17 April 2024

Homily - The Third Sunday of Easter - 14 April 2024

The Third Sunday of Easter (B)

Dear brothers and sisters,

We deceive ourselves when we say to God something along the lines of “just give me a sign so I know you are real.” The Apostles saw a sign greater than any for which we would dare to ask, and still they had trouble believing (cf. Matthew 28:17). If they who saw the clearest of signs still struggled in their faith, why should it be different for you or me?

When Christ Jesus spoke to the scribes and Pharisees before his Crucifixion, he cautioned them, saying,

An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will be the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights (Matthew 12:39-40).

And then, just as Jonah came forth from the belly of the whale to preach repentance, so did Jesus come forth from the belly of the earth to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins. And still we want a sign.

Detail, The Resurrection of Jesus and the Liberation of Jonah, York Psalter, Add. 54179, f. 59v

In the parable Jesus told about Lazarus and the rich man, the rich man begged Abraham that his brothers be warned by Lazarus – who had died - lest they, too, receive eternal punishments. Abraham said, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:39). And still we want a sign.

The Apostles journeyed with Jesus for three years. They ate and drank with him; they laughed and mourned with him; they studied with him and learned from him; they saw the miracles he performed and knew he was crucified and buried. But when he stood in their midst, clearly alive, and they “thought that they were seeing a ghost” (Luke 24:37). He showed them his wounds to prove to them that it “is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his passion.”[1] They touched him and saw his wounds, and still they were “incredulous,” disbelieving (Luke 24:41. And still we want a sign. We really are rather foolish sometimes.

What greater proof of his divinity and his resurrected life could we possibly want than his empty tomb and the testimony of those who knew him, of those who saw him in his resurrected glory, of those who watched him ascend into heaven? But, no. we often think we need something more because we are too disbelieving.

We need to set ourselves aside and trust eyewitness testimony because, as Saint Augustine tells us, the Apostles needed to have their doubts quelled for us:

It was incredible, and they had to be persuaded of the truth of it, not only by their eyes but by their hands too, so that through the bodily senses faith might come down into the heart, and faith coming down into the heart might be preached throughout the world, to people who neither saw nor touched, and yet believed.[2]

People like you and me. If this is insufficient evidence for us to believe in Jesus and to follow him, nothing will be sufficient, not even if someone should rise from the dead. We can believe because the Apostles confirmed our doubts before us and for us, which is why Saint Bonaventure says, “And so Christ proved by the use of his senses that he had truly risen, so that the disciples might be made certain, and we in them.”[3]

What do we mean, then, when we speak of the certitude of faith? By this expression, we mean to say that faith “is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie.”[4] This does not mean that questions will not arise in our hearts (cf. Luke 24:38). Rather, it means that our questions and confusions need not to be cause for unbelief because “ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”[5]

When Jesus stood in the midst of the Apostles and showed them his wounds, it is important to notice what he did not say to them.

The Risen One does not reassure his disciples that everything will be all right, that they will have no problems; he does not say that the time of suffering is over and that from now on, finally, everything will be easy.


The Lord does not mislead, just as He had never misled anyone during the years of His earthly life: to His disciples, He had proposed a demanding path, which also passed for them, as for Him, through the cross of a life given. The Lord does not deceive, because His resurrection does not impose a new era, a new way of life, on the world, but simply offers it, and proposes it.


And he offers it to those who believe that Easter is really a way of life, to those who believe that only what dies in self-giving and remains alive in love and relationship is true and eternal.[6]

The Lord Jesus simply said to them what he says to us, as well: “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36). To have faith in him is to trust in the peace he offers, a peace born from his suffering and death and resurrection.

When we want to ask – or even demand – a sign from the Lord, when questions arise in our hearts, we do well to recall that important prayer found in the Scriptures: “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24)! Amen.

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 645.

[2] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 116.3.

[3] Saint Bonaventure, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, 24.53.

[4] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 157.

[5] Saint John Henry Newman, Apologia pro vita sua (London: Longman, 1878), 239.

[6] Pierbattista Cardinal Pizzaballa, Meditation for the Third Sunday of Easter, 14 April 2024.

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