April 17, 2015

Third Sunday of Easter / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Acts of the Apostles furnishes the first biblical reading for this weekend’s Mass readings. Almost every Sunday in the Easter season features a reading from this book of the New Testament.

In this reading, Peter preaches to crowds in Jerusalem. Americans are very accustomed to impassioned preaching. They hear it in their own churches, hear it on the radio or see fiery preachers 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. Most importantly, though, 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, 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 humanity. 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 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, which describes two disciples walking to a small town outside Jerusalem encountering the risen Lord and then recognizing him in the “breaking of the bread,” or Eucharist (Lk 24:35).

As this pair of disciples recounted their story to fellow believers in Jerusalem, 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. The disciples were indeed encountering the Crucified. But the Crucified had overcome death and had lived!

Reflection

The Church continues to summon us to the joy of Easter celebration. Christ lives! The readings once more this week exclaim the Church’s great trust in, and excitement about, the resurrection. As St. 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, from eternal death.

All people, even all believers, must die. But 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 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 and learn of the risen Jesus from the Apostles and their successors, the Church’s bishops. The Church carefully protects and re-speaks the words of Jesus as repeated by the Apostles. He lives for each of us! †

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