Baptismal Bees
  • Sunday, April 22, 2012

Easter 3

Acts 3:12-19 • Ps. 4
1 John 3:1-7 • Luke 24:36b-48

In the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples begin to do what Jesus did; his life in them, they replicate his actions, though being careful to confess that they act “in the name of Jesus Christ.” Peter reaches out to a man lame from birth and raises him to exuberant life and strength. Explaining himself, Peter says, “You Israelites!” Our ears awaken and twitch with discomfort! “Jesus whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate” (3:13); “you killed the author of life” (3:15).

The new crop of atheists and all cultured despisers of religion are quick to tell the sad consequences of such words, and defensive Christians perhaps do little to help. In this context, it is difficult to hear that Peter does not target the Jews with a special guilt. He says, “I know that you acted out of ignorance,” showing them the same mercy that Jesus extends from the cross to his torturers and betrayers and that St. Stephen utters amid his stoning.

Sin is universal. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). But we have not been abandoned to sin and death.

“God has raised him from the dead,” Peter says, and it is from the Living Christ that “this man is whole.” Restoration in Christ through healing is an outward sign of a still greater miracle. The man’s restoration shows his new status: placement in the redeemed family of God to which everyone is welcome. He is restored as a “child,” leaping with youthful delight.

The First Epistle of John seems to cry out: “Behold the sort of love the Father has toward us — that we are called children, and we are!” The superlative address beginning the second verse reminds us that we are “most beloved,” calling the mind back to the moment of baptismal birth, the moment of Jesus’ baptism, when a voice rent the heavens proclaiming the Son of many sons and daughters to be the beloved Son of the Father. We are caught up in this new life, moved ever closer by hope toward “what will be revealed.” We trust that when Christ appears, “we will be like him.” In the time of our waiting we are to hold dear our life as sons and daughters grafted into the life of the Risen Son.

Consider St. Augustine speaking to the newly baptized: “This is my word to you. Just now you are born as infants, little ones in Christ, a new offspring of the Church, the grace of a Father, the fecundity of a Mother, a pious seed, a small new swarm of bees, the flower of our honor, the fruit of labor, my joy and crown, all you who stand in Christ” (Sermon 8, in Octava Paschae 1.4). These are words from a different time, of course, but can we feel in them new life and joy? In Luke’s gospel the Risen Lord says, “Look! Touch!” Can we ever know Christ in this way? Yes, at the moment he cuts open our senses (Luke 24:48).

Look It Up
Read 1 John 3:1-7. Notice how sin works, always requiring that we suspend and look away from the irrevocable truth that we are sons and daughter of God. Sinning, we lie, following the Father of lies.

Think About It
Having survived an emergency surgery, I returned to the parish after a five-week recovery. Children spontaneously left their pews like a dear swarm of bees and gave me hugs and kisses. Salvation can be that sweet. Churches should buzz.

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