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Third Sunday of Easter - Year B - Apr 19, 2015

Gospel LK 24:35-48

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,
and how Jesus was made known to them
in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”


Reflecting & Living God’s Words

Third Sunday of Easter - Year B - Apr 19, 2015
(LK 24:35-48)

Interesting Details:
• On an earlier occasion, Jesus had appeared to the two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus, a village about seven miles from Jerusalem. This time, according to Luke, Jesus appeared among them when these two disciples went back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples how they recognized Jesus through the sign of breaking bread (v.35).
• When they thought He was only a spirit and not in the physical form (v.37), Jesus revealed Himself as truly risen from death in His earthly body, by inviting them to recognize His hands and feet where the nail or rope marks would be (v.39).
• Jesus' victory over death is pointed out very powerfully in the renewal of table fellowship with His disciples, when He asked for food and ate it before them (v.41-43).
• Although having told them on several occasions before, Jesus now opened their minds to comprehend what had been written about Him in the Scriptures (v.45-46) that has now been fulfilled. Also as written in the Scriptures, "repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be preached in His name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem" (v.47), Jesus now gave this commission to the disciples as the first witnesses of His fulfillment, right in Jerusalem (v.48).
• Witness is a translation of the Greek word martyr. Some of this witnessing to the world requires martyrdom. Along with the commission of being witnesses, Jesus assured His disciples with God's promise to give them the power from on high (v.49) through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

One Main Point:
Through the reunion with Jesus, the disciples' minds were opened to understand about Him as written in the Scriptures. Since they have witnessed that the Scriptures were fulfilled by Jesus, the disciples were now to preach in Jesus' name about repentance and forgiveness of sins to the entire world, with the power from the Holy Spirit as promised by God through Jesus.

1. How do I recognize Jesus' presence with 'flesh and bones' in the people around me and in myself ? How ready am I to have my mind opened to understand about Jesus and the Scriptures?
2. Being called to the same commission given to His disciples, how do I live as a witness of Jesus, preaching about repentance and forgiveness of sins?
3. What did I learn from Jesus in handling doubts and fears in the minds of others when I'm carrying out the tasks of a witness?



(Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Psalm 4; I John 2:1-5a; Luke 24:35-48)

Two disciples had been on their way to Emmaus. They were leaving Jerusalem, their hopes shattered after Jesus’ death. Then they met the risen Lord. They didn’t recognize him at first, but they did after he opened the Scriptures for them and broke bread with them. After their encounter they returned to the community in Jerusalem with the news of what had happened. While they were still speaking to the community, Jesus stood in their midst.

Jerusalem is where the disciples assembled. The community in Jerusalem may be together, but they are not a true community. They are fragmented by fear and disappointment. Hopes were shattered when Christ was killed and now they may also be in danger – next on the list to be disposed.

At our Easter Vigil Mass we heard Mark’s account of the empty tomb (16:1-7), there the young man told the women to go tell the disciples, "He is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see him, as he told you." Today we are in Luke’s gospel and he takes us back to Jerusalem for Jesus’ appearances. For Luke Jerusalem is the place the Holy Spirit will come upon the disciples to begin the church and its mission to the world. Luke will tell that story in the beginning of his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles. But not yet. Today we are with the huddled and fragmented disciples. At this point they have only known death – not resurrection.

How many in our congregation are in a similar place? They can identify with the disciples in Jerusalem, having experienced death and disappointment. Jesus may be in their midst, but their experience keep them from seeing him. They are like the disciples for whom Jesus seems like a ghost, a figment of imagination and of no help right now. In their distress, some in the pews around us might be asking, "Did those gospel writers pull one over on us? In their need for consolation did their imaginations carry them away?"

What makes the story realistic is that at first, the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus – which is also true in the other resurrection accounts. Despite the witness of the women and the two from the Emmaus road, the disciples still don’t believe. Who can blame them?

At this point the disciples only see a ghost. What will help them is that Jesus comes and bids them, "Peace be with you." He is encouraging them not to be afraid. It’s still not enough. Then he invites them to touch him. Still more, he asks for food and eats in their presence. The resurrected Christ is very physically present, very much as he was when they traveled and ate together. Still, he’s different; more is needed. He is not just someone who somehow survived what was done to him and escaped. He didn’t experience a near death on the cross – he died.

Jesus reminds them that he is the same, yet there is something very different about him. The one they knew is with them, he has proven that by establishing his physical presence. Yet, the disciples need more in order to accept his new presence with them. What he did for the disciples on the road to Emmaus he does again. He expounds what the Scriptures had said about him. This is a favorite theme in Luke: Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises God made to their ancestors. Do they see that? Can they understand what God can do for us – bring new life after death? Jesus doesn’t choose just certain Scriptures as proof texts. He tells them "everything written about me in the law of Moses, and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled."

These Easter days our priory chapel has lilies in front of the altar. It’s an appropriate symbol to signify Jesus’ death and resurrection – hope from a place of self-offering. But we also have flowers in front of our ambo (pulpit), another reminder that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are present to us in the proclaimed Word of God. When the Word is proclaimed once again we meet the risen Lord.

Note the last line of today’s passage. After opening their minds to understand the Scriptures, Jesus says one more thing to them and us. "You are witnesses of these things." Hearing the Scriptures opened is not a Bible class, or historical look-back. Once the disciples and we experience the risen Christ we are reminded we must witness to all we have heard and seen.

In the New Testament "witness" means "martyr." That’s what is asked of us by the risen Christ. We must give our lives as witnesses to him. Each of us must show concretely our belief in the resurrection.

Jerusalem may be the location of today’s passage, but it is just the starting point. In the beginning of Acts the risen Christ tells the disciples they are to wait "for the fulfillment of my Father’s promise" (1:4). He was speaking of the Holy Spirit, who would drive those newly anointed out of the upper room to be witnesses to the whole world. Many of those first "witnesses" will shed their blood because of their faith – and this martyrdom for the faith continues to this day in many places in the world.

It would be very cozy, once the assembly has gathered on Sunday, to shut and bar the doors of our church. Together, with like-minded people, we could celebrate our faith in Christ at the Eucharist. To increase the good feelings we might practice our hymns until everyone knew them very well. Then we could burst out in full-throated song together. Afterwards we would share a pot luck dinner, sing more hymns, say our farewells, "See you next week," unbar the doors and return to that cruel world outside.

Sounds nice, except it is not our Christian faith. We are to be witnesses to Christ to that outside and, sometimes, very cruel world. That’s who we really are, bearers of the risen Lord to the world. We do share a meal together, the same meal Jesus gave those disciples on the road to Emmaus. The Scriptures are opened for us and we break bread together. It’s a good reminder that our Eucharist isn’t a meal just for our needs. It is also a nourishment for us Emmaus disciples who have a long road ahead of us. As we travel that road we will have to be "witnesses" for our faith, even if it costs us.

Being Christians in the world asks a lot from us. We need help and we get it from our God who opens our minds "to understand the Scriptures" and feeds us with the body and blood of our risen Christ at this Eucharist.

Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP