04May 4th May. Third Sunday of Easter

3rd Sunday of Easter, 2014

First Reading: Acts 2:14, 32-33

(Jesus’ greatest moment was when God raised him to glory. His resurrection shows the Father’s plan for all of us.)

Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say…

This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear.

Second Reading: First Letter of St Peter 1:17-21

(Christians are called to live in obedience to the Father. This life is founded on faith and hope in Christ who has been raised from the dead.)

If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.

Gospel: Luke 24:13-35

(Two disciples come to recognise our risen Lord in the breaking of the bread, as he opened the Scriptures to them.)

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”

He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”

Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, becase it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.

They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

A Gospel within the Gospel

The Emmaus story is like a gospel within the gospel. It holds so much of what is central to the whole Christian message that it is often used as a summary of what Christian life is all about. For these disciples on the road, it was all over. For the previous few years life had been exciting, and they were in the middle of it all. It is unfair to blame them, but they just hadn’t grasped a great deal of what Jesus had said. We can empathise with them, because mostly we too forget or we fail to take seriously the promises of the Lord. He promised that he would be there for us, that he would never abandon us in the storm, that he would walk every step of the road with us, and that he would bring us safely through the desert and the Red Sea of death into the Promised Land of the Father.

It is more than interesting that Jesus used scripture as his way of enlightening them. Scripture is the word of God. It contains the promises of the Lord, and it reveals the heart of God. The words of scripture are not at all like the words in our daily newspaper. The word of God is empowered as by an electric current, and it is inspired and shot through with the Spirit of God. With God’s word comes the power to respond to that word, and to carry it out. Because of various factors, the study of scripture was not greatly emphasised or appreciated in Catholic circles. It was seen as more of a Protestant thing, and it was something that ordinary lay persons could not be trusted with interpreting properly. That trend, thankfully, is now reversed, and this is an important part of the whole process of church renewal.

It is significant that they recognised Jesus in the breaking of bread. Breaking of bread among friends was a living symbol of friendship and belonging. What was special about the way Jesus broke the bread is something at which I can only hazard a guess. It must have been the whole atmosphere of self-giving that he invested in the act that revealed to them who he really was. There was a level of sincerity, of giving, of sharing, of sacredness that must have been unique to Jesus, and it must have been something they had experienced on previous occasions. This unique something touched their deepest hungers, and the nourishment provided was no longer just a physical thing. It was food that required them to open their hearts as well as their mouths to receive.

Life is a journey made up of many journeys. It is a wonderful gift of God’s Spirit to have the sense of being accompanied on the journey, of being led by the Spirit, of having a sense of direction in life. All of this is only possible through my own personal yes, and my willingness to be open to the accompanying presence of the Lord. “You’ll never walk alone when you walk with God” is an important truth. The only real sin for the Christian is not to have hope. Because of Jesus we already have the victory. We are a risen people, a people of power, and a people to whom Jesus has entrusted full authority over all the power of the evil one. Again, all of this makes no difference whatever, unless I personally take possession of what Jesus offers me and makes possible for me. Again and again and again I am called on to repeat my own personal yes. The only yes in my whole life the Lord is interested in is my yes of now.