May 3, 2019

Third Sunday of Easter / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionAgain this weekend, the Church presents as its first reading for Mass in Eastertime a passage from the Acts of the Apostles.

The mere writing of Acts is a lesson. It is actually a continuation of

St. Luke’s Gospel. Its underlying lesson is that the salvation achieved by the Lord Jesus did not end with the Ascension. The presence of Jesus in the world did not end with the Ascension. The risen Lord, ascended into heaven before the eyes of the Apostles, lives and acts through the Church, a community of visible structure, with specific functions.

This reading reports a conflict between the Sanhedrin, led by the high priest, and the Apostles. The Sanhedrin was the official ruling council of Judaism at the time of Jesus. Its agenda was primarily religious, but its authority touched virtually every aspect of life. Again, and important to note, Peter is the spokesman for all the Apostles. He was their leader.

Ordered to cease preaching about Jesus, the Apostles boldly reaffirmed their intention to continue. No earthly power could deflect them in fulfilling their commission from the Lord. Speaking for the group, Peter offered a capsulized story of the life and mission of Christ.

The Book of Revelation is the source of the second reading. Probably no other book of the New Testament and few in the Old Testament perennially leave readers in wonder as does Revelation.

(Revelation is not the more ancient, nor literarily precise, term. The older and better term is Apocalypse. However, most English-speaking biblical scholars have adopted the better-known name of Revelation.)

Revelation is clear. Again and again, it refers to Jesus as the sinless lamb of God, the title used by John the Baptist for the Lord. It insists that Christians stand with one foot on Earth and the other in heaven, for they stand in and with Christ, Son of God and also son of Mary, a woman.

St. John’s Gospel supplies the last reading. It is a resurrection narrative, wondrous and consoling. Jesus, risen from death, appears to the Apostles as they are fishing on the Sea of Galilee, although not catching anything. At dawn, recalling the time of the resurrection, Jesus comes into their midst. He tells them exactly where to cast their nets. They obey, and a huge catch comes. The Beloved Disciple recognizes Jesus, but Peter is central to the story. He rushes to Jesus.

Then, at a meal, Jesus asks Peter if he really loves him. It is a question put to Peter three times, with three affirmative responses. In ancient Jewish symbolism, three represented what was complete, final and absolute. To each answer, Jesus commissions Peter to love and serve his flock. His commission is exact, final and unqualified. It sent Peter to continue the Lord’s work.


It would be difficult indeed to find three readings from the New Testament that individually are so beautiful and expressive in teaching such marvelous lessons of how salvation unfolds.

Setting the stage is the reading from Revelation. Disciples live with one foot on Earth, but the other in heaven. Nowhere else is this reality better seen than in the Eucharist.

The combination of Acts with Luke’s Gospel reminds us that the salvation accomplished by Christ continues. So it was with the early Christians around the Apostles. It is with us still with the Apostle’s successors in the Church. The trial before the Sanhedrin recalls Peter’s fervor beside the sea, when Peter saw the risen Jesus and professed his love for him.

After the betrayal, healed by Christ’s divine forgiveness, Peter was worthy of his calling. We can follow him. We, too, can be healed. No matter our past, we can be saved. †

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