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Easter: April 26th

Third Sunday of Easter

MASS READINGS

April 26, 2009 (Readings on USCCB website)

COLLECT PRAYER

God our Father, may we look forward with hope to our resurrection, for you have made us your sons and daughters, and restored the joy of our youth. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them. But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have." (Luke 24:35-39)


Sunday Readings
The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles 3:13-15, 17-19, relates the story of Peter and John's meeting with a man crippled from birth who asked them for alms. Peter said he had neither gold nor silver, but he would give him something better and proceeded to heal him.

The second reading is from the first Letter of John 2:1-5. In this extract the Apostle is urging his fellow-Christians to avoid sin. If they should sin, they are to admit their fault and seek pardon, which will be given in abundance. He has in mind the Gnostic heretics of the time who did not keep God's commandments and yet held that they were not sinning by violating them. John exhorts Christians not to imitate these heretics.

The Gospel is from St. Luke 24:35-48. Our Lord's glorious resurrection is the crowning miracle of his sojourn on earth among men. It is the foundation and cornerstone of our Christian religion. His death on Calvary proved that he was really human; his resurrection proved he was also divine. During his public life he had claimed to be God. Had that claim been untrue God the Father could not have raised him from the dead. By his death he made atonement for the sins of the world — "he nailed them to the tree of the cross"; by his resurrection he opened the gates of death for all men and made them heirs to the eternal life.

We need hardly delay to prove the fact of the resurrection of Christ, for without it there would have been no Christianity, no Christian Church. In the story of the appearance which precedes today's Gospel, we are told how two of Christ's disciples were so depressed and disorientated by his death that they were giving up all interest in the dead Master and were returning home at the first opportunity (the Sabbath, Saturday, had intervened and they could not travel on that day). The Apostles were no better since Good Friday. They had remained behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. They had no hope left. They too would have left Jerusalem that Sunday were it not for the story brought by Mary Magdalene that Christ's body had been taken from the tomb. When the risen Christ appeared to the ten Apostles (Thomas was absent) they thought he was a ghost, so far were their thoughts from a possible resurrection.

When the truth sank into their minds, however, they became changed men. After Pentecost day they fearlessly proclaimed to the Jews, of whom they had been frightened, that Christ whom those same Jews had crucified, had risen and was now glorified by the Father. Thousands of Jews in Jerusalem had come to believe in Christ, because they were convinced he had risen and was the Messiah and the Son of God, as he claimed to be. The four Evangelists testify to the truth of the resurrection and we have the exceptional witness of St. Paul whose radical change of life can have only one explanation — he saw the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.

Of the fact of the resurrection we can have no doubts; Christianity is inexplicable without it, and Christianity has existed for almost two thousand years. A more important point for consideration today is what this resurrection means to us. "If Christ has not risen," says St. Paul (1 Cor. 15:17), "vain is your faith, for you are still in your sins." But "Christ has risen from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep." Our faith then is not in vain, for the founder and foundation of our faith is the Word of God who cannot deceive or be deceived, and his resurrection is the guarantee of our resurrection. He is the "first fruits," the earnest of the full harvest that was to follow after our earthly death. We shall all rise again, in glory if we have been faithful during our time on earth, in a less pleasant state, if we have not followed Christ here below.

Human life has always been the great enigma for philosophers down through the ages. The resurrection of Christ, which causes and guarantees our resurrection, is the one and only explanation of that enigma. If death were the end of man, with all his gifts of intellect and will; if the grave were to enclose forever this noble being whom God has raised above all other earthly creatures and has endowed with super-mundane gifts and aspirations, then indeed man's sojourn on earth would be an inexplicable enigma. But the gifts God gave to man were not simply to help him to make a precarious living and enjoy a fleeting happiness, interspersed with much sadness, for sixty, seventy or even a hundred years. No, they were intended to last for eternity and to reach their real fruition in eternity.

With St. Paul then, we may well sing out today: "O death where is thy victory, O death where is thy sting?...thanks be to God who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15 : 55-57). Yes, Easter time is a time of rejoicing for every true Christian. It is a time for Alleluias, for praising and thanking God. Our happy future is within our reach. Our eternal happiness has been won for us by Christ and is within our grasp, if only we hold fast to the true faith of Christ, taking the rough with the smooth, going through our lesser Gethsemanes and Calvaries as Christ went through his great ones. If we do this we can hopefully await the angel who will roll back the stone from our grave one day, and allow us to enter into the glory of the eternal Easter in heaven.

Excerpted from The Sunday Readings by Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan, O.F.M.


Meditation for the Third Sunday of Easter
On the road to Emmaus: Jesus, alive and at our side

The Gospel of today’s Mass presents us with another appearance of Jesus on the evening of his Resurrection. Two disciples are making their way to the village of Emmaus, having lost all hope because Christ, in whom they had placed the whole meaning of their lives, was dead. Our Lord catches up with them, as if He too were just another traveler on the road, and walks with them without being recognized. They engage in broken conversation, as happens when people talk as they are going along. They speak about their preoccupation: what has happened in Jerusalem on the Friday evening—the death of Jesus of Nazareth. The Crucifixion of Our Lord had been a very severe test for the hopes of all those who considered themselves to be his disciples and who to some extent or another had placed their trust in him. Things had all taken place very quickly and they still hadn’t got over all they had seen with their very eyes.

These men who are returning to their home village after having celebrated the Paschal feast in Jerusalem show by the tone of their conversation their great sadness and how discouraged and disconcerted they are: We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. But now they speak of Jesus as a reality belonging to the past:

Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed…Notice the contrast. They say ‘who was!’…And He is there by their side. He is walking with them, in their company, trying to uncover the reason, the most intimate roots of their sadness!

’Who was!’, they say. We too, if only we would examine ourselves sincerely, with an attentive examination of our sadness, our discouragement, our being a little tired of life, would find a clear link with this Gospel passage. We would discover how we spontaneously remark ‘Jesus was’, ‘Jesus said’, because we forget that, just as one the road to Emmaus, Jesus is alive and by our side at this very moment. This is a discovery which enlivens our faith and revives our hope, a finding that points to Jesus as a joy that is ever present: Jesus is, Jesus prefers, Jesus says, Jesus commands now at this very moment (A. G. Dorronsoro, God and People)

Jesus lives.

These men did know about Christ’s promise of rising on the third day. They had heard that morning the message of the women who had seen the empty tomb and the angels. Things had been sufficiently clear for them to have nourished their faith and their hope; but instead, they speak of Christ as belonging to the past, as a lost opportunity. They are a living picture of discouragement. Their minds are in darkness and their hearts are numbed.

Christ Himself—whom they did not at first recognize but whose company and conversation they accept—interprets those events for them in the light of the Scriptures. Patiently He restores in them their faith and their hope. And the two of them recover also their joy and their love: Did not our hearts burn within us, they say later, while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?

It is possible that we too may sometimes meet with discouragement and lack of hope because of defects that we cannot manage to root out, or of difficulties in the apostolate or in our work that seem to be insurmountable…. On these occasions, provided we allow ourselves to be helped, Jesus will not allow us to be parted from him. Perhaps it will be in spiritual direction, once we open our souls in all sincerity, that we will come to see Our Lord again. And with him there will always come joy and the desire to begin again as soon as possible: And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. But it is essential that we allow ourselves to be helped, and that we are ready to be docile to the advice that we receive.
—Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God, Daily Meditations Volume Two: Lent-Holy Week-Eastertide