What prompted the crowd so readily to believe Peter?

Third Sunday of Easter

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19

Peter said to the people: “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence when he had decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses. Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”

1 John 2:1-5A

My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world. 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. But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.

Luke 24:35-48

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread. While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, “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, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

One thing that always bewilders me is the total contrasting attitude of the people who, some fifty days ago participated in the death of Jesus, were now so readily to believe Peter (Acts 2:14-42; 3:13-26). Consider for a moment what Peter said. Not only did he boldly reprimand them, he professed something that was extremely incredible if not insane—the resurrection of a criminal and that he is the “Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36). What prompted the crowd so readily to believe? I would say that they believed because they encountered the presence of God. They encountered the presence of God in the spirit through Peter who was himself “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4).

Whereas “encounter” usually refers to sensory perception, it also includes intuitive experience. While the saying “seeing is believing” may be true to some extent, one can encounter with physical eyes and yet fail to recognize (like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus) or encounter with physical presence yet still disbelieve (like the eleven and their companions in today’s Gospel reading). Likewise in Mt 28:17, the disciples saw Jesus and were in His presence, “they worshipped him, but some doubted”. Rather it is the heart that can see rightly for it is not just a generator of emotional feelings but the seat of human intellect and will. It is here where discernments and decisions are made. It is here where believing takes place and faith is born. It is here where the Holy Spirit dwells (Eph 3:17; 2 Cor 1:22; Gal 4:6; Rom 8:27). And since the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth it will reveal the Truth which is beyond the grasp of reasoning and senses (cf CCC 2563). The crowd “were cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37) when they heard Peter and instantly asked for the remedy of their wrongful act.

Very often we ask which comes first: the work of the Holy Spirit or ours. While the Holy Spirit is the one who enlightens and inspires, we ourselves have to be docile and cooperative. No human eye now has the privilege to encounter the presence of God in the flesh as those people did in the Gospels, yet the Holy Spirit is at work all the time though not all are touched by it (cf Acts 2:41). Only those who have a right disposition, an open mind, a listening ear and most of all a humble heart, will be able to benefit from the gift of the Holy Spirit—-the gift of faith.

Other Sunday Reflections

Spiritual Talk – 3rd Sunday of Easter 何庭耀神父

On the3rd Sunday of Easter,Fr. Anthony Ho explains to us the events surrounding Jesus’ resurrection and his appearing to two disciples on the road to Emmaus in the Gospel of John. Accepting and trusting in God requires courage, and St. Augustine is a great example of this. Fr. Anthony also describes the effects of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and a Catholic’s role in witnessing to the Faith.

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May Tam

May Tam, Bachelor of Social Science (University of Hong Kong), Master of Theological Studies (University of Toronto)