Acts 3:13-15, 17-19 / 1 John 2:1-5 / John 24:35-48
Back in the past, in the so-called “good-old-days” one of the activities of the priest was to do home-visits. And because communication back then wasn’t that developed (not every house has a telephone), those home-visits can be surprise-calls. But the surprise can go both ways. It could be a surprise for the family, or it could be a surprise for the priest.
One senior priest, who was from those “good-old-days” was relating how he had to wait outside the main door for 15 min because the family was scrambling to tidy up the house and to get properly dressed.
Those were the “good-old-days”. Now if a priest wants to do home-visits, he has to call and make an appointment with the family, and it can be quite inconvenient for the family – not all are at home, they have to tidy up the house, they have to be properly dressed, etc. So now it’s like: Father, don’t call me, I will call you, if I want you to visit me.
So people will call the priest only when he is needed, e.g. for house-blessing. And talking about house-blessing, this week I had four house-blessings. The reasons for the house-blessing range from wanting the new house to be blessed to strange happenings in the house.
Especially when people think that there are “ghosts” lurking or hiding somewhere in the house. Not everybody believes in ghosts, but everybody seems to be afraid of them. Also during the day, not everybody believes in ghosts, but at night they are more open-minded.
There is a saying “when one door closes, another door opens”; that is of course a figure of speech. But in reality, if one door closes and another door opens by itself, then it’s time to do something, like call for the priest.
Yes, the supernatural or the unexplainable, can make our hair stand and we feel a chill. Whatever it is, we don’t welcome these encounters and it’s best that we don’t have these encounters at all.
Today’s gospel gives an account of an encounter that the disciples had. Two disciples came and told the rest of the disciples what sounded like some kind of ghost story, that they had seen Jesus, who was crucified, died and was buried.
What a story to tell the disciples when they were all hiding in a locked room for fear of the Jews. And while they were talking about all this, Jesus came and stood among them. In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost!
And what a situation to be in. They can’t run outside and shout “Ghost! Ghost!” because they will be caught. So there is no choice other than to face this Jesus, whom they thought has come back as a ghost to haunt them for deserting Him during His suffering. That’s quite similar to what most ghost stories are made of.
But that’s also where the “ghost story” ends, when Jesus said to them, “Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves. A ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.”
Although they couldn’t quite believe it and stood there dumbfounded, yet they were also relieved. What Jesus said to them calmed their fears.
Jesus did not come to haunt them or to settle scores for deserting Him. Although forgiveness was not mentioned, it was understood.
Only when they have calmed down, then they understood those first words of Jesus “Peace be with you.” Only when their hearts were at peace then their minds could be opened to understand the scriptures that spoke of Jesus who would suffer, die and rise from the dead. Jesus is certainly not a ghost!
Whatever our opinion of ghosts may be, the ghosts that often haunt us are the ghosts of our own making. We create these ghosts when we sin, because it is the ghost of our sins that come and haunt us.
For the disciples, their desertion of Jesus in His suffering and death made them think they were seeing a ghost when He appeared to them. But it was their sin that was haunting them.
As for us, we will recall our wrong-doing and how we have sinned against others. Hurting someone can be as easy as throwing a stone into the sea. But we may or may not have an idea of how deep that stone went into the heart of that person.
It may be our parents whom we have neglected or was unkind to when they were alive. Now that they are gone, all the flowers that we put at their niche or tombs would not appease our regrets.
Or the person that we have cheated in a relationship. Seeing that person brings out the ghost of the past and we feel how deep the stone has gone into the heart of that person.
Or how we have schemed to sabotage a person. Our misdeeds haunt us as we think of the revenge that will be taken against us if we are found out.
Yes, the ghost of our sins comes to haunt us even in the daylight and we live in the darkness of regret, anxiety and fear.
But today we hear the words of consolation “Peace be with you”. Jesus wants to forgive us but at the same time we must also pray for forgiveness and to seek forgiveness from the ones we have hurt and done wrong to.
That is what repentance for the forgiveness of sins is about.
It is not easy to embark on repentance for the forgiveness of sins, but it is not impossible. With Jesus nothing is impossible. He came to bring us to repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
He wants to free us from the anxiety and fear of being haunted by the ghost of our sins.
Repentance for the forgiveness of sins is necessary for true peace in our hearts. When there is peace in our hearts, there will be no ghosts to fear.