Third Sunday of Easter
The Defense Lawyer who Defends the Prosecuted
First Reading : ( Acts 3:13-19
) : All took part in the persecution of Jesus
“I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 Jn 2:1-2).
The Catholic Church has the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession), a gift that is an indication of God's mercy, the sacrament of forgiveness. When we have sinned, are sinners, we can obtain forgiveness and in and through the church are reconciled with God and with each other once more. This is the meaning of the article in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”
That is why this sacrament is called the Sacrament of Reconciliation,
or “the Sacrament of Peace.” It is the sacrament whereby, after our
relationship with others and with God has been broken by sin, we can
be united once again with God and with other human beings. The Chinese
saying, “All people under heaven are one” is not just a dream of our
ancestors, it can become a reality.
Because St. Paul the Apostle had the experience of having persecuted the church without reason, he had a clear awareness of the reality and characteristics of sin. He said, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Rom 7:15). Afraid he had not been clear enough in his letter, he added in verse 19, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”
This is probably what the Chinese saying means: “the heavens and humans are at war.”(1) In this great war, Huang Ming Yang's experience was “Victory over thieves in the mountains is easy. Victory over the thief in one’s heart is hard.”(2) That is to say, to win a battle against others, or against adverse circumstances is not too difficult, but to win a battle over oneself truly is not easy.
There is a story about one of the great Doctors of the church, St. Augustine, author of “The Confessions of St. Augustine”. He once said, “ When I heard that 'the just person falls seven times a day' I was very consoled, because only the person who is just will fall seven times a day and still struggle to stand up and fall again. The unjust (or sinful) person falls only once. Because he is unwilling to stand up again, he never falls a second time!” Those who are just acknowledge they are sinners, but do not excuse themselves. They continue to make a great effort, re-commit themselves and continue the struggle with themselves. No matter how often they fall, how many times they fail, they stand up and try again. This is because they believe that “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” He prays for us and protects us and intercedes with the Father for us. What he presents to the Father are our rights!
Moreover, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins,” that is, it is for this that he gave up his life for us: he stands by our side to the end. He is like all the loving parents in the world about whom so many songs and stories tell: with their own bodies they protect their children against the enemy, and sacrifice their lives for the sake of those they love.
When I was growing up in Hong Kong I lived in a very small village, Tai O. Once I saw an old hawk catching small chickens. What was curious to watch was that whenever the hawk appeared, the mother hen would call out loudly for her chickens to come back, then open her wings widely for the little chicks to hide under them. In this way the mother hen protected her chicks. At the time I wondered why the hen was not afraid of the hawk. Was this an example of the nature of mother love, to sacrifice her own life to save the lives of her offspring?
In the Scripture quoted above, it is as if Jesus is saying to His Father, 'If you must punish them, then punish me first.' He is like a defense lawyer in court, standing together in defense of the criminal, - our savior who gives his own life in exchange for ours! Terrorists hold hostages and others dare do nothing. Jesus Christ willingly stands in the midst of us who are the 'terrorists' so that God will not lift a hand against us!
If we still continue to be so ungrateful in response to our savior's devotion, driving him away from us, are we not digging our own graves?