Living the Easter Message

User’s Guide to Sunday, April 18

‘He Is Risen’ indeed!
‘He Is Risen’ indeed! (photo: Unsplash)

Sunday, April 18, is the Third Sunday of Easter. Mass Readings: Acts 3:13-19; Psalm 4:2,4,7-9; 1 John 2:1-5a; Luke 24:35-48.

It’s the Third Sunday of Easter this week, and the Church continues to bask in the glow of the Resurrection. One theme that unites the readings this week is how the passion and resurrection of Jesus were foreshadowed in the Old Testament.

Anyway, there is a saying attributed to St. Augustine that God writes history the way men write books — or, we could add, direct movies. 

And in the first reading for this Sunday, St. Peter emphasizes that the life and work of Jesus were a fulfillment of what God had already foreshadowed in the writings of the prophets. After recounting the basic story of Jesus’ ministry, passion and resurrection, he announces: “God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted!”

Only a couple of prophets explicitly speak of the Christ suffering: perhaps Isaiah 53, Daniel 9:26, and a few other passages. 

So what does Peter mean: “all the prophets [said] his Christ would suffer?” Here we go into foreshadowing: So many righteous figures like Abel, Joseph, Job, David and Jeremiah foreshadowed Jesus’ sufferings by undergoing persecutions strikingly similar to what Jesus would undergo. David, for example, writes about his own sufferings in a hyperbolic way in Psalm 22, but what resulted is an almost-literal description of what Jesus experienced on the cross. God was (and is!) in control of history all the time, moving it toward his goals for our salvation. 

In our second reading, we are moving through 1 John. This short letter from the apostle is like a simple catechism, full of clear and blunt teaching about living the Christian life. We read from it during the Easter season for the benefit of the newly baptized — but it really is for all of us to remember the basics of the faith. There is a striking line in today’s passage: “Those who say, ‘I know him,’ but do not keep his commandments are liars.” 

In every age, there are Christians who think they know better than Jesus and insist the Church needs to change its teaching to “keep up with the times.” St. John warns us that these people are false prophets. If they aren’t living by the commands of Jesus, which are preserved by the Church, we know they are “liars,” no matter what other civil or ecclesial credentials they may have. 

Our Gospel is Luke’s account of Jesus’ appearance to the apostles after the famous Emmaus Road encounter. Jesus eats food in front of them to prove he’s not a ghost and then affirms “everything written about me in the law … the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Again, we see that theme of fulfillment of what had been foreshadowed. Then Luke says that “he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” That’s what happens at every Mass.

 We read from the “law … prophets and psalms,” and then the homilist explains how it all is fulfilled in Jesus. 

Every Mass is like Jesus’ encounter with the apostles in today’s Gospel: We share a meal with the Risen Christ, and he “opens our minds to understand the Scriptures.” 

Let’s pray at this Mass that our minds be opened and that we have the grace, as our second reading says, to “keep his word,” so that “the love of God is truly perfected” in us.