During the First Reading, you heard the words, "God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out." [Acts 3:18-9]
During the Second Reading, you heard, "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." [1 Jn. 2:2]
And, during the Gospel, you heard me read, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." [Lk. 24:46-7]
When reflecting on the atoning sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus for our sins, what comes to my mind is the model life of St. Maximilian Kolbe who was canonized in October, 1982. Born in Poland in 1894, when he was old enough to answer God's calling, Maximilian joined the religious congregation of the Franciscans. By 1927, he had founded a house for those who wished to enter the religious life.
In 1941, while appointed as the superior of the Polish community, he was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned at Auschwitz. Twelve weeks after his arrival at the prison camp, a prisoner escaped. In retaliation, ten men were chosen at random to die of starvation. One of the chosen men was a young father. Shining in the love of Jesus, Father Maximilian offered to take the place of the young man. The offer was accepted and on August 14, 1941, Fr. Maximilian died of starvation.
In this act of self-sacrifice, we perceive true Christian love. Here, one man gave his life for another on the day of judgment, when the young father was condemned to death. With Jesus, it was different. Rather then waiting for us to be condemned to death on Judgment Day because of the sinful nature that we have inherited from our first parents and the personal sins that we have committed against our Lord, Jesus offered Himself as our atoning sacrifice before we were born. Now, when we will appear before the Lord God on Judgment Day, Jesus shall be our Mediator. He shall testify on our behalf that He who was sinless, washed away our sins through His Blood as the Lamb of God.
As was foretold through all the prophets of the Old Testament, the Author of life, our Messiah Jesus was called to suffer for our sins. To this, the disciples of Jesus were witnesses.
Having died for our sins, for the sins of the whole world, each and everyone of us has a free will to turn to Jesus in order to accept His sacrifice as our substitute or to reject the grace of God. If we accept the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, we must repent of our sins with a sincerity of heart. Then, we must obey the Commandments of God that are found in the Holy Bible and that are placed before us through the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church.
Those who obeyed the commandments of God as Father Maximilian obeyed them, they have come to know God. In them, the love of God has reached perfection. By embracing the same obedience to the Commandments in the love of Jesus Christ, we know that we are in Jesus and that Jesus is in us.
When Jesus appeared to His disciples to command them to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem, the disciples were startled and terrified. They thought that they were seeing a ghost."
But no, the disciples were not seeing a ghost. They were in the presence of Jesus glorified. As Jesus said, "A ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." Nor can a ghost, having a spiritual body, eat food that is physical in nature. But, in the presence of His disciples, Jesus did eat. Therefore, it is certain that the presence of Jesus was not the presence of His Spirit.
Today's reading from the Gospel of Luke is an interesting passage because it gives us a spiritual perception of the nature of the Holy Ghost who was given to the world on Pentecost Day.
Throughout the Holy Bible, in the Old and New Testament, numerous references are found to the Holy Spirit as being the Spirit of God. Some of these passages are found in: Gen. 41:38; Mt. 3:16; Rom. 8;9; 1 Cor. 2:11; Eph. 4:30; 1 Pet. 4:14; and 1 Jn. 4:2. There are also a reference to the Spirit of the living God. [2 Cor. 3:3]
Elsewhere in the Holy Bible, a reference is found to the Holy Spirit as being the Spirit of the Father. [Mt. 10:20]
There are references to the Spirit of the Lord. [Is. 61:1; Lk. 4:18; Acts 8:39; 2 Cor. 3:17, 8] Some of these references are to the Spirit of the Lord God of the Old Testament (God the Father) while others refer to the Spirit of the Lord as Jesus. In another passage, the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of God's Son. [Gal. 4:6]
There are also references to the Spirit of Christ. [Rom. 8:9; 1 Pet. 1:11] One Bible passage refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Jesus Christ. [Phil. 1:19]
By perceiving that the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of God is the same Spirit of the Lord Jesus, we have a greater appreciation of the nature of the Divine Presence of the Holy Spirit who continues the ministry of Christ on earth.
Jesus commanded us to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins throughout the whole world. This calling can only be achieved by the grace of God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit in the Most Holy Name of Jesus.
As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us keep in mind that Jesus suffered in our place for the forgiveness of our sins. Let us call upon the Spirit of Christ to teach us to perceive the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, the tremendous love that Jesus has for each and everyone of us.