While on His death pangs on the cross, Jesus let out this anguished prayer to the Father, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”(Lk 23:34) The greatest sin in human history – the murder of the God-man – was an act of ignorance. Jesus’ executioners, both Jews and Gentiles, were ignorant of so many things – the grave consequences of their horrendous act, God’s immense love for us all, God’s plan to redeem the world through His Son’s death, and, above all, the identity of the One who was being crucified.
St. Peter reminds his Jewish audience that they connived with the Gentiles to execute Jesus Christ because they too were ignorant of who He was, “Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did.” In their ignorance, they failed to recognize Jesus as the Servant of God in their midst. They also ignorantly “denied the Holy and Righteous One” and put to death “the Author of life.” Talk about a costly ignorance on their part! Sadly, we too sin today gravely and hopelessly because we are ignorant of Christ and the power of His grace.
By raising His Son from the dead, God has answered the dying prayers of His Son and has forgiven humanity for being ignorant of His Son. In addition, by the Resurrection, God has put to end the time of our being ignorant of His Son, Jesus Christ. Easter initiates the time for us to know Him and to make Him know by all people. We too should echo the sentiments of St. Peter, “But God raised Him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:14,15)
This knowledge of the risen Christ begins with repentance for our sins, “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”(Acts 3:19) Resurrection incepts the time for that sincere repentance that leads us to know Jesus Christ more, love and obey Him more faithfully, and bear witness to Him in our world today.
The risen Christ pursues His unfaithful disciples to Jerusalem because He wants them to know Him well. He is not satisfied with His somewhat cameo appearance to the two disciples during the breaking of bread at Emmaus. He follows them to Jerusalem and does everything possible just to make them know Him more. He speaks to them and offers them to touch Him and be assured that He is real, “Look at my hands and feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have. As He said this, He showed them He showed them His hands and feet.”(Lk 24:35-40) He even ate baked fish to assure them that the same crucified One was tangibly present right before their eyes.
The risen Christ does all these so that we know Him better, experience the power of His Resurrection in our lives and give witness to Him, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”(Lk 24:47-48)
But are we really knowing Him better? There are some clear signs that we lack due knowledge of Jesus and the power of His grace despite all that He has done to make us know Him more.
First, our hearts are easily troubled when we do not know Jesus as we should. He asked the disciples, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your heart?”(Lk 24:38) We are easily overcome by the troubles and anxieties of this life when we are ignorant of Jesus Christ. Only a true and authentic knowledge of Jesus Christ silences our fearful hearts.
Second, we futilely try to hide our sins or pretend that we do have them when we do not know Jesus well. Our ignorance of Christ also makes it hard for us to forgive ourselves and others. St. John said, “If anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.” (1Jn 2:1-2) He expiates our sins and gives us grace to begin again, keep His commandments, and overcome sin.
Third, we lose hope of keeping His commandments and succumb hopelessly to sin when we are ignorant of Jesus and the power of His grace. St. John also said, “The way we may be sure that we know Him is to keep His commandments. Those who say, ‘I know Him,’ but do not keep His commandments are liars, and the truth is not in them.” Our intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ impels us to obey His words and resist all sins out of love for Him, “Whoever keeps His word, the love of God is truly perfected in Him.”(1Jn 2:4-5)
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us enter this Easter season and beyond with the conviction that the time of our being ignorant of Jesus Christ is over. This is the time to know Him and to make Him known to others. There are so many ways that we can grow in this knowledge.
We begin to know Him through our true and honest repentance for our sins. Unrepented sin makes us blind to the presence of the risen Christ in our midst. We condemn ourselves to a life of ignorance of Jesus Christ when we try to justify our sins or to call evil good.
We deepen our knowledge of Him by spending time with Him by reading the Scriptures. Let us meditate on His words, aware of His abiding presence with us. This will allow Him to also “open our minds to understand the scriptures.”(Lk 24:45) As St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”
We know Jesus better when we allow His love to enter and abide in our hearts. This love is also a light that helps us to see Him present and acting in all events of our lives. We cannot know Him well when we doubt His love for us for any reason.
We grow in intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ by actually acting on His word and doing His will. Jesus Himself assured us that we become intimate with Him by our fidelity to His Father’s will, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my mother, brother and sister.”(Mt 12:50)
We know Christ better when we also allow Him to touch us in the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. He invites us to this enlightening experience of His loving presence with us through the sacraments in these same words, “Touch me and see.”
We know our risen Savior too the more that we strive to be Christ in this world. Living as Christ’s witnesses and refusing to be conformed to this world prepares us for a deeper knowledge of the risen Christ who walks with us. The two disciples got to know Him better because they returned from Emmaus to Jerusalem to bear witness to Him, “The two disciples recounted…how Jesus was made to them in the breaking of the bread.”
Lastly, we cannot know Jesus intimately without having a deep love for the person who knew and loved Jesus most passionately – His Mother Mary. Loving Mary as Jesus’ mother allows us to love Jesus with the intense love of Mary’s Immaculate Heart. We thus share in that her loving knowledge of Jesus that led her even to Calvary as a courageous witness of divine love’s triumph over sin, death and evil. There is no iota of ignorance of Christ in Mary’s heart!
Our risen Savior is still pursuing us today to touch us in this Eucharist so that we may know Him better. This is not the time to be ignorant of Christ! This is the time to know Him more and more and make Him better known to others. This is the only way we can ever hope to overcome sin, keep His commandments, and be assured that our hearts will never be troubled.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!