, you can’t look at one without the other.  The Resurrection needed the Crucifixion to have happened, and the Crucifixion paved the way for the Resurrection.

What these funerals have led me to reflect on is my readiness – our readiness – for the journey home.  I often use the image at funerals, and in my homilies here as well, of Jesus with his arms outstretched on the Cross, reaching out one hand to God the Father and the other to each of us. And in these funeral homilies I’ve heard myself saying:“we are praying today that our loved one who has died choose to take Jesus’ hand and be led home to the Father”. And that is true; that is what we are doing.  But our greatest hope for each other is that we don’t leave it until the moment of death, but that we make that choice throughout our lives, so that we are fully ready for that moment when it comes, whether it comes after an illness or suddenly.

Even though it’s Eastertide, today’s readings all have this theme of repentance, and what is repentance if not choosing to put God first in the here and now, and being ready to go home to him, however, and whenever, it may come.  In the first reading St Peter tells the Jews of Jerusalem that they, however unintentionally they did it, executed the Messiah, and that they need to repent.  In that action they had turned away from God’s will, and by inviting them to repent he is giving them the opportunity to turn back to God again.  However big their mistake, it isn’t insurmountable to God.

And it’s interesting that he mentions that they let a murderer go free.  The name of that murderer, Barabbas, literally means son of the father.  This is massively significant, because it tells us that the ultimate Son of the Father, Jesus, gave his life for another son of the same Father, Barabbas, and that Barabbas represents all of us in our sinfulness and brokenness as children of the Father: Jesus dies for all of us as sons, daughters, children of the Father.

In our second reading St John reminds us that to keep the commandments is to know and honour God, but that when we get it wrong, as for the Jews of Jerusalem, the problem isn’t insurmountable, because Jesus, our advocate – literally, one who stands in a court room speaking on our behalf – will be our defence as he was on the Cross:

“Father, forgive them; they know not what they do”. 

But, implicit in that, is another call to repent, to turn away from sin as best we can and back to face the Father again.

And finally, in the Gospel, the resurrected Jesus teaches the apostles, as he teaches us, how everything in the Old Testament pointed towards his life, death and Resurrection, and he concludes with these words:

“So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.”

Again, repentance, turning back to the Father, is the natural fruit of Jesus’ death and Resurrection.

So, as we continue to meditate on the beauty, the miracle and the meaning of Easter, let’s pray that we become ever more aware of our sinfulness, not to be burdened by it ,or to beat ourselves up about it, but to let go of it in repentance – and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation – asking the Holy Spirit to enable us to choose virtue and good in its place, that we may have ever greater confidence in our ability to be disciples of Jesus in the here and now  and in our readiness for the day on which we will take our final journey home to our heavenly homeland.

With every blessing,