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 again preaches to the crowds in Jerusalem. Catholics are quite familiar with preaching. All 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, by definition, is not simply lecturing or speaking aloud. At its best, 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 crowds after having been called to preach, but, most importantly, he spoke in the place of Jesus. He preached the words of Jesus, in behalf of Jesus.
This reading makes three points. First, it establishes the identity of Peter. He is an Apostle. Second, 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. The Apostles continue the Lord’s work.
The First Epistle of Peter provides the second reading. It is an admonition, direct and clear, firm and explicit. In effect, it calls upon Christians to put first things first, to love the Lord above all things, and to follow the Lord regardless.
It calls a spade a spade, so to speak. The Christian life is wanting, unworthy of the name, if it is occasional, quailed or half-hearted.
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’ recognizing 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, but still in the incarnation, true God and true man.
He showed them the pierced hands and feet. Indeed, these disciples were encountering the crucified, but, the crucified had overcome death and had lived!
This reading is a magnificent testimony to the divine reality of the Eucharist, the “Breaking of the Bread.” In the Eucharist, in actual communion with Jesus, the disciples find clarity.
The Church continues to summon us to the joy of Easter celebration. He lives! The readings once more this week exclaim the Church’s great trust in, and excitement about, the Resurrection. Jesus is not history. He is now.
In all 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, from eternal death.
As did the Lord, all people, even all believers, must live and eventually 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 reach the Risen Jesus, and we learn of Jesus, from the Apostles. We encounter the Lord in the Eucharist, in the “Breaking of the Bread.” In communion with Jesus, we solve the riddles of life.
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