In this week’s Spiritual Reflection, Pope Francis says, “the Eucharistic Banquet has become the emblematic sign of the Christian community. Eating together the Body of Christ: this is the core of Christian life.” Indeed, in the Eucharist, Jesus is truly and fully present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. “For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ Himself” (CCC 1324). Through his Presence in the Eucharist, the Lord longs to renew our hearts and make them resemble his own merciful heart. It is by means of the “breaking of the bread,” the Eucharist, that the Word is made flesh in us and we are transformed in his likeness.

As we begin the Third Week of Easter, we reflect on another appearance of the Risen Lord. It is the evening of Easter Day. The two disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus have just returned, and while they are telling the others about the encounter, Jesus himself stands in their midst. The disciples are terrified and speechless. They can see that it is Jesus, but since they think he is dead, they have no rational means by which to process their experience. They immediately conclude that they must be in the presence of a ghost! Jesus reassures them by showing them his hands and feet. “A ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” He goes on to do a simple act – he eats some baked fish – to show them that he is truly risen from the dead.

Jesus’ Resurrection is not merely a symbolic way of saying that his teachings remained alive in his followers. He truly died and just as truly rose again in his body. This fact is essential, like a foundation stone. Without the Resurrection, the whole structure of our Christian faith collapses into meaninglessness (cf. 1 Cor 15:14-19). Only after affirming this basic fact can the Lord take two further steps with the Apostles. First he builds up their understanding of the meaning of what has happened. This instruction is summarized in the wonderful verse, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” After that, he sends them forth as his witnesses, to preach the Gospel to all nations.

“He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures!” This is what the Lord is doing for us right now as we pause to ponder the word. We believe that Jesus rose from the dead, but we long for deeper understanding of his Risen Life in us. We are confident that faith will lead to this understanding as the Lord opens our minds, so that we can fulfill our mission of sharing the Good News with others.

Peter and John were among the Apostles who met the Risen Lord that evening and had their minds opened. These two speak to us in today’s other readings. In the first reading, Peter is addressing the crowd that gathered after he miraculously cured a lame man at the temple in Jerusalem. His words at first sound harsh as he exposes the sins of the people, but the context reveals he is simply carrying out the commission the Lord gave in the Gospel; he is preaching “repentance for the forgiveness of sins” to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. How can people be freed of sin if they do not honestly face what they have done wrong?

On the other hand, Peter is quick to point out that the people acted largely out of ignorance when they “denied the Holy and Righteous One,” and put to death the Author of Life. Their sin, though grave, does not have to lead to their condemnation – if they are willing to turn to God. Peter certainly does not condemn them. He has personal experience of the mercy he is preaching about. He denied Jesus three times – and he was not ignorant when he did it! Yet, God wiped away his sins. So Peter gives us all a hopeful message: “Be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”

In the second reading, the Apostle John also carries out the Easter commission he received from Jesus. He too fills us with hope. Even though we have sinned – whether in ignorance or not – “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One.” He is “expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.” (“Expiation” means a way to repair the damage caused by sin; it is a sin offering, an atonement for offenses committed.)

Both Peter and John refer to Jesus as “the Righteous One,” but both also point beyond divine righteousness and reveal how merciful the Lord is. From the beginning, it was God’s plan that the Messiah would become the offering for sin and would suffer for our sake. The power and beauty of the Lord’s suffering is what we discover as the Lord opens our minds to understand the Scriptures. This is why John can say with confidence that if we “keep” the word of God, “the love of God is truly perfected” in us. We experience the “love of God” as his mercy for us sinners. Alleluia!

As I ponder the word, how is the Lord opening my mind to understand the Scriptures? Why is it necessary to honestly admit my sins before I can be forgiven? How often do I praise and thank God for his mercy towards me?

Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 20, no. 4. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.