2014-05-01 15:24:37

3rd Sunday of Easter - May 4, 2014

Acts 2:14, 36-41, 1 Peter 1:17-23, Luke 24:13-35

"I've got some good news and some bad news to tell you. Which would you like to hear first?" the farmer asked. "Why don't you tell me the bad news first?" the banker replied. "Okay," said the farmer, "With the bad drought and inflation and all, I won't be able to pay anything on my mortgage this year, either on the principal or the interest." "Well, that is pretty bad," said the banker. "It gets worse," said the farmer. "I also won't be able to pay anything on the loan for all that machinery I bought, not on the principal or interest." "Wow, is that ever bad!" the banker admitted. "It's worse than that," the farmer continued. "You remember I also borrowed to buy seed and fertilizer and other supplies. Well, I can't pay anything on that either “principal or interest." "That's awful," said the banker, "and that's enough! What's the good news?" "The good news," replied the farmer with a smile, "is that I intend to keep on doing business with you." (John C. Maxwell, “Developing the Leaders Around You” (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers), p. 71.) I don't know if that was good news for the banker or not. Two of the disciples of Jesus were on the road that leads to Emmaeus. They were as low as that farmer because their Master had been crucified like a common thief. But now they hear reports that their Master was not dead at all. Reliable sources told them that he had appeared to some of their most trusted friends. Was he really alive? The disciples were troubled and afraid. Should they believe the good news or the bad? And that's our dilemma, isn't it? DO WE BELIEVE THE GOOD NEWS OR THE BAD? The good news is that Christ is alive. The bad news is how little impact that event is having in the world today.

Introduction: Our Scripture lessons for today have one common, encouraging theme: No matter what happens in our lives, the Risen Jesus is always with us. God is near to those who seek Him and who want to live in His presence doing His will. The Emmaus incident is a story of a God who will not leave us alone when we are hurt and disappointed. As Francis Thompson puts it, He is the Hound of Heaven who relentlessly follows us when we try to escape from His love. The message of today’s scripture is that the followers of Jesus are to maintain contact with their risen Lord through the Eucharist and the Bible. It also reminds us that our belief in Jesus’ presence in the consecrated Bread and Wine should help us better understand his presence in the Bible and in the believing and worshipping community. Putting the two appearances (to the Emmaus disciples and to Peter) together, it is clear that the risen Jesus wants Peter to act as spokesman for him, and that the faithful who seek to follow him should seek his company in the Eucharist and the Bible under the direction of Peter and his successors.

The first reading, presents the beginning of Peter's first public proclamation about Jesus and how God raised Jesus from death, thus fulfilling the messianic prophecies about the promised descendant of David. The reading is taken from the first and the longest of Peter's five discourses preserved in the Acts of the Apostles. During his speech, Peter refers to Israel's beloved king David, quoting Psalm 16, which is ascribed to David, and asserting that David "foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ." Today's reading tries to describe a time before the earliest Christians realized that God was calling them to embrace all people. At this stage, they acted as though they were only the first few Jews to have caught on to the Messiaship of Jesus, and their goal was only to convince other Jews of what they had realized.
The second reading: Peter exhorts the early Christians to place their faith and hope in God who has saved them through the precious blood of His Son and who has raised Jesus from the dead. Peter repeats the assertion made in Acts that Jesus' death and resurrection was part of God's plan from all eternity. Hence Jesus' sufferings and subsequent glorification by God should serve to center the Christian's faith and hope in God who has accepted those sufferings as an act of redemption for all mankind. So the Christians should sense God's providence in their situation and understand the place of their present struggles in broader history. The root of their faith must be the resurrection of Jesus and Peter argues that it is essential for everyone in the Christian community to have the experience of the risen Jesus in his or her life.
Exegesis: Luke's Emmaus gospel is a beautiful, theological dramatization of one of the encounters with the Risen Lord during those wonder-filled days after the discovery of the empty tomb (Mk 16: 12-13). It is the story of how on Easter Sunday two disciples of Jesus, discouraged and devastated, set out on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus -- a distance of about seven miles -- and were met by a stranger going along the same road. They began to speak to him about all that had occurred in the Holy City during the previous week. Most probably, Cleopas and his companion were husband and wife, residents of Emmaus and disciples of Jesus who had witnessed his crucifixion and burial. The two disciples chose to leave Jerusalem on the third day after the death of Jesus – the very day they had received news that the tomb was empty. They were “prevented” from recognizing Him, perhaps partly by preoccupation with their own disappointment and problems. As they journeyed on, Jesus showed them how the scriptures had foretold all that He had done and suffered, including his death and its purpose. His coming to them and walking alongside of them illustrates the truth that the road to Emmaus is a road of companionship with Jesus who desires to walk with each of us. "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). The incident further illustrates that Jesus is with us even when we do not recognize him.

God encounters: The Old Testament describes how the people encountered God in unexpected ways. Gen 18:1-15 describes how Abraham, at Mamre, entertained angels unaware. Running from his troubles, Jacob laid his head on a stone while he slept and saw a stairway to heaven. He is presented as wrestling all night with a manifestation of God in the flesh. Moses turned aside from his flock of sheep to see why a bush would burn and not be consumed and heard the voice of God from it. Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up in the Temple. Saul of Tarsus met Jesus on the road to Damascus and Jesus captured Saul's attention by knocking him to the ground and striking him blind. God’s self-disclosure to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus was unexpected, but in a radically different way from the encounters mentioned above.
Invitation accepted: The Jewish custom required that Cleopas and his companion
invite Jesus to dinner. Hence they invited Him for a night’s rest in their house--and Jesus accepted the invitation. During the meal, when Jesus broke the bread and gave it to them, the disciples realized that this stranger was Jesus, the Risen Christ. Later they said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us when he opened up the Scriptures to us?” Since they could not keep the good news to themselves, the Emmaus disciples walked back seven miles to Jerusalem to share their story with the other disciples. The Fathers of the Church note how well the details of this Emmaus episode match our process of coming to faith in Jesus Christ. First, there are questions and a search for answers. Then comes a moment of discovery when our eyes are opened and our hearts within begin to burn with longing. Finally there is the desire to tell the story to all who will listen.
Liturgical setting: Luke’s gospel, written toward the end of the first century, was mainly meant for Christians who had not witnessed Christ in the flesh. Luke tells us that we can meet and experience the risen Lord through the reading and interpretation of scripture (v. 27) and the “breaking of the bread” or Lord's Supper (vv. 30-31). The story of the encounter on the Emmaus road is presented in a liturgical fashion using liturgical language such as the commentary: "he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them" (v 30); "the Lord has risen indeed" (v. 34). Thus the risen Christ is revealed through the telling of the story, the interpretation of scripture, and the breaking of bread. Jesus began revealing himself through the scriptures (vv. 25-27) and completed the revelation through the Eucharist (vv. 30-31). This means that Christ still reveals himself to us through Word and Sacrament.
Lessons from Emmaus: Luke’s Emmaus story teaches us that (1) Jesus' death and resurrection fit God's purpose as revealed in the Scriptures; (2) the risen Jesus is present in the Word of God and especially in the Breaking of the Bread; 3) suffering is necessary for the Messiah "to enter into his glory;" and 4) we have a risen Savior, one who personally walks with us in our daily paths, talks with us through His Word and with whom we can talk through prayer. He is the one who opens our minds to understand and respond to His Word. He is with us and concerned about us. He provides for us regardless of what life may bring, and he has given us his Holy Spirit so that we may teach others about Him. Let us, therefore, with the perception of His presence, walk with Him, talk with Him, depend on Him, worship Him, and tell others about Him.
Messages: 1) Jesus meets us on our Emmaus Road. The risen Lord meets us on the road to our Emmaus, in the ordinary experiences of our lives, and in the places to which we retreat when life is too much for us. We too have hopes and dreams about better health, healing, financial security and better family relationships. These often get shattered. The story warns us, however, that the risen Lord will come to us in unfamiliar guises to support and strengthen us when we least expect him. Emmaus moments come to us when we meet the risen Christ on our life’s journey through rough times.

2) The road to Emmaus is a road of companionship. Jesus, now freed from the space-time limits of his earthly life, is present in our midst and wants to be our friend. The Risen Lord desires that we walk with Him and with one another. Isaiah 43:2-3: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” He wants to join us in our travels of life. Psalms 119:63, “I am a companion of all who fear You, and of those who keep Your precepts.” “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20).

3) We meet Jesus on a daily basis in our life’s journey. The Church instructs us to hear Jesus on a daily basis through the faithful reading of and meditation on the Bible and to experience him through our participation in the Eucharistic celebration where he gives himself to us, through our personal and family prayers and through our family meals. While we meet him, through the Word of God, we commune with him. We renew our relationship with him through prayer. These two meetings will enable us to meet the risen Jesus living in all the people we meet and do them humble, loving and selfless service.

4) Do our hearts burn when we listen to the Risen Lord in the Bible? Christ comes to us most clearly in the Word. Our tradition teaches us that the reading of the Scriptures, the study of the Scriptures and the proclamation of the message of the Scriptures are the primary ways in which we meet God. Vatican II (Dei Verbum 21) tells us that Jesus in the Eucharist and in the Bible is to be equally venerated. Therefore we need to study the Bible, learn the Bible, memorize the Bible and meditate on the word of God. We know that Christ lives in the Bible and so we need to spend time in the Bible to have a deep, intimate, loving, caring, long-term relationship with Jesus Christ. We know we are to brush our teeth every day. Likewise, we are to read the Bible every day. We need to read the Scriptures daily to meet and converse with Jesus Christ. It should be a daily habit because people either read the Bible daily or almost never. Abraham Lincoln, whom many consider the best President of the United States, said: “The greatest gift that God gave to human beings is the Bible.” Another President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, said that it was a principle of his to read the Bible through each and every year. Yet another great President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, said, “A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” Goethe, the great German philosopher, said that the beauty of the Bible grows as we grow in our understanding of it.

5) Find Jesus in the breaking of the bread. In the gospel story for today, we learn that we find Christ is in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. When we kneel at the altar to receive the sacrament, we see and receive Christ. John 6 says, “Whoever eats my body and drinks my blood shall live with me eternally.” The Eucharist is soul food, the bread of life for eternity. It feeds us and fills our spiritual needs. It is a pity that often we don’t realize what is happening during Holy Communion, the sacred banquet of all believers. In this meal, we are in communion not only with Jesus, but also with our family and friends who have preceded us in death. It is not simply bread and wine, but a banquet for all eternity.
A young boy was walking home through the park after attending a Sunday school class. Somehow, he couldn’t stop thinking about the lesson for that day about Jesus’ teaching on the Last Judgment. What impressed him most was what the teacher said, "When you give something to another person, you’re really giving it to Jesus and you will find the risen Jesus in every one you meet." As he continued through the park, he noticed an old woman sitting on a bench. She looked lonely and hungry. So he sat down next to her, took a chocolate bar he had saved and offered some to her. She accepted it with a beautiful smile and he watched her smiles as she chewed the chocolate. Then they sat together in silence, just smiling at each other. Finally, the boy got up to leave. As he began to walk away, he turned, ran back to the bench, and gave the woman a big hug. When he arrived home, his mother saw a big smile on his face and asked, "What made you so happy today?" He said, "I shared my chocolate bar with Jesus." Before his mother could ask more questions, he added, "You know, she has the most beautiful smile in the world." Meanwhile, the old woman returned to her little apartment where she lived with her sister. "You’re all smiles," said her sister. "What made you so happy today?" She replied, "I was sitting in the park, eating a chocolate bar with Jesus. And, you know, he looks a lot younger than I expected." Today’s gospel tells us that we will meet and experience the risen Jesus in unexpected places and persons.
(Source: Homilies of Fr. Tony Kadavil)

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