Sunday, May 8, 2011

Third Sunday of Easter - May 8, 2011

“Supper at Emmaus” by Caravaggio, 1601

Readings and Commentary:[3]

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven,
raised his voice, and proclaimed:
“You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem.
Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.
You who are Israelites, hear these words.
Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God
with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs,
which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.
This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God,
you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.
But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death,
because it was impossible for him to be held by it.
For David says of him:

I saw the Lord ever before me,
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted;
my flesh, too, will dwell in hope,
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.

“My brothers, one can confidently say to you
about the patriarch David that he died and was buried,
and his tomb is in our midst to this day.
But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him
that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne,
he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ,
that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld
nor did his flesh see corruption.
God raised this Jesus;
of this we are all witnesses.
Exalted at the right hand of God,
he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father
and poured him forth, as you see and hear.”
Commentary on Acts 2:14, 22-33

This event is set immediately following the Pentecost event and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter now responds to those who did not understand Christ’s gift in the first of six “Missionary Discourses” dealing with the resurrection of Jesus and the importance of that event. “Modern scholars term these discourses in Acts the "kerygma," the Greek word for proclamation (cf 1 Corinthians 15:11).”[4] St. Peter uses the King David, from whose line the messiah was to come according to the Hebrew Scriptures, to establish the identity of Christ and provide and understanding for his ultimate resurrection.


R. (11a) Lord, you will show us the path of life.
R. Alleluia.

Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the Lord, “My Lord are you.”
O Lord, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. Lord, you will show us the path of life.
R. Alleluia.

I bless the Lord who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the Lord ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. Lord, you will show us the path of life.
R. Alleluia.

Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. Lord, you will show us the path of life.
R. Alleluia.

You will show me the path to life,
abounding joy in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. Lord, you will show us the path of life.
R. Alleluia.

Psalm 16 is a song of thanksgiving that has become prophetic; it speaks clearly of the resurrection accomplished now in Christ. It is one of trust in God. Each strophe ends with an affirmation of faithfulness. Key in the context of the Easter season is the idea of trust in God who has conquered death and offers the same gift ("Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world, nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption".).


If you invoke as Father him who judges impartially
according to each one’s works,
conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning,
realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct,
handed on by your ancestors,
not with perishable things like silver or gold
but with the precious blood of Christ
as of a spotless unblemished lamb.

He was known before the foundation of the world
but revealed in the final time for you,
who through him believe in God
who raised him from the dead and gave him glory,
so that your faith and hope are in God.

Commentary on 1 Pt 1:17-21

This selection is concerned primarily with the call of God's people to holiness and to mutual love. St. Peter encourages them to act in accord with their call and through those actions accept their redemption through the blood of Christ.

At the beginning of the passage, St. Peter cautions the faithful. “If you invoke as Father him who judges impartially […] conduct yourselves with reverence” “Refers to addressing God as ‘Abba’ or ‘Father’ in prayer (Matthew 6:9; Romans 8:15; CCC 2780-82).” – “impartially: i.e. with absolute fairness.  Because God exercises perfect justice, he cannot be bribed to show favoritism toward some and not others (Deuteronomy 10:17) according to his deeds.”[5]

The “unblemished lamb” is a clear reference to the Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) whose blood caused death to pass by (Exodus 12:1-14) allowing for God’s salvation.


That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted
what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
Commentary on Lk 24:13-35

This story of the disciples of the road to Emmaus is only found in Luke’s Gospel (and is used as an alternate for Mass on the evening of Easter Sunday).  There is a mention in Mark 16;12 that is vague but probably refers to this event. The actual location of Emmaus is not known but it is estimated that it was between 7 and 18 miles from Jerusalem.  The focus of the story is the unrecognized Jesus (recall that in John 20:11-18, Mary Magdalene thought he was a gardener).  The unrecognized traveler interprets scripture and then is revealed in the breaking of the bread (the Eucharistic reference) as the Risen Lord.


It is now two weeks to the day since the joyful news of our salvation was once again proclaimed to the world. Could there be anyone who had not heard the news? For the second time this year we are given the story from St. Luke’s Gospel about the two disciples of Jesus (although not members of the 12) walking the seven miles to Emmaus.

When we think of them, we wonder why they were going away from Jerusalem; why they were leaving, especially after they had heard the story from the two Marys? Were they afraid? Jesus, their teacher had just been put to death. The other disciples we are told were hiding behind
locked doors for fear of the Jews. They probably were afraid. But why did they leave? Could it have been that they just did not want to stay there when things were getting bad. Were they reacting the way a child might at the scary or embarrassing part of a movie they hide their face in their hands or leave the room so they don’t have to see what comes next?

It is this emotion we think about today. It goes without saying that we know that as the faithful followers of Christ in the modern world, we know we are called to be courageous for Christ. But we also live in a society when wearing your faith on the “outside” is not considered to be politically correct. If we work for a government, or civil employer such as the public schools, any public reference to our specific spiritual beliefs is even forbidden (except ironically as profanity) . Those who spend a majority of their time in this kind of a situation are understandably less outspoken orally. But as St. Frances of Assisi said “Preach the Gospel always and use words when you have to.”

Many of us work or spend our days in environments where referring to the Lord can mean we risk scorn, ridicule, or marginalization. If we are outspoken for our faith we can count on rough waters.  It is usually human nature to avoid confrontation and in many cases we run in the wrong direction - like the disciples on the road to Emmaus. It is at these times when we must also understand that we encounter Jesus in that space as well. We look to him and he turns us around and we run all the way back - but where we see him best is in the breaking of the bread. It is there we look for him today and there we pledge to once more bring his peace and love to the world.


[2] The picture is “Supper at Emmaus” by Caravaggio, 1601
[3] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[4] See NAB Footnote on Acts 2:14-36
[5] Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, © 2010, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA. pp.452

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