April 30, 2017 — Third Sunday of Easter
From Peter’s sermon reported in Acts (our First Reading) to Peter’s letter (our Second Reading) to the report in the Gospel of Luke of two disciples meeting Jesus while walking to Emmaus, the Resurrection of Christ is at the center of our readings today. As our Easter season continues we are asked to contemplate and appreciate what this means for us and to us.
Peter gives a sermon in the First Reading, the key focus of which is the resurrected Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. Peter says, “Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it.”
This is why we celebrate Easter, and why that celebration continues today. For us this is history and this is personal witness by Peter and the other ten Apostles, all of whom experienced the resurrected Jesus firsthand. We can see that Peter, true to his dedication by Jesus, has become the spokesman for the Apostles (“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed.”).
When Peter uses the term “throes of death” note that phrase is sometimes translated as the “pain of death.” The Greek word from which the phrase originates also means “the birth pains of death.” One might say Jesus was freed from the womb to new life, just as we should expect and experience in terms of our own resurrection. That is what we hope for.
We benefit today from hearing from St. Peter twice — in his sermon from Acts, and from his letter in the Second Reading. Peter points out in his letter that our redemption is not based upon offering a ransom or paying someone with silver or gold (perishable things), but we have been redeemed through the Lord’s precious blood.
Our belief in redemption is through Jesus. If we believe in Him and live as His disciple according to His direction, we have every reason to have hope. We will not and cannot be disappointed because Jesus substantiated our hope in His sacrifice for us.
There is so much we can glean and comment upon from the account of the two disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus, our Gospel Reading from St. Luke. This encounter with the Lord occurred later on Easter Sunday. The men had not personally been part of anything at the tomb or after that, but there was much discussion and debate most likely among the followers of Jesus. That is probably what they were talking about as they walked (the distance to Emmaus was about seven miles). Although Jesus asks them what they are discussing, He, of course, knows.
How interesting that Jesus spends part of the day with them and dines with them on the evening of what we celebrate as Easter Sunday. He reveals Himself to them through His Words and teachings. That is what He does for us as well. That is why we hear Scripture at every Liturgy and why we need to listen carefully when we hear it.
Jesus knew what was troubling these men, what was in their hearts, but He wanted to hear them express it. That is why we need to speak with the Lord in prayer; we need to reveal what is in our hearts. Jesus tells them that they are “slow of heart.” He is saying the same thing to each of us. The problems with our faith and our belief are probably more in our hearts than in our heads. We may think that the major obstacles to our belief are in our minds, but they are actually in our hearts.
Stewardship is a conversion of mind and heart. We can hear and understand the stewardship message, but if we do not literally “take it to heart” and find conversion there, we cannot be the disciples to which Jesus has called us. What really convinces these men though is the “breaking of the bread.” We should experience our “hearts burning within us” every time we approach and receive the Eucharist.