May 4, 2014 – Third Sunday of Easter
St. Augustine was the Bishop of Hippo (in present day Algeria) about 400 years after Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection. Our Scriptural readings last week spoke of the importance of “believing” without “seeing.” This was no different at the time of Augustine. He wrote in his City of God, “I do not care to inquire why they cannot believe an earthly body can be in heaven, while the whole earth is suspended on nothing.” St. Augustine believed.
Our scriptural readings for this Third Sunday of Easter continue to fill in what occurred and what people saw and experienced after the resurrected Christ walked among them. In addition, they add the witness of those who did see. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles presents us with Peter preaching to the people. This is a different Peter indeed. He has assumed the leadership role to which Christ called him. It is he who has become the spokesman for the eleven remaining Apostles. Peter knows he is not alone; he knows that Christ is always with him and within him through the Holy Spirit. Hearing his words, you can sense his excitement and his zeal: “God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.”
St. Peter continues to encourage and affirm the early Christians in his letter written to the people of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Earlier in this letter Peter had reminded us that gold may lose its luster, but faith never does. He reiterates that in today’s second reading. Silver and gold, Peter says, are “perishable” but the Blood of Christ with which each of us was redeemed is incorruptible, pure, and permanent. Peter understands us pretty well. The gift given us by Christ is so incredible and so overwhelming that Peter is not sure we can really come to terms with it. Peter assures us that Jesus Christ was preordained before anything. Like God, He is, was, and always shall be. Our challenge is to embrace this and to use the strength from that knowledge to make a difference in our lives, in the lives of those around us, in our parish, in our neighborhood, and in the world.
On the day of His Resurrection Christ appeared to others on five occasions. It is worth noting that the story of the empty tomb appears in all four Canonical Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. On the other hand, the story of Christ’s appearance on the road to Emmaus occurs only in Mark and Luke, and the account in Mark does not mention Emmaus. Our Gospel reading from Luke has enough symbolism and meaning that entire books have been written about it.
One might say that we are all on the road to Emmaus. Our lives may parallel it. It begins with sadness and disappointment. Jesus sensed these disciples’ unhappiness and asked them what they were discussing. “They stopped, looking downcast.” Even when the Lord begins to converse with them, they have no idea who He is, even though they knew Jesus well and had followed Him. We may also fail to recognize or see Christ in those with whom we may walk, although it has been made clear to us He is there. Finally, where do they really apprehend who Jesus is? When Jesus breaks the bread and gives it to them. “He took bread, broke it, said the blessing, and gave it to them.”
This what we should experience at each Mass when the priest, as he consecrates the bread, says, “Take this all of you and eat of it; for this is my body which will be given up for you.” In the Eucharist we should find everything from Holy Scripture. We, like the disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, should find joy and satisfaction and strength. And we, like they, should hurry to all we know to proclaim, “The Lord has truly been raised.” It is still Easter and we have much to do.