Sunday Sermon for April 23, 2023, the Third Sunday of Easter, Year A
Readings: Acts 2:14, 22-33; 1 Pt 1:17-21; Lk 24:13-35
As we continue our celebration of the resurrection of our Lord from the dead, the Church places before us today some readings that shake us a bit, calling us to consider what we believe, in Whom we believe, and what difference does it make in our lives. In the first reading, St. Peter calls out to the people gathered in Jerusalem: “Listen to my words…hear my words.” He goes on to speak of the mighty deeds, wonders, and signs done by Jesus that point to Who He is.
In the interaction between our risen Lord and His two disciples on the road to Emmaus from today’s Gospel reading, we hear the two men trying to explain what occurred in Jerusalem on Good Friday and then on Easter Sunday. These men had seen the deeds, wonders, and signs our Lord had performed, and these brought them to say: “We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.” Even after hearing the astonishing events of the empty tomb and the angels related by the holy women, they still could not move beyond their understanding that Jesus was a “prophet, mighty in deed and word.”
For whatever reason, these men were not able to put the pieces together, even when our Lord upbraided them for their failure to believe what was written in Scripture. Jesus told them the Christ had to suffer these things and so enter into His glory. Our Lord even went through all the Scriptures to show them what was necessary, and still they could not comprehend anything beyond what they were previously thinking.
Finally, when our Lord broke the bread while He ate with these men, their eyes were opened, and their lives were changed forever. Suddenly, the things that were so important to them now held little or no value. Rather than conducting the business for which they had come to Emmaus, the men immediately returned to Jerusalem, walking seven miles in the dark (after walking seven miles to get to Emmaus!). It had to be the middle of the night when they arrived, but nothing mattered other than proclaiming that our Lord had risen from the dead!
The Apostles greeted the two men by saying: “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Now, we do not know if they were using the term “Lord” to describe Jesus as the Christ, but I think we can be sure that in the recounting of the events that had taken place, the two disciples would have reiterated the truths Jesus explained to them from the Scriptures and that He is the Christ, the One Who fulfilled everything written about Him. Now they understood that it truly was necessary for the Messiah to undergo all these things in order to enter into His glory.
These passages provide a backdrop for us to ask some questions regarding our own beliefs and understanding. Taking the resurrection of our Lord as the starting point, we have to ask Who we believe Jesus to be. Is He a prophet mighty in word and deed? He is a holy man Who worked signs and wonders? Is He a teacher of truth Who opens the Scriptures to enlighten the minds of those who hear Him? What does it really mean to say He is the Christ? Does being the Christ say something only about Jesus, or does it impact me in some way beyond believing Him to be the Christ? Are the events we hear about that took place in Jerusalem 2000 years ago limited to that time and place, or do they continue to affect me so that my life is changed forever?
Jesus is, indeed, the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. He demonstrated this, as we have heard, by His works, especially, by dying and rising from the dead. But we believe He is God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity Who became man so that He could suffer, die, and rise from the dead. But He did not do this for Himself; He did it for us. And the wonderful thing is that He continues to do this at Mass in the Holy Eucharist. If we can recognize Him there, hidden in the guise of bread and wine, it will change our life as it did the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
This change in our lives will cause us to conduct ourselves with reverence during our time of sojourning, as St. Peter instructs us in the second reading. If we truly know Whose Blood was shed for us and how precious our souls are to God, we can no longer live worldly lives. Instead, we will strive to live our lives in union with Him Who gives Himself to be united with us in the Eucharist.
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 www.thewandererpress.com.