The first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles or the New Testament. Typically, the first reading is from the Old Testament. The reason why it is structured this way is to tell the story of Christ. We read from the Old Testament as a preparation for Christ who we await for during Advent and receive on Christmas.
Then we read how the words of the Old Testament are fulfilled during Jesus' ministry as we enter Ordinary time. During Lent and Holy Week, we read of how these same Scriptures fulfill the mission of Christ to suffer, die and rise from the dead. Finally, during Eastertide, we read from Acts which tells the story of the new covenant founded on the passion, death and resurrection of Christ (Matthew 26:28). This new covenant is us, the Catholic Church!
In this first reading from Acts, we see Peter taking leadership once again demonstrating his primacy as the first of the Apostles or the Pope. He tells the people before him and us today hearing the word that the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob and the God of our fathers glorified His servant Jesus. Here, Peter is making it clear that there is one God and that this God has been preparing the world for Christ (Romans 10:4). Christ was indeed the Messiah the Jews were waiting for (Micah 5:2). However, most of the Jews at the time (especially temple officials) did not see this (John 4:22, John 9:18). In their ignorance, they mocked Christ and preferred that a murderer named Barabas be released rather than the "author of life" who is Christ (Mark 15:7, John 18:40). Peter clarifies that they did this out of ignorance recalling Jesus' words on the Cross (Luke 23:34). He continues by telling the people that the things that happened to Christ had to happen (Acts 17:3, Luke 24:26). They fulfilled what the prophets had announced centuries before. Now that the people have witnessed that Christ was indeed the real deal, Peter calls them to repent and convert. This reading leads into the Psalm which calls for God to shine His face upon us.
In the responsorial Psalm, we ask God to be there for us when we call upon Him. We ask God to have mercy and pity on us. This Psalm calls on God to reside in us and bring us peace of mind and heart which can only come from God. It echoes the blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26. This Psalm brings us to the second reading which is also from the New Testament.
IN the second reading, John is telling us not to sin. He reminds us that we have an Advocate or a mediator with the Father. This mediator is Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5-6). Some of our separated friends in the Protestant faith often cry foul when they see us praying to Mary or referring to her as a mediator. However, they do not understand that Mary intercedes on our behalf to her Son Christ, not the Father (John 2:1-12). Mary does not take the place of Christ, nor would she want to do so since she clearly stated that she is the "handmaid of the Lord," not the Lord's Lord (Luke 1:38). Moreover, John tells us that Christ is expiation for our sins, or reparation personified. In his book, "Jesus of Nazareth," Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes of expiation:
"The Greek word that is here translated as 'expiation' is hilasterion, of which the Hebrew equivalent is kapporet. This word designated the covering of the Ark of the Covenant. This is the place over which YHWH appears in a cloud, the place of the mysterious presence of God. This holy place is sprinkled with the blood of the bull killed as a sin-offering on the Day of Atonement --the Yom ha Kippurim. The thinking here is that the blood of the victim, into which all human sins are absorbed, actually touches the Divinity and is thereby cleansed -- and in the process, human beings, represented by the blood, are also purified through this contact with God.." (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, p. 39)
The Pope Emeritus continues to describe how St. Paul uses the same word, "hilasterion" to describe Christ and His sacrifice on the Cross (Romans 3:25). Jesus in His passion and death took on the sins of the entire world and of all peoples in every time from Adam until the last person to be born in the future before the final judgment (2 Corinthians 5:15). According to Pope Benedict XVI who cites from Origen, the remains; particularly the skull of Adam was buried where Christ was crucified:
"Concerning the place of the skull, it came to me that Hebrews hand down [the tradition that] the body of Adam has been buried there; in order that 'as in Adam all die' both Adam would be raised and 'in Christ all will be made alive'. (Origen - Commentary on Matthew, 27.32)"
Christ's blood would then seep down and "wash" the skull or remains of Adam as a sign of expiation. Moreover, John tells us that in our observance of the commandments, we know Christ (Matthew 19:17, John 14:15). If we do not keep the commandments, then we are just liars and the truth is not in us.
Finally in the Gospel, we read of Christ once again appearing to His disciples. They are startled at His presence which brought Him to ask them "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?" The disciples did not have the Holy Spirit at the time. That being said, despite Christ walking among them, they still did not truly comprehend this or anything else (Luke 18:34). Doubts and anxiety were always present. Once again, Christ shows them that He was really the one who was Crucified and offers them to see and feel his flesh since the disciples apparently had a fear of ghosts and ghosts do not have flesh and bone. Meanwhile, as they looked in amazement, Christ asks them if they have anything to eat.
They bring Him a piece of baked fish. This is an allusory to the fact that the disciples are called to be fishers of men and must bring the catch back to Christ (Matthew 4:19). This "piece of baked fish" represents the people the disciples "fish from the deep" (Luke 5:4). Christ eats this fish showing that the catch becomes part of His body (Colossians 1:18, 1 Corinthians 12:27). Lastly, Christ reminds them that everything that was written by Moses, the prophets, Psalms etc had to be fulfilled. Christ them opens their minds so that they can understand the Scriptures and put two and two together, so to speak. He reminds them that His suffering and resurrection had a major purpose; namely, the repentance of sins and the forgiveness of them. The disciples are to begin their journey of faith by spreading the Gospel everywhere. We too are called to do the same. May Jesus Christ be praised!
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