Sunday Sermon for April 30, 2017, the Third Sunday of Easter, Year A

Readings: Acts: 2:14, 22-33; 1Pt 1:17-21; Lk 24:13-35

The passage we hear in the Gospel today about the two disciples of our Lord going to Emmaus is one of the favorites of many people.  The charity of the two disciples is almost as amazing as their blindness.  I have often wondered what could have been so important that these men would have left Jerusalem on the very day of the Resurrection.  It might be even slightly understandable if they had no idea that the resurrection had taken place, but they state emphatically that some women went to the tomb and reported seeing the angels who told them that Jesus was alive; then some of the Apostles went and saw the same thing.

It is clear from the conversation that they did not believe in the resurrection.  That certainly cannot be held against them.  Although Jesus had told His Apostles on three occasions what would happen, they had no means of being able to grasp the concept of the resurrection (and these two men were not Apostles, so who knows if they had ever heard about what Jesus had said).  For this reason, they were convinced that when Jesus died, all hopes in Him vanished.

What is even more amazing is that while they walked along with our Lord, every passage of Scripture that related to Jesus was opened to them.  There are 300 specific prophecies regarding the Messiah; these were probably the passages Jesus explained to these disciples.  Even though they heard all of these prophecies explained and were drawn by them, they still failed to recognize our Lord present in their midst.

What their faith failed to obtain, in this case, their charity was able to reveal.  Because of their charity toward our Lord in encouraging Him to stay with them, they were blessed by our Lord’s self revelation through the Holy Eucharist.  Suddenly, whatever their reason for leaving Jerusalem did not seem so urgent.  In fact, what became urgent was that they leave, at night, and walk back to Jerusalem to inform the Apostles of what had taken place.

All of this becomes important to us because, as we hear in the second reading, we are sojourners in this world.  St. Paul reminds us that during this time of sojourn we have to conduct ourselves reverently knowing that our redemption was paid by the Blood of Jesus, the Son of God.  Our faith and hope are in God who raised Jesus from the dead, St. Paul reminds us.  However, right before this reminder, St. Paul says that Jesus was known before the foundation of the world, but was revealed in the final time for us.

How many of us are like those two disciples on the road to Emmaus?!  The truth is right before us, but we fail to see it.  The Scriptures can be opened to us, and we are drawn to the Word of God, but we still are not able to comprehend what God is revealing to us.  We have an example of this in the first reading where St. Peter speaks about King David who knew that God had sworn an oath to him that one of his descendants would sit upon his throne.  St. Peter states that since David was a prophet, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of Jesus.

How many people can understand this from Scripture?  The Jewish people knew the promise of God and, for a string of 52 kings after David it could easily have been understood as a dynasty that would go on without end.  However, by the time of our Lord, there was nothing left of the House of David and it was a laughing stock; it appeared that God was not keeping His word.  But when the Angel, Gabriel, appeared to our Blessed Lady at the Annunciation, he revealed to her that it would be our Lord who would be seated on the throne of David forever.  That was all there in Scripture, but there was no way that anyone could have understood what was meant unless God had revealed His plan to fulfill His promise.

In our sojourn in this world, we have the fullness of the truth given to us in the Catholic Church.  Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus, we have heard it, yet many people do not recognize it or understand it.  Like the Scriptures, which are the Word of God, it is not always so simple to grasp.  The reason is because the truth is a Person: Jesus.  He is the Word of God and the fullness of the truth.  The only way to grasp the truth is to enter into Him in prayer.  Only the experience of Person of Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist, will open our hearts and minds to recognize and understand.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit