April 20, 2012

Third Sunday of Easter / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Acts of the Apostles again furnishes the first biblical reading.

In this reading, St. Peter preaches to the crowds in Jerusalem.

Americans are very accustomed to preaching. They hear it on the radio. They hear it on television. It is a product of this country’s Protestant heritage. For that matter, it is an essential part of the Catholic tradition.

Preaching, however, at least in the biblical understanding, comes not with personal spontaneity, but because of a divine commission. It is a personal duty, and it means authority. It is speaking in the very name of God and at the behest of God.

Catholic deacons, priests and bishops speak for the Church, and the Church can limit the right of ordained ministers to preach for this reason.

So Peter stood before this Jerusalem crowd as the representative of God. Most importantly, he spoke in the place of Jesus. He preached the Good News of Jesus.

This reading makes two points.

First, it establishes the identity of Peter as an Apostle. Moreover, he is the chief of the Apostles, speaking on behalf of them all.

Second, because of Peter and the other Apostles, the salvation given by Jesus still reaches humankind. They continue the Lord’s work.

The First Epistle of St. John provides the second reading.

The epistles of John are alike in their eloquence and splendid language. They also are similar in the depth of their theology and revelation.

This reading proclaims the majesty of Jesus, the Savior, but cautions that accepting Jesus as Lord is more than mere lip service. It is the actual living of the Commandments by which, and through which, people realize the perfection, love, order and peace of life in God.

St. Luke’s Gospel, the source of the last reading, offers another Resurrection Narrative.

It begins with the two disciples with whom Jesus had walked to Emmaus and who had recognized the Risen Lord in the “breaking of the bread,” or Eucharist, reporting the event to the Apostles.

Then Jesus suddenly stood among them, no longer bound by location or time, victorious not only over death, but also over the limitations of earthly existence. He showed them his pierced hands and feet. He still was human as were they, but also the everlasting Son of God.

Jesus stressed that God’s mercy had been fulfilled. Humanity had been redeemed!

Reflection

The Church continues to summon us to the joy of the Easter celebration. Christ lives! As St. Paul said, the Resurrection is the bedrock of our belief.

The last reading, from St. Luke’s Gospel, quite bluntly presents us with a reality common to all human beings. All people are subject to the limitations of human nature and earthly existence.

In the reading, the disciples who walked with Jesus to Emmaus had not recognized the Lord until the “breaking of the bread.” The Apostles, to whom these disciples had come, were bewildered and unsure.

By contrast, the Risen Lord suddenly appears, not held by the constrictions of space or time. The Son of God, Jesus still is human. His hands and feet show the wounds left by the nails driven into them on Calvary.

Yet, Jesus is Lord, having defeated death itself, the greatest of human limitations.

For humans, sin creates the most daunting limitation as it destroys for the sinner eternal life, that most precious of gifts, and even peace in this world.

Uniting with Jesus, rejecting sin and sinning no more, is freeing. It is empowering. It is life-giving.

Finding Jesus to establish this personal union is not impossible. Jesus commissioned the Apostles to continue the mission of salvation, offering it even to each one of us in our own place and circumstance. †

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