It is a powerful contrast which Peter speaks in our first reading, today; I am not sure we can penetrate the depth, the profoundness and the sublimity of this reality. Let us try, so that in our failure to do so we can perhaps better appreciate what God has done for us, His creatures, who were made in His image and likeness and are the pinnacle of all creation.
The beloved apostle, John, begins his Gospel with this fundamental Theological statement of Truth:
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
All things came to be through Him,
and without Him nothing came to be (Jn. 1:1,3).
We know that the Word of whom John speaks is Jesus but can we look at Him on the cross and see Him as one who existed for all eternity with the Father and the Holy Spirit—who has no beginning, no first day of life—but who brought all things into existence out of nothing… even Life itself? His dual natures are inseparable—things of heaven are wed to those of earth, and divine to the human (from the Exsultet).
One of the greatest frustrations of Theological study is that God’s Truth is beyond our comprehension. The more we know, the more we realize how much we don’t know.
For just a moment, enter into the scene of today’s Gospel when Jesus stood in their midst… and they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. You’re confused. Jesus asks, “Why do questions arise in your hearts?” Your mind cannot grasp what your eyes and ears are telling it.
We can only imagine what it must have been like as Jesus takes them through scripture and shows them how all of it points to Him as the one and only Hope of redemption for humanity. Peter cannot explain it. He can only sum up this Truth with the words, “The author of life you put to death.”
God created us to be with Him, but we turned away. We are incapable of mending that rift. To bridge that gap, Jesus became one of us so that, in His human nature, He could accomplish what we could not. Pope St. Leo the Great says: “though invisible he made himself visible. This was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence. He, who in the nature of God had created man, became in the nature of a servant, man himself.” This is the great Truth Jesus proclaims to us, more than once, when He says, “Peace be with you.”