Shared Homily Starter
The liturgical season of Easter is the only time that the readings are all from the New Testament. During this season the first readings are from the Acts of the Apostles. Today's reading from Acts is another occasion where our Roman Catholic Lectionary differs from the Revised Common Lectionary and omits scripture verses. This textual omission significantly changes the meaning and therefore our understanding of the scriptural message.
Today's reading is from Acts, Chapter 3, which begins with Peter and John's encounter with a cripple beggar outside the temple, where they are about to enter. Peter tells the beggar, “‘I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you.” Peter then cures the man in Jesus' name. The man jumped, took Peter's outstretched hand and began to walk. We are told, he entered the temple with the apostles “walking and leaping and praising God.”
People swarmed around the three of them, the beggar, John and Peter as they entered the temple entrance walkway, called Solomon’s Portico. Peter addressed the people telling them that it is not by his own power that the cripple man was healed—and, it is here that today's reading begins. The point of what Peter is saying is not to lay a guilt trip on the people. Rather, it is to let them know that it was in the name of Jesus, whom they crucified that the man was healed. The first omitted verse states: “And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.”
It is after this statement that Peter lets them know that he understands that they and their rulers acted in ignorance. The last part of today's reading cuts the scripture verse of part way through a sentence. In its entirety, it reads: “19Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, 20so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, 21who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets.”
I said textual omissions change the meaning and therefore our understanding of the scriptural message and it does. Without the left out verses, the message is “you are guilty of collaboration in the crucifixion of Jesus, you are sinful, repent.” When the passage is read as it is written, the messages are: even the name of Jesus can make you whole; God invites us to “times of refreshing”; and, God promises a “universal restoration” to the goodness that God proclaimed at creation. With each act of creation, God said “it is good”.
This does not preclude the need to repent—but, we must look at the true meaning of the word “repent”. The word comes from the Hebrew concept of Teshuva. The concept of Teshuva was mistranslated into the Latin word poenitire, which means “make sorry” and Christians have been bearing the brunt of that faulty translation ever since.
The Hebrew word for “make sorry” is Charatah and not Teshuva. Teshuva is commonly understood as the act of turning over a new leaf, when someone has made a mistake in life and after coming to the realization that he has erred, he commits himself to change and become a new person. This explains why the word repentance is used as a translation of Teshuva. However, the real concept of Teshuva is not a process of changing ourselves but rather a process of returning to our true self. The core of every person is good....The solution to any momentary lapse is not to transform oneself into something else but rather to revert back to our default state of goodness.1
Today's first reading is not from a Gospel but it is Good News for three reasons. The first is that at home you are motivated to consult your bible along with the readings in your missals or liturgy of the hours. The second reason, and key for today, is so you know that today's first reading is not a message that is stuck in the crucifixion. It is not asking you to be sorrowful or remorseful. Rather, it's to bring you Easter joy through the knowledge that Jesus' resurrection means we will all be made whole, that God has promised a universal restoration to goodness for all creation. Third and last is a lesson for us in the here and now about repentance. Repentance is to emulate the cripple man, who accepted Peter's offer and outstretched hand. God's hand is outstretched to us in the invitation to be restored, refreshed and made whole. Our acceptance or rejection of the invitation is demonstrated by the way we live our lives.
Today first reading is good news. Alleluia, alleluia.
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