On this third Sunday of Easter, we are still in the middle of the resurrection event in Scripture. Luke tells us of the journey of Cleopas and his companion going to Emmaus. Having experienced the events of holy week and all the disappointment of losing what they thought would be their future, they were probably returning home. Their faith and commitment are ended and they must somehow go on. In those few days, all changed and was lost. What were they to do, how would they go on. As they walked, a stranger joined them, and engaging them, somehow he revived their spirit. For the first time they began to understand, their hearts began to flame up and then the broken bread and yes, it was Jesus. Yes he was alive. Their tedious journey was quickly reversed with a joyful rush to tell the others. “We have seen the Lord!”
It was on the road that they saw him. Not in the temple, but on the way home on the road in the familiar humdrum country. In our century, when we look back, we see his message has come in many ways. Humanity has built buildings and shrines and all sorts of symbols. At times, the means, the ways the carrying out of that message has differed, sometimes strong and vibrant while at other times weak and faltering. Sometimes the concern of the time has been more with things than with people. As we are discovering in our times, buildings and structures decay and are even abandoned or fall into disuse. War and hate have appeared in every century, proving the need of spreading his word with renewed vigor. What remains constant is the memory of resurrection and Christ’s life and the words on the road before and after his resurrection.As Christians, we are travelers, we are on the road, we are pilgrims. Look at the disciples, they left all and followed Christ. Cleopas and his companion did it a second time on the way to Emmaus, abandoning their disappointment and depression and rushing back to Jerusalem. We are called to go out and travel, to reach out and share the word, share the love of Christ. To do that we must find our brothers and sisters where they are and share with them. In reality though, who can listen if they are hurting or hungry, or their family is in peril. How do we know this unless we seek them out. Unfortunately, the poor, the homeless, the sick don’t often come to our worship space. Our buildings, our shrines can be so imposing. Think what your perception would be if you were lost and abandoned. Our society can be so cruel, we are often caught up in the same perceptions whether true or not. Most people are slow to go where they haven’t been before. Past rejections or poor encounters often make new encounters fearful and frightening. This is why the story of Emmaus is so important. We are all travelers, on the road, and on this road, we meet Christ each day. On our final day, lets pray that we too meet him in the breaking of the bread.
Jesus said to Nicodemus: “‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus answered and said to him, ‘How can this happen?” Jesus answered and said to him, “You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this? Amen, amen, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony. If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Nicodemus shows the face of humanity before Jesus. We glimpse the truth but we doubt what we have seen. The only solution to this dilemma of doubt and uncertainty is to put all our focus on Jesus. Just as the Israelites in the desert gazed on the bronze serpent to be healed, Jesus tells us to fix our gaze on him, and all the muddle and all the mess will ultimately be resolved in him.
Saint of the day: José Gálvez Ginachero was born in Málaga, Spain on September 29, 1866. His parents were Joseph and Carmen Gálvez Ginachero Vulpius. While still very young, he first conceived a desire to be an architect, only to become a priest, but his mother convinced him to study medicine. Brilliantly pursuing his studies, he earned a degree in medicine in Granada and doctorate cum laude from the Complutense University of Madrid. He continued his studies in Paris as a student of renowned doctors as Pinard, de Varnier, and Farabeuf. In late 1892, he moved to Paris to Berlin to continue his training. And the following year, he received an appointment of a doctor of obstetrics in a Spanish hospital; he donated his salary in the hospital for the medical care of the indigent. In 1904, he married Dona Maria Malaga Moll Sampelayo with whom he had three children, Carmen, Josefina, and Jose. He helped to found model institutions to provide healthcare and education and was elected the president of a local medical society. He also served as the mayor of his hometown between 1923 and 1926.
Each time he performed surgery, he made the sign of the cross over the scalpel, and as he did his medical work, he prayed for the spiritual well-being of the person on the operating table. He belonged to a society whose members would spend the night praying before the Blessed Sacrament. He opposed the anti-religious tenor of the Spanish government during the Second Republic, and as he left the hospital on August 10, 1932, he was arrested on suspicion of plotting against the regime and was detained for three days. After his release, he abandoned all involvement in any facet of life that was even marginally political. In 1937, he was arrested by a Republican Guard that accused him of being a bourgeois who lived off the blood of the poor; he coolly replied that he well might have delivered them late in the night and then cared for the diseases of their mother during the day, noting he had no regular pattern of rest. The Guard checked out his statement and returned him to the hospital when they recognized his exemplary life. Dr. Galvez retired at 70 in 1936. He died in Malaga on April 29, 1952 at age 86. The diocese of Málaga opened the cause for his canonization with an investigation into his virtue in 2006.
Spiritual reading: Love is the only satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence. (Erich Fromm)
Gospel reading of the day:
There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” esus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
JNicodemus said to him, “How can a man once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: The life of flesh is dedicated to tearing down barns and building larger ones. It is the great toil of years spent preparing for a happy retirement with many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry but ignoring God in every present moment along the way. The life of the spirit, however, is a life spent rich in what matters to God.
Saint of the day: Cleusa Carolina Rody Coelho was born in Brazil in 1933. She joined the the Congregation of the Augustinian Recollect Missionaries in 1952. In 1979, she was sent to Labrea, in the Amazon, to be the directress of the St. Rita College. There, she developed a friendship with the poor indigenous people, who were abused by landowners. Out of love for them, Sr. Cleusa asked to leave the school to work with the Native people. She defended the Indians from persecution, and because of this, many wanted her silenced. The police were angered with the nun because she worked for the release of innocent imprisoned Indians and wanted to kill her.
In April 1985, a non-indigenous person, whose name was Damasio, entered the land of the Indians to collect wood. Agustin, an Indian, reported this infraction to a foundation which promotes the rights of the Indians. So the wood collected by Damasio was confiscated and given to Native people for their use. As an act of revenge, Raimundo Povidem, an Indian who was with Damasio, killed Agustin’s son and daughter. When Sr. Cleusa learned of the news, she decided to go to Agustin to comfort him and prevent more bloodshed. The other sisters tried to stop Sr. Cleusa because of the dangers inherent in her decision, but she nevertheless decided to go.
When Sr. Cleusa arrived in the place where Agustin lived, she advised Agustin to stay and remain calm, because she intended report the incident in Labrea. Sr. Cleusa and a companion returned to Labrea by boat. While on their way, they were stopped by Raimundo Povidem. A year before, Sr. Cleusa took care of Povidem because he was ill. When Sr. Cleusa recognized Povidem, she asked him to talk. But he shot Sr. Cleusa’s Indian companion, who was wounded. Sr. Cleusa told him to flee, because he still has a wife and children to take care of. He fled to the forest, where he spent the night. Then he went to the missionaries and told them of the incident. A search party was made, and Sr. Cleusa’s body was found on May 3, by the river bank. The missionaries first noticed a flock of vultures in a bush near the river. So, they followed the vultures and saw Sr. Cleusa’s body. The autopsy revealed that Sr. Cleusa suffered beatings before she was shot to death. Her right arm was never found again. Sr. Cleusa was buried immediately. In her funeral, an Indian woman mourned, “Who will take care of us now? She was our mother!”
Spiritual reading: And I said to the one who stood at the gate of the year, “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the Unknown.” And he replied, “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” (Minnie Haskins)
Gospel reading of the day:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
Reflection on the gospel reading: In John’s gospel, one chapter follows after these verses, but that chapter is clearly the work of an editor who added the stunning narrative about the resurrected Lord’s encounter with his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. Whichever hand wrote the original portions of the gospel ended the gospel narrative here in today’s reading with Thomas’s confession, “My Lord and my God!” It is to this recognition of who Jesus is that the whole gospel builds, and it is in Jesus’ response to Thomas’s confession that Jesus speaks to us: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Blessed are you, bless am I, blessed are all of us who believe in the resurrected Lord.
Spiritual reading: John, the disciple Jesus loved, ended his first letter with this line: “Children, be on your guard against false gods.” In other words, steer clear of any god you can comprehend. Abba’s love cannot be comprehended. I’ll say it again: Abba’s love cannot be comprehended. (Brennan Manning)
Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year A 2014
“Lord, you will show me the path of life” is what we repeat in our psalm antiphon today. The idea of the path or the “way” was such a strong theme in the new Testament that the early Christians adopted it as their name – the Way. And we know in John that Jesus says “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Similarly in today’s first reading we hear again David’s words: “You have made known to me the way of life”, applied to Jesus.
The quest archetype is a story that occurs in all literatures. Usually, though, the quest is undertaken by a hero, sometimes a hero that doesn’t yet know that he or she is heroic, and goes on a physical journey fighting off all sorts of enemies or demons, but is at the end triumphant.
The “way” that is described in our Gospel today is a type of quest also, a journey. But the quest archetype so often seen in fairy tales and myths is quite turned around.
The questers in the story of the road to Emmaus are two disciples of Jesus. Their quest, their journey could have been simply to escape the strange goings-on surrounding the death and disappearance of Jesus. They may have been afraid and were simply trying to leave the area and put it behind them. Another possibility is that they were on a quest to find others that followed Jesus and see if they knew any more about the strange and frightening happenings. In either case, the two men were on the road having a discussion about what they had heard and seen and were trying to piece together the truth of all that was going on. Their quest simply may have been for the truth.
It is interesting to note that Luke says “their eyes were kept from recognizing [Jesus].” Most commentators find this problematic. Wouldn’t these two disciples have recognized Jesus? Had he changed that much physically? Luke says simply that they didn’t recognize Jesus because Jesus did not want them to. Perhaps in Jesus’ mind, the only way to clarify their questions and fears was through discussion and enlightenment, and not through miracle. It is by talking to the two men that Jesus is able to clarify the reversed idea of a Messiah who suffers and dies, and then enters his glory. Only through “opening up the scriptures”, letting the two see what the words of the prophets meant, were they able to understand intellectually what the truth was and what it meant for all of us. How ironic that the way and the truth was walking right alongside them all along.
After walking with the disciples all day and expounding on the meaning of Scripture in relationship to Jesus and what had just happened to him, it was becoming night and the two men invited Jesus to stay with them for the night. The recognition scene takes place at supper, and most commentators see this as a reference to the Eucharistic meal: “he took bread, blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them.” These are the same words we hear at Mass each week, when Jesus also becomes physically present to us as well. Do we pay enough attention to that moment? Has repetition dulled the miraculous thing that happens at each Eucharistic meal. Do our eyes become opened to see Jesus? These are all questions I would like you to consider today.
We, too are like the disciples going to Emmaus. We too might be escaping, or seeking answers. We too are on quests for truth in our lives.
After the moment of recognition Jesus disappears. In Eucharistic terms we might say that Jesus is now within them through the eating of the bread. There was no need for his physical body to be present to them. Jesus had stirred their minds to understand, he had fed them, and he remains with them in spirit.
The truth having been made known, the disciples no longer needed to go to Emmaus and instead took a different path – the path to Jerusalem and to the other apostles and disciples. And they shared their good news, their new understandings with them, and showed how Jesus had been made known in the breaking of the bread.
How blessed we are to have this event recreated each week for us, allowing us to understand a little more each week. The Mass is our journey to Emmaus and the Eucharist is our recognition of Jesus and what God has done for us. St. Paul says that Christ was “ destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake.” For your sake! Whether Jesus is still blinding you toward who he is and the truth, and still in process of helping you to understand, or whether your eyes have already been opened to the miracle that is Christ visible, the story of the road to Emmaus should give us hope and confidence, and we can say with David as quoted in the first reading today: I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope.
As we continue our Easter journey, my wish for you is that you discover that abiding hope, that you become increasingly more aware of the ritual that is the Eucharistic Mass, that Jesus becomes present to you each week in a wide variety of ways, and that my words may be Jesus’ words in an attempt to help you understand the Scriptures, and open them up for you.
Then, like the two disciples, we can talk to the other disciples and share their stories – the stories of how they found that Truth who was walking beside them all along.
May the Good News of today be good news for you each week as we celebrate the risen Lord who helps us when we are on our journeys.
Bishop Ron Stephens
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA
The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
Gospel reading of the day:
When Jesus had risen, early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.
But later, as the Eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised. He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Each of these vignettes shows the disciples as slow to believe and reluctant to accept the truth about Jesus. Mark’s indictment of the disciples is his indictment of us, incredulous that the Resurrected One lives and moves among us. Jesus invites the disciples as he invites us to go into the world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Spiritual reading: Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about. (N. T. Wright)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself in this way. Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish. When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.” And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realized it was the Lord. Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus again appears to his disciples in a form that they somehow cannot recognize. The gospel makes it clear several times that it is not in how he appears but in what he does that the disciples understand who the friendly stranger on the beach is. Though it is the disciple whom Jesus loves who first recognizes the Lord in the miraculous catch of fish, it is Peter who first expresses his love. Peter’s anxiety to be with his Lord cannot wait for slow oars: he impetuously jumps into the water to make his way to the one he loves. On the beach, there is still something about the Lord’s appearance that makes him unfamiliar, but it is his kindness and generosity that reveals him. This passage suggests that appearances are only skin deep; what we do is the true revelation of ourselves.
Spiritual reading: For I tell you this: one loving, blind desire for God alone is more valuable in itself, more pleasing to God and to the saints, more beneficial to your own growth, and more helpful to your friends, both living and dead, than anything else you could do. (The Cloud of Unknowing)
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.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: This gospel is in part about presence: our presence with the Lord and through the Lord to one another. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says that wherever two or more are gathered in his name, there he is in their midst. Consistent with this promise, the disciples of Emmaus and the other disciples are gathered together discussing the Lord and the events that have transpired from daybreak on that first day of resurrection, and Jesus suddenly appears in their midst. Now that Jesus is resurrected he transcends every temporal and spacial limitation; through his resurrection, he is present to everyone who gathers in his name, and he gathers all believers into company not only with himself but with one another. In a very real sense, then, when we gather together with one another to recall Jesus, we are through the Risen One’s presence, present not just to the disciples in the Upper Room but to every other Christian who has lived, is living, or will ever live. You and I are right now standing there with each other in that Upper Room as disciples of the Lord.
Spiritual reading: It is of the very essence of Christianity to face suffering and death not because they are good, not because they have meaning, but because the resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of their meaning. (Thomas Merton)