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Michael Simone, S.J.April 11, 2024
Photo from Unsplash.

Luke writes of Jesus’ resurrection appearances with such subtlety and emotional nuance that one can forget that he is telling a larger story. Although Luke never states it plainly, he probably imagined Jesus as an ideal “philosopher king.” In Luke’s account, Jesus was a brilliant man, touched by heaven, who taught a new way of living human life and a new method for constructing human society. This is the narrative arc that the books of Luke and Acts trace out. As Luke’s Gospel opens, this new society comprises only Zechariah, Elizabeth and Mary; by the end of Acts, it embraces the whole world.

“‘Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations.’”

Liturgical day
Third Sunday of Easter (B)
Acts 3:13-19, Ps 4, 1 Jn 2:1-5, Lk 24:35-48

Where does your own existence cry out for new life?

Do you know a person who needs Christ’s living power?

How can you help the Lord renew human society with the Gospel?

The resurrection is a key moment in this narrative. It is the proof of Jesus’ divine mission, and the reality of it offers the promise that anyone who believes in him and lives according to his preaching and example will, like him, elude death. This is Peter’s insight in this Sunday’s first reading, when he calls Jesus the “Author of Life.” The resurrection revealed that Jesus is more than just a specially inspired human being. Power over death revealed that Jesus possessed an even greater power, and that any action done in his name and according to his example would draw on that same divine energy.

This was not just a new spiritual insight or interior reality. Life in Jesus and with Jesus represented a tangible “kingdom.” Jesus was building a new society within the matrix of the old. Throughout Luke’s writings, he carefully noted historical landmarks to demonstrate that this new society was unfolding in the context of first-century Judaism and of the early Roman Empire. Beginning with Gabriel’s visit to Zechariah, Luke traces the way that God’s kingdom transformed relationships among families, friends and strangers, the nature of the human body, worship, citizenship and even matters of life and death. 

An act of repentance made one a citizen of this new kingdom. In English, the word “repentance” suggests notions of guilt and shame and perhaps even extravagant sorrow, but in Luke’s mind it probably represented something more like a complete “turning” of the mind and heart to God. An interior life in harmony with Jesus’ teaching and example allows the power that raised him from death to be at work in us. A community of people alive with this Spirit marks the rebirth of human society. This is illustrated most clearly in Acts 4:34-35: “There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.” The Author of Life conferred new life not just on his followers but on the whole enterprise of human community.

This sheds some light on the care with which Luke shares his resurrection accounts. He relates the emotional and tangible details with such care because he wants to stir his readers at a profound level. Only in such depths can Jesus and his Gospel transform the heart.

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