“You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.” (Acts 3,14) Bad choice. In one of his first speeches after receiving the Holy Spirit, Peter spells out for the people of Israel the poor judgment they exercised in the crucifixion of Jesus. Granted, Peter admits that, “Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did;”(v. 17) Obviously the people didn’t know what they were doing, they were ignorant. However,they should have known who Jesus was and what riches of eternal life he offered them. There were plenty of clues and hints that were given to them for “God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer.” (v.18) If they understood the scriptures then they would have known and understood the significance of the suffering of Jesus the Christ. The people of Israel had the scriptures to inform them and, in the person of Jesus, God was fulfilling all of the promises that he had made to his people over the years through the prophets. Jesus is God’s suffering servant who came among us to show us the Father’s love and to lead us to eternal life in his name. They failed to recognize the tremendous gift of love that the Father was offering them in the ministry of Jesus. They didn’t know. They just couldn’t see.
We also can be accused of making bad choices in our life in this world. Many of our bad choices are made because we do not know Jesus and recognize what he brings to our life. We have a rich inheritance in the tradition of our faith that has been handed down to us but we also fail to appreciate the richness of our faith tradition and we end up trading it away for something worthless or even worse something that leads to death. When we received the gift of faith and were baptized into the rich tradition of the Church we were given a priceless treasure and everything that we needed for an eternal life of glory and happiness in our life. Sadly, many people, Catholics from birth, trade away this rich gift and end up suffering in their life because they are ignorant of their faith. We trade away our inheritance of eternal life in Christ for some illusory happiness that the world offers us that quickly passes away. If we really knew Jesus and the richness of our faith, if we could recognize him “in the breaking of the bread,”(Lk 24,35) would we have made the poor choices that lead to suffering in our world today? How do we know?
John, in his letter to the Church, tells us that if we really knew our faith and the life of Jesus we would not commit sin. Sin is always a bad choice for our life and leads to much of the suffering that we experience in life. Sin leads to broken marriages and broken homes and families. Sin leads us to choose the way of death and builds a culture of death and division in our society. “The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments. Those who say, “I know him,” but do not keep his commandments are liars, and the truth is not in them.”(1Jn 2,3f) The way we overcome our ignorance and truly know the way of life that Jesus opens to us is to follow him and his way and keep his commandments of love. Too often we trade the truth of God for a lie and try to justify our sinful behavior in the name of some false sense of freedom. It is only the truth that will truly give us freedom.
In the gospel of Luke, the Risen Jesus asks the disciples, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?”(Lk 24,38) They are troubled because they do not yet believe in the promises that God has revealed to them in scripture and fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus. They think that Jesus is some kind of illusion but he shows them that his glorified, risen body is real and tangible. He then, “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”(Lk 24,45) In this gift of understanding, the apostles find their joy, amazement and new hope in God’s goodness, love and mercy. Jesus is still able to reveal the truth of the resurrection to us through an understanding of the scriptures and a personal encounter with him in his Risen body. Jesus doesn’t want us to only be believers, he wants us to be witnesses. He wants more than our intellectual assent, he wants us to have a personal experience of his real presence. Through his Spirit he can open our minds to understanding and keep us from making the poor choices that lead to suffering in our lives.
There are still many today that do not understand our faith in the resurrection of Jesus. There are still many who do not fully believe in the historical fact of the resurrection and thinkthat it is a literary device or some sort of symbol, and that the Risen Jesus is just an illusion that we create to make us feel better about our lives. Jesus says simply, “It is I myself.” Can we really afford to remain ignorant of our faith today? Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ. We need to start choosing the Holy and Righteous One over the agents of death in our culture. Good choices come from knowing the truth and believing in its power to free us from sin and lead us to new life in the Risen Christ.