April 24, 2020

Third Sunday of Easter / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

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

In this reading,

St. 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, television and online.

Preaching, by definition, is not simply lecturing or speaking aloud. At its best, it is speaking in the name of God.

Those who preached, by ancient Jewish standards, were privileged people in this sense. None chose to be a preacher. Rather, a preacher was selected by God. Peter stood before crowds after having been called to preach. Most importantly, 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. 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 always.

It calls a spade a spade, so to speak. The Christian life is 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, looking back to the Emmaus story, reporting the walk of two disciples to a small town outside Jerusalem. They were joined along the way by the risen Lord, but only recognized him in the “breaking of the bread” or Eucharist (Lk 24:35).

In the passage immediately after the Gospel reading for this weekend, Jesus appeared to the disciples in Jerusalem after the pair who walked to Emmaus returned to tell them of their experience. Jesus 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 his pierced hands and feet. Indeed, these disciples were encountering the Crucified Lord, but he 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.

Reflection

The Church continues to summon us to the joy of Easter celebration. Jesus 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 stand firm with the help of God’s grace in their love of and obedience to God. Thus, all believers can anticipate the gift of eternal life with and 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 Gospel endures. 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 him 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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