When downloading an app onto our mobile device, most of us hardly read the terms and conditions. We are most likely to click the “agree button” without actually knowing what we are agreeing to. This can be said in many other situations when we sign up for something and the terms and conditions are long and printed in small print, we tend to not read and simply tick the checkbox and agree. We are only likely to revisit it if some problem crops up.
In some ways, it was the same for the disciples of Jesus. When Jesus called them, they left everything and followed Him. Why did they follow Jesus? They had good jobs. Why did they exchange them for an unpredictable life of economic insecurity? Did they know what they were signing up for?
Probably the disciples followed Jesus because they thought He was the Messiah, and being with the coming king could bring ultimate advantages. How wrong they were and in this post resurrection period, Jesus goes through with them the “terms and conditions”. The recurring assurance that Jesus gives the disciples through His post-resurrection appearance is that of His bodily resurrection and only then He goes on to explain the meaning of His suffering and death by using Scripture. Now the “terms and conditions” are becoming clearer to the disciples.
The Gospel readings of this Sunday and last Sunday revolve around the themes of conversion, forgiveness, reconciliation, and new life. Though we have gone past the season of Lent, the season of repentance, the post-resurrection message continues to build on what we had started with – the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday. Conversion and repentance are lifelong processes and not reserved only for the season of Lent. Both the Gospel passages which demonstrate great similarities (though Luke makes no mention of the incredulity of Thomas the Twin), the final words of Jesus makes clear in a few words the “terms and conditions” – You are witnesses to this!
As one journey comes to an end, it is clear that another begins. Jesus’ task that was given to Him by the Father has now come to an end and now, the disciples are to begin theirs. The disciples of Jesus are being sent to witness what they have heard and seen, preaching the good news of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. This was going to be the core message that the disciples are going forth to witness – the good news that will change the lives of those who hear it and clearly, it is what all followers of Jesus are to perpetuate, to pass on, and to share.
Conversion, repentance, forgiveness and new life have been the core of the Church’s message from the earliest times. According to the early Fathers of the Church, all true repentance must begin with humility. In other words, to take our eyes off others’ sins and instead to admit our own — this is only possible through humility. To take our eyes off ourselves and look to God is also an act of humility.
Jesus’ earliest message as He began His public ministry was repentance (Cf. Mark 1:15), and now the ministry of the disciples of Jesus must be founded on the same.
The attraction to the early Church was that it was a community of forgiveness and reconciliation. It was a time where those who professed faith in Jesus were excluded and criticised, or imprisoned, persecuted and killed. Yet they taught forgiveness and withheld retaliation against opponents. In fact, the Christians didn’t ridicule or taunt their opponents; neither did they repay them with violence – one among the reasons people marvelled at them.
As followers of Jesus, being called to be witnesses, we must constantly strive towards reconciliation with those who have been hurt, excluded or in disagreement with. When we witness the work of reconciliation, we share it not only with our neighbours but also with the entire world. The “terms and conditions” of being a disciple is to make one another feel welcomed, loved and forgiven – the grace of being healed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ made real!
Third Sunday of Easter (18 April 2021)