May 8 is the Third Sunday of Easter and Mother’s Day.
May 7-8 Pope Benedict XVI will make a pastoral visit to Aquileia and Venice in Northeast Italy. He will celebrate Sunday Mass at the magnificent, amazing St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, which has to be seen to be believed. To see pictures of the basilica and get a rundown on the Pope’s weekend, go to this website: http://www.ilpapaanordest.it
Acts 2:14, 22-28; Psalms 16:1-2, 5, 7-11; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24:13-35
Paul famously said that if Christ has not been raised from the dead, our faith is in vain. Today’s readings show that the same thing can be said in the reverse: Since Christ has been raised from the dead, our faithlessness is in vain.
To lack faith is to miss out on the most important thing in your life. In fact, it is to miss the whole point of life. The disciples in today’s Gospel famously miss the point. On Easter morning, they are headed in the opposite direction from Jesus’ empty tomb.
They have just witnessed the passion and death of Christ. How did the faithful friends of Jesus spend that morning? They spent it oriented toward Christ. The women went to the tomb to honor the body of Jesus. John and Peter, upon hearing their report of the Resurrection, spent the morning running to the empty tomb.
How did the faithless friends of Jesus spend it? Heading out of town. It is interesting that notes in modern Bibles call Emmaus “a town of uncertain location.” They were not starting a new life. They were fleeing their old life.
When the risen Jesus approached them, they revealed just how vain their faithlessness was.
They told him how great Jesus had been and how that greatness had turned out to be a false hope. They had expected so much from him; instead he had been killed. They had even heard about the Resurrection. Their response was not to investigate the claim, but to discount it and choose disappointment over revelation.
This is a representation of our own faithlessness. Christ rose from the dead and offers resurrection joy in our life. We have seen and heard people who are transformed by this: Blessed John Paul II comes to mind this week as one of them. Blessed Mother Teresa is another. These are the women and apostles who have told us about the Resurrection.
Yet, in many aspects of our life, we simply shrug off their enthusiastic proclamation of the faith and flee Christ’s way for the road to nowhere. We settle for less and consider Christianity an interesting sideline to our life, but in many respects, a false hope.
The Gospel offers a remedy for this. Christ doesn’t shun those who flee; he pursues them. He comes to our side and explains again what he has explained already.
Here are five ways Christ pursues us:
First, as in the first reading, Christ does this through his ministers. Peter here gives a “homily” that does just what Jesus did: He explains how the Scriptures apply to Christ and how that message applies to us.
Second, in the Psalm reading, Christians hear about Christ through the Scriptures. These written words have helped readers for millennia. Scriptural reading is a key part of our own ability to discover who God is. So are spiritual readings that explain and apply the truths of the faith.
Third, Christ speaks to us through his Church. Both the first and second readings are the words of Peter. This leader of the apostles was given the command by Christ to “confirm his brothers in the faith.” For 2,000 years his successors have reliably told us what the Christian life asks from us and offers to us. Papal encyclicals, the Catechism and other teaching documents to this day provide us clear direction.
Fourth, Jesus deals with us directly. He engages the Emmaus disciples in conversation and directly enlightens them. He will do that with us, too, in prayer, if we are willing to share with him our disappointments and questions about the faith and spend time with him each day.
Fifth, Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist. It is here we have actual contact with the body and blood of Christ, giving us the opportunity to unite ourselves with his body, blood, soul and divinity. Just as Jesus stood before them and then disappeared, remaining only in the Eucharist, he is in our midst still, in the tabernacle.
As the Easter season progresses, it is the perfect time to seek Jesus’ answers to our questions as we use the means he has given us to walk with him.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas.