I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | God desires our intimacy
Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over."
If Easter is about anything at all, it is about God's radical desire to be intimate with each of us.
To take on mankind's sinful nature and then to suffer crucifixion at the hands of His creatures is indeed a mind-boggling demonstration of God's desire to remove sin as the barrier to the intimacy He longs to share with us.
Consider the Resurrection the greatest success story ever. God desires intimacy with mankind, but sin is the obstacle. Therefore, the answer to man's estrangement from God is the death and resurrection of Christ. His death and resurrection destroyed sin.
Every time we think of the Paschal mystery, we should consider our sins and the sins of the whole world and feel gratitude that God has taken definitive and decisive action to remove all barriers between God and us.
Think of it for a moment. What causes us to be distant from those who love us the most? Is it not our sins? What causes us to be distant from God? Is it not our sins? What causes us to be distant from ourselves? Is it not again our sins? The easiest and the most joyous solution for all of this is simple repentance. There's no need to recriminate ourselves at all. We know we don't like to carry around the guilt of sin, so what stands between ourselves and God? Simply lack of repentance.
So often our lack of repentance stems from not knowing how much God loves us. If we really knew how much He loves us, we would sin less and repent more. The more we enter into the biblical experiences of the Risen Lord, the more readily we will opt for intimacy with Him rather than self-recrimination or denial.
In the first reading today, it's the day of Pentecost and Peter's first sermon. If anyone should know anything about repentance and the restoration of intimacy with Jesus, it's Peter.
When bystanders see the mighty deeds of Pentecost, together with tongues of fire and the disciples' speaking in tongues, one says, "They have had too much wine." Peter boldly tells them that the apostles and disciples aren't drunk, that it's only 9 o'clock in the morning.
He then witnesses the mighty deeds, wonders and signs of Jesus while on this earth: "This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death ..."
This is very forceful language: "This man ... you killed." However, Peter states that it was done "by the set plan and foreknowledge of God," which means that God allowed this to happen because of His love for sinners. This removes it from condemnation and reduces it to conviction. Conviction is a gift; it's a call to intimacy.
Later in this chapter, we read, "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, 'What are we do, my brothers?' Peter says, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'"
About 3,000 people repented and received the gift of the Holy Spirit that day. This was just Peter's first sermon. It all began with his colossal collapse of denying Jesus. His experience of the Holy Spirit replacement for his self-condemnation is now multiplied again and again in his sermons. God experimented on Peter first so that he'd share his experience again and again. Repeatedly, it ends up in making friends for Jesus and the Father.
In the Gospel reading, two disciples have walked seven miles from the crucifixion scene. They want to get some distance from this traumatic memory. Suddenly, someone who appears to be a stranger describes the crucifixion as something planned by God. They suddenly love this stranger, just as he pretends to be moving on. "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over."
Only God could move them from the depths of discouragement to an experience of intimacy. Who cares about acknowledging sins when such intimacy is available.
That's the point of these resurrection scenes. If we read them as history, they're only history. If we read them in the context of God's desire to overwhelm us with a present experience of His intimacy, then we're personally involved.
When we read these resurrection scenes, why not enter into the profound love Jesus has for us right now, in our present situation? He wants us to experience intimacy, not condemnation. That doesn't mean we don't take ownership for sins. But we trade that ownership for His intimacy.
When we reflect on these resurrection experiences, we enter into a present moment of intimacy with God, who is bigger than our sins. He has the power to make changes in our lives if we give Him permission to be intimate with us. The more we focus on this intimacy with our God and His incredible love and mercy, the less our weaknesses are a barrier.
God wants to change our mind-sets about sin. "Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?"
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