Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Power of Recognition

3rd Sunday in Easter (B)

Readings: Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19; Psalm 4: 2, 4, 7, 9; 1 John 2: 1-5; Luke 24: 35-48

Picture: By juana la loca on Flickr

My dear friends, do you ever worry about being scammed? It’s natural to be worried, since it has been announced that, in 2023, there were a record-breaking 46,563 scams reported. Almost forty seven percent more than in 2022! So what can we do? Perhaps it helps to begin by stating the obvious: Scams are the result of a failure of recognition. Victims mistake a lie for the truth, and surrender their valuables in exchange for false promises. How then might we strengthen our power of recognition, improve our ability to distinguish the authentic from the fake, the truth from the lie? This is also the question that our scriptures help us to ponder today.

In the first reading, after healing a lame beggar, by invoking the name of Jesus, Peter addresses a crowd of astounded onlookers. And isn’t it striking how he speaks to them as if they have been scammed? He begins by reminding them who they are, and what they’ve done. They are descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And yet, they’ve handed over, disowned, and killed Jesus, the faithful servant of the God of their ancestors. They have surrendered the Holy One, the Just One, the One of infinite spiritual value, in exchange for a lie. And they’ve done all this in ignorance, out of a failure of recognition. So Peter helps them uncover the lie, and repent from their sin, to recognise and turn to the God of truth.

What Peter does for non-believers in the first reading, we find John doing for disciples in the second. Like Peter, John begins by reminding his readers who they are. In Christ, they are already children of God. But they still need help to distinguish truth from lies. To remember that Christ’s disciples are recognised not by what they say, but by how they live. For we Christians know God only by keeping his commandments. It’s through obedience that God’s love comes to perfection in us. Otherwise, we are living a lie, refusing to admit the truth.

And if Peter and John are able to help others recognise and reject lies, isn’t it only because they’ve both been taught to recognise and follow the One who is Truth itself? In the gospel, when the Crucified and Risen Christ suddenly appears among his disciples, they fail to recognise him at first. Despite his gentle greeting of peace, they still mistake him for a ghost, and are plunged into a state of alarm and fright. An understandable reaction, considering all that they have endured since Holy Thursday. It’s only when the Lord patiently shows them the wounds on his hands and feet, that their alarm turns to joy. Allowing him to open their minds to understand the scriptures. To accept that, in the trauma of the Cross, lies the sure path to peace and fullness of life.

Isn’t this the gift we are offered anew every Easter? The experience of how the wounds of love are our reliable touchstone for recognising Truth. And isn’t this gift more precious than ever today? When the prevalence of scams has become a sign of our times. An indication of our dire need to strengthen our power of recognition. To keep improving our ability to distinguish truth from lies. So that we might resist the temptation to surrender our valuables, in exchange for empty promises. Valuables, such as deep authentic peace of heart, or safe life-giving interactions at home and at work, out on the streets and here in church, or the ability to show tender care and concern for those in greater need, including our ailing planet… And empty promises, like luxury and material success, comfort and a carefree existence, power and control over others, or popularity and worldly acclaim…

As mentioned at the start, during his Passion, Jesus told Pontius Pilate: For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice (Jn 18:37). Sisters and brothers, could it be that there are far more dangerous scams than those that put our money at risk? What can we do to allow the Risen Lord to strengthen our power of recognition, so that we might follow, ever more closely, his voice and no other, today and every day?

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