The 3rd Sunday of Easter
First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 3:13-15, 17-19
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 4:2, 4, 7-9
Second Reading: 1st Letter of St. John 2:1-5
Gospel: According to St. Luke 24:35-48
Solomon’s Portico was located on the east side of the Temple’s outer court, known colloquially as the middle or women’s court, and it was from this place that St. Peter spoke to the Israelites the message of repentance and conversion that is recounted in this weekend’s opening reading.
Peter, armed with a courage that he lacked when he stood in the high priest’s courtyard on the night of Jesus’ arrest, gives an oration that might be considered ‘hate speech’ if delivered today:
“Jesus…you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence when he decided to release Him…You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death…”
Not a lot of wiggle room in those words, laying the passion and death of Jesus at the feet of the Jewish people in his audience. The last thing on Peter’s mind would have been any concern for what the crowd might think of him – or might do to him – since his goal was to spread the Gospel, to get them to see that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ.
Interestingly, the Portico of Solomon appears earlier in the stories about Jesus, this time in John’s Gospel when He and His disciples are in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Dedication, known most commonly as Hanukkah. In this instance Jesus tells his Jewish listeners that “I told you [that I am the Messiah]…you do not believe, because you are not among My sheep.”
It is easy to see where Peter got his bluntness, and it is also easy to anticipate the response of our Lord’s audience: “The Jews again picked up rocks to stone Him.” The key word here is “again” – Jesus can’t seem to help Himself when it comes to speaking His mind, and neither can Peter. After numerous run-ins with the Jewish authorities Peter finally meets his end in the same manner as his Savior – by crucifixion at the hands of the Romans.
But before he leaves Jerusalem for good, he answers God’s call to preach to those who put Jesus to death. To warn Peter that he should temper his speech so as not to offend, would have sounded to his ears as outlandish as someone warning a heart surgeon to be careful not to cut into a patient’s chest. In matters of life and death – spiritual, as well as physical – there is no place for concern over being insensitive. When a fellow soldier yells out, “Duck your %&*#$ head!” there is no need to reprimand him for the salty language that saved your life.
What Peter said to the crowd in Jerusalem that gathered in Solomon’s Portico was said bluntly, but also with charity – “I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance.” His purpose was not to embarrass or bring shame upon these people, but to shake them from their obstinate denial of the truth that Jesus is the One for whom they have waited so long. And since that is a message for all and not just those who shouted “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” we can imagine ourselves in that very crowd – remembering what our voices shouted on Palm Sunday during the reading of the Passion Narrative. We too, and not just those who still stand against Christ today, must accept the words of the first Bishop of Rome and humbly accepting Peter’s call to repentance and conversion.