Third 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 Peter’s message was “kerygmatic,” drawing from “kerygma,” the Greek word for “message.” It means that Peter’s words contained 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 fact that the Jewish culture and the effects of Roman domination were overwhelming, the apostles still were determined to speak aloud about Jesus.
Their determination revealed their trust and faith in Jesus as Savior and as the Son of God. The world desperately needed Jesus: Only Jesus could fill what the world, still today, 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 Acts, even though the other apostles were present, Peter and Peter alone spoke on 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, or was the author presenting ideas that had come from Peter? 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. It 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 are limited human beings, bewildered by the events of the Lord’s death and resurrection. They need Jesus to understand the deep meaning and purpose of all that they had seen.
Jesus meets this need. He teaches them. Jesus is with them. As they celebrate the meal, with its eucharistic overtones, Jesus is the central figure, presiding as they “break the bread.” After hearing the Lord’s explanation of events and encountering Jesus, they join in a holy meal. The connection with the Eucharist is too strong to overlook.
Beginning with the Scripture readings for Easter 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 also insists to us that Jesus did not rise and then disappear. Instead, the Lord was with the apostles, showing to Thomas His wounds and blessing those who believed. He was alive, present and still teaching during the trip to Emmaus. The Eucharist at Emmaus was the culmination on the two disciples’ time with Jesus.
The use of the technique of kerygma gives us the basic facts of the Lord’s identity and mission. The experience of the apostles shows us that they literally knew the risen Christ. We turn to them to know Jesus ourselves.
Knowing Jesus is more than possessing data. It confronts us with the obligation to follow Jesus if we know Jesus. By our discipleship, extend Christ to those whom we meet.
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