Easter, a call to repentance! Thursday, Octave in Easter- Acts 3:11-26
The first miracle in the Acts of the Apostles is followed by a homily; a homily not made by choice but by necessity. Peter and John are besieged by a throng of people in Solomon’s Portico, who attribute the miracle to the human hands of Peter and John, and not to the divine.
So Solomon’s Portico became the setting for Peter’s second homily. According to Josephus, Solomon’s Portico was a double-columned porch on the east side of the Temple near the court of the Gentiles. It was about 23 feet wide and the columns were about 40 feet tall. Josephus the historian claimed they were white marble with cedar-panels for a ceiling.
Peter and John take absolutely no credit for the cripple’s healing; that glory belongs to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The patriarchs mentioned in this text would certainly have not gone unnoticed, for every Jew would harken to these names while calling on YHWH (The Jews never called God by name and so never even wrote the vowels in His name, making His name impossible to be taken). Curiously Peter also adds another line, “the God of our ancestors has glorified His servant Jesus.”
This title “servant” would have not been lost on the Jews listening to Peter. They were familiar with the servant Psalms of Isaiah (Chapter 42, 49, 50, 52 and 53). Now that Peter has their attention, he proceeds with his sermon whose theme and content is modelled on similar elements in his Pentecost homily. Christ was rejected, handed to Pilate, put to death but raised from the dead.
But to the reader familiar with Peter, one can see a change from the apostle in the Gospels as compared to the apostle in Acts. No longer is Peter impetuous, for there is a marked temperance in his thought. Now he speaks also with compassion, for according to him, the murder of the “author of life” was also an act of ignorance on the part of the people and rulers.
Perhaps what should strike the reader the most in this homily, is the recurring theme of repentance. It is a repentance of sin that was called for in Peter’s Pentecost homily, and that won the Church three thousand converts, and the same theme recurs in the homily given in Solomon’s Portico which will win the Church five thousand converts.
To most Christians, the use of the word repentance almost seems to drag us backward from Eastertide into the Lenten season. We associate Easter tide with hope, new life, peace and joy, and repentance seems to be done and dusted with, as a theme reserved for Lent. Not so for Peter, not so for the Church. This theme is at the heart of the liturgical cycle; for what was the purpose of God’s great giving at Christmas if not to give us a Saviour to free us from our sins?
The call of the prophet Joel that we heard on Ash Wednesday to “rend our hearts and not our garments” is continued by Peter in the Eastertide and continues as long as the Gospel is proclaimed. So here is a question that we should ask ourselves. Peter’s homily, which was simply a presentation of the truth and a call to repentance, brought great converts to the Church. Perhaps we need to go back to a more fundamental message preached by the early Church to see converts to the Lord?
Fr Warner D’Souza
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