3rd Sunday of Easter
Again, as is usual for weekends of the Easter season, the Acts of the Apostles provides the first reading for the Liturgy of the Word.
This reading recalls an event similar to several others in Acts. Peter preaches, in the name of all the 11 surviving Apostles. His remarks, or at least those recorded in this passage, are brief and crisp.
The term used by biblical scholars is that the selection is “kerygmatic,” drawing from “kerygma,” the Greek word for “message.” It means that Peter’s message contains the basic information about Jesus and about God’s plan of salvation.
Despite the small number of Christians at the time, and in spite of the facts that the Jewish culture and the effects of Roman domination were overwhelming, the Apostles still felt the responsibility to speak aloud about Jesus.
Their interest revealed their trust and faith in Jesus, as Savior and as Son of God. The world desperately needed Jesus. Only Jesus could fill what the world, then and always, needs. Remembering last weekend’s first reading that described both the early Christian community’s love for the Lord and its outreach to the troubled and needy, this reading shows that the first followers of Christ saw informing others about the Redeemer as a loving service.
Note also, here, as elsewhere in Peter, even though the other Apostles were present, Peter, and Peter alone, spoke in their behalf.
The First Epistle of Peter supplies the next reading. Scholars debate the authorship of this epistle. Was Peter the author? Or, was someone writing in Peter’s name the author? (Unlike today, when signing another person’s name would be regarded as deceptive and highly inappropriate, the custom long ago was this was the greatest compliment.)
In any case, the reading shows how totally committed to Jesus the Savior the early Christians were, and how aware they were that salvation had come through the Lord’s death and resurrection.
The last reading, from Luke’s Gospel is the powerful and lovely story of the Risen Lord’s walk to Emmaus with two disciples. The Emmaus narrative appears only in Luke. However, it still is one of the most renowned and beloved pieces in the New Testament.
Important in its message is the fact that, regardless of their devotion to Jesus, the disciples still do not understand everything. They need Jesus, even in their sincerity and their faith. Secondly, Jesus meets this need. He teaches them. Thirdly, Jesus is with them. They have faith. Finally, as they celebrate the meal, with its Eucharistic overtones, Jesus is the central figure presiding as they “break the bread.” Certainly a major point in this reading is its reference to a holy meal when the journey was completed. The connection with the Eucharist is too strong to overlook.
Beginning with the Scriptural readings for Easter itself, and continuing this weekend, the Church expresses to us forcefully and clearly its unflinching belief that after crucifixion and death the Lord Jesus rose to new life.
With equal vigor, and equally strong faith, it insists to us that Jesus did not rise and disappear. Instead, the Lord was with the Apostles, showing to Thomas the wounds and blessing those who believe. It tells us in these readings that Jesus never left us. He still taught during the trip to Emmaus. He still gave life in the Eucharist at Emmaus.
The use of the technique of kerygma in a way presents us with a question. While essential to the continuance of salvation, and in the divine plan, points such as the role of the Apostles come only after the basic question has been answered. Who is Jesus? What does Jesus matter for me?
The Church proclaims that the Lord lives! But, we must accept Jesus.
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