Third Sunday of Easter
The Acts of the Apostles again furnishes the first biblical reading. Almost every Sunday in the Easter season features a reading from this book of the New Testament. In this reading, Peter preaches to the crowd in Jerusalem.
Americans are very accustomed to impassioned preaching. They hear it in their own churches. They hear it on the radio. They hear it on television. Preaching about salvation and God’s mercy is common.
Actually, to preach is to assume a mighty role and a great responsibility. Preaching, after all, by definition, is not simply lecturing or speaking aloud. It is speaking in the very name of God.
Those who preached, by ancient Jewish standards, were privileged people in this sense. None chose to be a preacher. Rather, God selected each preacher. Peter stood before this Jerusalem crowd after having been called to preach, but most importantly, he spoke in the place of Jesus.
He preached the words of Jesus, on behalf of Jesus. This reading makes three points. First, it establishes the identity of Peter. He is an Apostle. Second, clearly, he is the chief of the Apostles. He speaks in the names of them all.
Finally, through Peter and the other Apostles, the salvation given by Jesus still reaches humankind. They continue the Lord’s work.
The First Letter of John provides the second reading. The letter of John are alike in their eloquence and splendid language. They are alike in the depth of their theology and revelation.
This reading proclaims the majesty of Jesus, the Savior. It cautions, however, that accepting Jesus as Lord is more than lip service. It is the actual living of the Commandments, by which and through which humans realize the perfection, love, order and peace of life in God.
St. Luke’s Gospel provides the last reading.
It is another Resurrection narrative, and it looks back to the Emmaus story. The Emmaus story reports the walk to a small town outside Jerusalem by two disciples and by the risen Lord, and the disciples’ recognition of Jesus in the “breaking of the bread,” or Eucharist.
As this group of disciples was talking, Jesus stood in their midst. He was no longer bound by location or time. Risen from earthly life, victorious over sin, Jesus now lived in the fullness of eternity — still in the Incarnation, true God and true man.
He showed them His pierced hands and feet. Indeed, these disciples were encountering the Crucified, but the Crucified had overcome death and lived!
The Church continues to summon us to the joy of Easter celebration. He lives! This week, the readings once more exclaim the Church’s great trust in and excitement about the Resurrection. As Paul said, the Resurrection is the bedrock of our belief.
In these readings, the Church calls us to the fact that our redemption is in Jesus. He rescues us from death, from the living death of sin and hopelessness, and from eternal death.
As did the Lord, all people, even all believers, must die. As Jesus rose, they too will rise if they do not relent in their love of and obedience to God. Thus, all believers can anticipate and provide for eternal life in God.
Christians further can rejoice in the fact that salvation did not pass away when Jesus, who lived for a time on earth, ascended into heaven. His mercy and power remain. His words endure. God has provided for us, so that we too may have salvation. We may encounter Jesus. We may hear the Lord’s words.
We reach the risen Jesus, and we learn of Jesus, from the Apostles. The Church carefully protects and echoes the words of Jesus as repeated by the Apostles. He lives for each of us.
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