Homilette for Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday in the Octave of Easter

(Acts 3:11-26; Luke 24:35-48)

If on the cross the Jews executed an innocent man, Christians have more than excised repayment. Their crimes against Jews through the centuries are extensive and bloody. At times Christian leaders supported or at best turned a blind eye to these atrocities. Interestingly, the Gospel according to Luke and Luke’s Acts of the Apostles takes a judicious approach to the Jewish people’s complicity in Jesus’ death. On the cross in Luke’s passion narrative Jesus prays for forgiveness of his persecutors. “Father, forgive them,” he says, “for they do not know what they are doing.” In today’s reading from Acts, Peter reiterates the Lucan interpretation of Jewish responsibility. Addressing himself to the Jews of Jerusalem, Peter says, “’...you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did.’”

The ignorance of the Jews does not so much regard the night trial and swift execution of Jesus as the inability to recognize who he is. As Peter indicates, he is God’s “Holy and Righteous One” sent to bring new life to the people. It is a large truth for us to grasp even after two millenniums of spiritual reflection. We continue to sin, and our sins conspire with those of the Jews and the Romans in Jerusalem that fateful Passover when Jesus was put to death. So we like the Jews addressed by Peter do not fully know what we do when we ridicule others or take something that does not belong to us. And, yes, we too, become beneficiaries of Jesus’ prayer for forgiveness from the cross.