April 19, 2001 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thursday in the Octave of Easter
Reading (Acts 3:11-26) Gospel (St. Luke 24:35-48)
In the Acts of the Apostles today, we hear Peter getting up and preaching in Solomonís Portico, telling the Jewish people all about Our Lord and that it was faith in the name of Jesus that healed this man. He pointed out the things that had happened: They had put to death the Author of Life; they had turned the Just One over to Pilate; when Pilate wanted to release Him, they themselves had asked Pilate to put Him to death and release a murderer instead. Peter goes on to talk about a number of Scripture passages that deal with the Lord. He talks about Moses, who said there would be a prophet like him that would be raised up; he quotes the psalms and the prophets. And then we see where he gets it from.
In the Gospel reading today, Jesus, in this appearance to all of His apostles on Easter Sunday, opens their minds to the understanding of the Scriptures. He talked to them about how Moses, the prophets, and the psalms had talked about Him. He tells them how Scripture said the Messiah had to suffer and die, then He would be raised up on the third day. This is where Peter is finally understanding all the things which the Lord had taught them when He was still alive with them. They did not understand because they already had an idea of what the Messiah was supposed to be like and how all of this would be fulfilled. The things that they did not understand, they just ignored. But now, with Our Lord standing in front of them in a resurrected form, they had to rethink everything. Now, with the experience they had, they could look back at the Scriptures and hear what the Lord was telling them and see how it was fulfilled in Him as He had gone through the events of the past days and now stood before them, risen from the dead.
So, all of a sudden, the Scriptures, which they knew from the time they were little children, had an entirely new meaning. There was a depth, a richness, and a fullness to them that they had never seen before. Our Lord taught them, but now, more than just teaching them (which He had been doing for three years), He showed them the fulfillment of these Scriptures in His very Person: He stood there in His resurrected body as the fulfillment of all the Scriptures that had spoken about Him. This is what the apostles finally understood, after three years of not understanding, of going back and forth. Remember, the first time Peter heard about Jesus was when his brother Andrew went to Peter and said, "We found the Messiah." That was the very first thing Peter heard about Jesus. He is the one himself who said to Jesus, "You are the Messiah. You are the Son of the Living God." Jesus blessed him and said, "It is My Father who has revealed this to you." Even with all of these things, Peter still did not understand.
Now, finally, he understood. It was not that he had not heard it; it was not that he did not believe it; it was that he still had his own preconceived ideas of how this was supposed to happen. When it did not happen that way, when it did not fit into his concept of what it was supposed to be, he did not understand. Now that it had all happened, the Lord opens his mind to be able to look at the Scriptures and put it into the context of the events that had happened in the previous days, and he understood. Now, he had not only the courage but also the knowledge and faith to go out and preach to the people about Our Lord; to say that this, indeed, was the fulfillment of everything the Scriptures had taught.
So, that is the foundation of our faith; it is the preaching of the apostles. The preaching is based upon the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The Passion, the Death, and the Resurrection are the central focus of all of human history. And if that is the case, then in the ultimate microcosm it has to be the focus of each and every one of our lives as well. It cannot be a generic idea that we believe in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus; it needs to come home; it needs to find a place in our hearts and in our lives; it needs to be the very thing around which our lives revolve, the pivotal point of everything in our day to day lives. Because it is the center, not only of human history, but of our own personal history, of our own lives. The mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the thing which defines us as Christian people; and, consequently, must be the defining element of our entire lives.
When we hear this preaching of Peter and when we think about Our Lord in His risen form, showing the disciples the wounds that are still in His body, we need to apply this to ourselves. We need to ask ourselves, "What is it that I believe? And how does this affect my life? Is it just a generic idea? Is it just an objective idea that I keep at an armís distance? Or does this inform my life? Does this inform me as to who I am? Does this mold me and shape me, so that I become the very person of Jesus Christ? Am I molding my life into the form, the life, and the person of Our Lord?" That is what this needs to do for us. That is what it did for Peter and the apostles; and as the followers of Jesus today, it is what needs to happen for each of us.
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.