May 8, 2011
Third Sunday of Easter
Fr. Joseph Pellegrino
Last Sunday’s Gospel was the Gospel of Doubting Thomas. This Sunday’s Gospel is the Gospel of the Confused Disciples.
It was Easter Sunday evening. Two disciples were walking to Emmaus, a village seven miles from Jerusalem. Their discussion went something like this: How could it be that our master, Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet mighty in word and deed, could be put to death last Friday? He really seemed to be the long sought Messiah, the Christ. But He is dead. Now we hear about some women who claim that He has risen from the dead. They told His closest followers; so they went to the tomb. They found the tomb empty, neither Jesus nor His body. We don’t know what to make of this. They talked. They questioned. They remained confused.
Then Jesus started to walk with them. He explained the Scriptures, the Word of God, how the Messiah would first suffer and then enter into His Glory. He ate with them. During the meal He recreated the Last Supper. He took bread, blessed it and gave it to them. And they recognized Him in the breaking of the break, the first Christian name for the Eucharist.
So often, we walk along the road of our lives confused. We have difficulty solving our problems. We doubt our own ability to come up with the answers we need. Some people tell us to look into ourselves for the answers, as though we had a secret chamber someplace within us, or as early heretics would call it, a hidden Gnosis, where all the answers to our questions can be found. This early heresy of the Church still continues in those who think they have all the answers within themselves. It is true that through baptism God dwells within us. It is also true that we need the gifts He gives us to find direction in our lives and, eventually, to help us understand His Life and His Kingdom. We need the gifts of Word and Sacrament.
Sometimes we act as though we have all the answers to life. We don’t. In fact, we don’t even know the correct questions to ask. So many people spend their lives seeking the answers to the wrong questions. For example, most people try to answer these questions: How can I become prosperous? How can I become rich? Their whole lives are spent chasing the illusion that happiness can be bought. If they are among the few who do become rich, what do they have to show for their lives? A bank account? A lot of stuff? Does that make a life successful? There is a reason why we have never seen a luggage rack on the roof of a funeral car.
Another question that so many people spend their lives trying to answer is: How can I become better than everyone else? Again this is not a question that our lives should revolve around. We want to be the best person we can be, but we become arrogant and proud when we consider who we are in relation to other people. “Look at that tax collector,” said the Pharisee in the Temple. “You know, Lord, that I am a lot better than him. I do lots of good things. Let me remind you in case your forgot.” But the tax collector merely beat his breast and said, “Have mercy on me a sinner.” Only he left justified. When we devote our lives to answering the question How can I be better than others? whether it is better than others before God, a better parent than my neighbors, a better teacher than the girl in the next classroom, a better priest than another man, etc, we are simply asking the wrong question, one that leads to arrogance. The question we need to ask is, How can I be a better person than I am?
We think we have all the answers. We don’t even know the right questions. Another questions we should be asking ourselves is one that we are secretly afraid to ask: How can I be different than what modern society claims is the norm? The norm of society tells Teens that drinking, taking drugs and doing things that belong in a marriage is all part of high school and college. The norm of society tells adults that cheating on their jobs, and in their marriages is part of life. The norm of society tells people not to get carried away and sacrificing too much of themselves to help others. It is difficult to ask How can I be different? because none of us want to be different from everyone else. We want to fit in. We want to be part of the boys, part of the girls. We don’t want people mocking us. It is a difficult question to ask How can I be different? and, yet, that is what holiness is. To be holy is to be different, set apart for the Lord.
There are many other questions we all need to ask ourselves, questions about how to be a good husband, wife, father, mother, Teen, child, priest, deacon, etc. We are not given the answers to our questions today, on Confused Sunday. But we are told where the answers can be found. Jesus led the disciples on the road to Emmaus to the Truth through Sacred Scripture. The Bible is not just the Good Book. It is the living and effective Word of God. We go to Scripture to seek the answers to our problems. We need to meditate on Scripture and let the Word of God work on us.
Peace can be found in the middle of confusion when we are open to the second great gift presented in today’s Gospel, the Eucharist. Those disciples finally recognized Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts on fire?” We may not have the answers to the profound questions of life, or even to the daily concerns of life, but we do know where peace is found. St. Paul put it so beautifully in the conclusion of the Letter to the to the Philippians, “The peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” That’s Philippians 4:7. We cannot understand our world or even our lives, but as long as we have the Peace of Christ, our hearts and our minds will be guarded from all that can destroy our happiness. In Him alone we find our joy. We cannot understand His Peace. But we can enjoy it. Those disciples who had this marvelous encounter with Christ ran back to Jerusalem, to Peter and the boys, and told them what they experienced. They had not become profound theologians. But they had become committed Christians. That was their joy, the gifts of Word and Eucharist.
We will never discover the answers we need to life. We will always be confused about what happened to us in the past, what we should do in the present, what the future holds. Some may ask: Why is it that I did everything I could possibly do as a parent, or as a husband or wife, and life turned out rather messy? Others may ask: Why is it that I followed everything my parents asked, worked hard in school, and I am still not good enough for them? All ask: Why is it that other people break the rules and have it all?” We cannot answer all the question of life. Still, we can be at peace, even in the face of unresolved issues. We can be at peace because we have our anchor, Sacred Scripture, and our joy, the Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. We may not know why things have happened, or even what things have happened. We may not know the best course for us to take in this or that situation, but we do know this: If we stay united to the Lord in Word and Sacrament, we will never go wrong.
We need to trust God and let that Peace which is beyond our understanding guide our lives. Then we will no longer be confused.
A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
May 8, 2011
The Road to Emmaus — From Despair to Joy
The Easter story of two discouraged disciples encounter with the Risen Lord on the road to Emmaus is one of most fascinating accounts of a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus. But there is more to this dramatic tale than first meets the eye.
What a disappointment! They thought they’d found the Messiah. But he’d been trapped like an animal and executed as a criminal. Up until his very last breath, they had hoped he’d descend from the cross in stately power and call down fire upon the hypocrites. …more
They recognized Him in the Breaking of the Bread
A young man was walking through a supermarket to pick up a few things when he noticed an older woman following him around. Thinking nothing of it, he ignored her and continued on. Finally he went to the checkout line, but she jumped in front of him. “Pardon me,” she said, “I’m sorry if my staring at you has made you feel uncomfortable. It’s just that you look just like my son, who I haven’t seen in a long time.” “That’s a shame,” replied the young man, “is there anything I can do for you?” “Yes,” she said, “as I’m leaving, can you say ‘Good bye, Mom!’ It would make me feel so much better.” “Sure,” answered the
How did Jesus Vanish from the Sight of his Disciples?, On the Gospel for the 3rd Sunday of Easter
In our commentary on the Gospel for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, we considered two of the qualities of the resurrected body of Christ: Impassibility and subtlety. Now, we look to the final two qualities of the glorified body: Agility and clarity. Agility describes rapid movement, while clarity denotes a particular brightness in appearance (i.e. the resurrected body shines). Just as impassibility and subtlety were the means by which Christ entered into the locked room by walking through the walls and yet was able to be touched by St. Thomas, so too it is by virtue of agility and clarity that the Lord walked along with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus but then vanished from their sight.
How Do We Know Our Faith?
This is hard for us. Every day we come across people who make the wildest assertions about what is true and not true with respect to faith in God, Jesus Christ, Mary, the Saints, Christian morality, hell, heaven and so much more. Many people sound absolutely certain about these things, one way or another. And yet in reality most of them are not in the slightest position to know.
10 Short, Spontaneous Prayers That Really Work
Spontaneous prayers are short and effective vehicles for grace in daily life.
They allow grace to come into our lives precisely at the moment we really need it with prayers that we can easily remember. What follows are a number of spontaneous prayers that have been very important in my life.
Motherhood and the Joyful Mysteries
I love that Mother’s Day is celebrated in May, the month dedicated to the Blessed Mother. As I prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on my bike this week, I reflected on how they apply so well to motherhood.
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
Three Reasons for Mary
The Bright Maidens posed this question for today: “Why Mary?”
It is a beautiful question to reflect upon as we begin this month of May, traditionally dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. As I reflect on the question, “Why Mary?”, particular passage of the Sacred Scriptures come to mind that convince me of Mary’s definitive role in our journey of faith, and how she is meant to be honored because of her role in salvation history.
The Many Roles of “Mom”
It’s a boy!! Five long years of infertility had come to an end. It took a miracle at Lourdes, a lot of prayers, and a hope that never died. I think because I desired to be a mother for such a long time, I find such humor and joy in looking back at the antics of our children.
This year marks the twenty-seventh year that I am honored to be called mother, mummy, mom, or mudder, as I am known of late. This motherhood gig has been one wild ride as evidenced in any of the stories I have been privileged to share with my readers over the last year and a half.
‘And with Your Spirit’
A reporter called to interview me about the new translation of the Roman Missal. We spoke for a while about the process and problems of translation before she asked which of the forthcoming changes I thought would be the most important.
Perhaps too hastily I said it would be the congregation’s response to the priest’s invocation: “The Lord be with you.” For the last 40 years or so, we’ve been responding with “And also with you.” As of December 2011, we’ll say “And with your spirit.”
Once in a Century: Remembering John Paul II
John Paul II was a man who left an indelible impression. My first personal encounter with him was in Phoenix, Arizona, when he visited the Native American Catholic community during his 1987 trip. As master of ceremonies for the event, I met the Holy Father on the stage and held the book of prayers for him, offering him direction on when to stand and sit during the liturgy.
Verbum Domini: Pope Calls the Faithful to Fall in Love with the Living Word of God
Last week the Pontifical Biblical Commission gathered in Rome for a plenary session under the theme of “Inspiration and Truth of the Bible.” Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter to Cardinal William Levada, the President of the Commission, to encourage the participants. He quoted from his apostolic exhortation on the Word of God (Verbum Domini) written on September 30, 2010, the Feast of St. Jerome. He wrote, “an interpretation of the sacred writings that neglects or forgets their inspiration does not take into account their most important and valuable characteristic.”
St. John and St. Peter: Love and the Church
At Men’s Group on Wednesday, Fr. Kelly talked briefly about the roles played by John and by Peter in the early Church. Peter is the “Ecclesiastical Disciple,” the one on whom Christ entrusts authority of the Church, who He generally leaves in charge. It’s Peter that Christ builds His Church upon, calls to be the Shepherd, instructs to strengthen the other Apostles, refers to with Himself as “Us,” and it’s Peter who is immediately recognized by others (the other Apostles, the New Testament writers, and even an angel) as the earthly head.
Catholic Revert: Richard Evans
After being raised Catholic, Richard Evans left the Catholic Church from ages 15-49, becoming an Evangelical minister and eventually a gay activist. This is the story of his departure and return to the fullness of the Catholic faith.
I CANNOT RECALL A TIME WHEN I WAS NOT AWARE OF GOD IN MY LIFE. While other little boys were planning to be firemen or police, I often said, even at age seven or eight, “I want to be pope!” I jumped at the chance to become an altar boy, having already had much practice as the family “priest” when we played Mass—complete, at times, with flattened “hosts” made of white bread and cut out with bottle caps. The idea of actually serving next to the priest at the real Mass was incredible to me, and I did so with joy for the next four years.
Why (and How) Catholics Pray to Saints
A non-Catholic friend of mine who’d been following the news about JPII’s beatification wanted to know how prayer to saints worked. Specifically, he asked:
• (1) Can you pray to any Saint you want?
• (2) Do you have to wait until they’re canonized?
• (3) Is it form prayers or extemporaneous?
• (4) Doesn’t this violate Christ as Sole Mediator and Intercessor?
• (5) Why pray to the Saints at all?
• (6) Why not go directly to Christ?
• (7) How can the Saints hear us? Do they ever get overloaded with requests?
God Makes Saints, Not The Church
For the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005, nearly 3,000,000 people flooded into Rome, effectively doubling the city’s population. Some estimates are that crowds of that magnitude will return to the Eternal City Sunday to celebrate John Paul’s beatification. These big numbers are only fitting for the man who was seen by more people than any other person in history and who gathered the largest crowd ever assembled at World Youth Day in Manila. John Paul wanted to reach out to the world, and so it’s appropriate that the world is coming to witness his beatification.
The perpetual virginity of Mary, the mother of Jesus, has been consistently taught from the early Christian era. Western and Eastern Catholicism, and the Orthodox, consider it a fixed doctrine. Even early Protestant reformers, including Luther and Calvin, asserted the doctrine as worthy of belief. At present, however, most Protestants, accept the doctrine of the Virgin Birth, but dispute Mary’s perpetual virginity.
Rocker Steven Tyler of Aerosmith Haunted by Girlfriend’s Abortion
Long before he won accolades as an American Idol judge, Steven Tyler was a bona-fide rock star, with all that that implied. In 1975, when he was in his late 20s and the lead singer for the band Aerosmith, Tyler persuaded the parents of his 14-year-old girlfriend, Julia Holcomb, to make him her legal guardian so that they could live together in Boston.