Father Leslie Hoppe, OFM

April 14: Third Sunday of Easter

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Faith has consequences

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Ps 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9; 1 Jn 2:1-5a; Lk 24:35-48

Jesus lived and died as an observant Jew. Jesus’ disciples were Jews. The first Christians were Jews. Those Jews who accepted the Gospel did not turn their backs on the ancestral faith. Continuity with their religious past and its commitments was very important for Jewish Christians.

The Gospels do try to point to lines of continuity between the ancestral faith of the Jewish people and the good news that Jesus came to announce. The events of Good Friday, however, complicated the task of the Gospel writers.

The Gospel of Luke and its companion piece, the Acts of the Apostles, emphasize points of continuity between the beliefs of the Jewish people and those Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Today’s readings from Acts and Luke exemplify that.

Those two readings assert that Jesus’ death was the fulfillment of the Scriptures that assert that the Messiah would suffer (Acts 3:18, Lk 24:48). This claim is the fruit of efforts by unnamed early Christians, who combed the books of the prophets to support their belief that Jesus was the Messiah.

The rabbis taught that all biblical texts were written for the days of the Messiah. Jewish Christians read texts like Is 50:6 and 53:7, Zec 13:7 and Ps 22:16 and 69:2, among others, as shedding the light of faith on Jesus’ final hours and demonstrating that the Messiah would suffer.

Unfortunately, the attempts by the Gospel writers to identify lines of continuity between Judaism and Christianity did not prevent the tragic rupture between the synagogue and the church. Eventually, each went its own way with tragic consequences, especially for the Jewish people.

Today, interfaith dialogue characterized by mutual respect is leading to a new relationship between Jews and Christians that will serve the good of all the people of God.

The second reading from 1 John points to another line of continuity between Judaism and Christianity: the centrality of the ethical dimension in our life with God. While holding that religious beliefs are important, acting on those beliefs is more important, as John affirms: “The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments” (1 Jn 2:3).

The authentic Christian life is marked by living in accord to the law of Christ: “(Jesus) said ... ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mt 22:37-29). The law of Christ has its foundation in the Torah of Moses (see Dt 6:5; Lv 19:18).

Judaism and Christianity will always have fundamentally different notions about the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. What these two faiths share is their emphasis on the ethical and moral dimension of religious belief and commitment.

Christians and Jews often find themselves on the same side of the moral issues that face our society such as civil rights, social and economic justice and welcome for immigrants. There is disagreement on some specific issues, but Christians and Jews can and do work together to make this a better world for all people.

A political dictum often quoted by successful politicians is, “Elections have consequences.” Today’s second lesson offers a variation: “Faith has consequences.”

John minces no words in underscoring the importance of the ethical dimension of the Christian life: “Those who say, ‘I know him,’ but do not keep his commandments are liars” (1 Jn 2:4). In a more positive tone, the prophet conveys God’s promise: “Listen to my voice and do all that I command you. Then you shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Jer 11:4). The message is the same: faith has consequences. That is true for both Jews and Christians.


  • scripture