by Fr. Tommy Lane
We read excerpts of the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of John every day during Easter. These two books are most suitable for liturgical proclamation during Easter. The Acts of the Apostles makes it very clear that the risen Jesus continues to be present with the Church after his ascension and continues to guide the Church from heaven. St. Luke, as he begins writing Acts, makes it clear in his Greek (Acts 1:1) that his first volume, the Gospel, is concerned what Jesus began to do, meaning that his second volume, Acts, is about what Jesus continues to do, but now through the Church. The Gospel of John compliments this by frequently reminding us that we are to share in the life of Christ now, and not wait until the next life. True, John mentions the future resurrection of believers four times, future judgment, eternal life in the future, the Second Coming of Jesus, but a number of times he also highlights the importance of enjoying the life of Christ now. For example, in John 5 Christ says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (5:24) In the Gospel of John, death, for a believer, is not a rupture with this life because in the next life we continue to enjoy the life of Christ that we possess now, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (11:25-26) So the Gospel of John, urging us to decide for Jesus and enjoy his life now, and Acts of the Apostles, showing the risen Jesus guiding the Church, are eminently suitable for Easter.
In the first reading today from Acts we see Jesus continuing to guide the Church. An angel of the Lord opened the prison gates during the night and commanded the apostles to preach in the temple about this life (Acts 5:19-20). “This life”, that is how the angel of the Lord describes Christianity, “life.” The high priest and the Sadducees were not filled with life but with jealousy (Acts 5:17) while the apostles were filled with the life of Christ. The Sadducees, without the life of Christ, were afraid of the people but the apostles were preaching to the people even though forbidden to do so during their previous encounter with the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:20). Enjoying the life of Christ now enabled the apostles to answer their mission even when obstructed by humans.
In the Gospel (John 3:16-21) God sent his Son into the world that everyone who believes in him might have life. Anyone who does not believe in God’s Son does not wait until the future for condemnation but is already condemned. God does not want the world condemned, God sent his Son to save the world, but the coming of Jesus into the world demands a decision. In the Gospel of John you cannot ignore the coming of Jesus. The choice is to believe in Jesus and be saved or not believe and be condemned. Condemnation is now for those who do not believe (John 3:18) and salvation begins now for those who believe. The light has come into the world, forcing everyone to make a judgment, to gravitate towards the light or avoid the light. God sent his Son into the world that everyone who believes in him might have life. In Acts the risen Jesus is guiding the Church from heaven and in the Gospel of John we can share in the life of the risen Jesus not just in the next life, but now.
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013