Pastoral Sharings: "Third Sunday of Easter"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Third Sunday of Easter
Posted for April 19, 2015  


In today’s Gospel we read of the first appearance of the 
Risen Christ to a gathering of the first disciples in 
Jerusalem as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus had 
appeared earlier to the two disciples who were taking the Road to Emmaus but now he appears to this larger group. 

Jesus begins as he customarily does when he appears after his resurrection with the greeting, ‘Peace be with you.’ He uses these particular words only partly to stop the disciples from being afraid but he does so mainly because the greatest gift of the Risen Lord is peace. 

In this encounter Jesus goes to great lengths to persuade the disciples that it is indeed he who has risen. He deliberately shows them the wounds of the crucifixion on his body and even goes so far as to eat a piece of fish to prove to them that he is not a ghost. 

This is perfectly understandable since some of the disciples would surely have personally witnessed his gruesome death on the Cross of Calvary. They would have needed quite a lot of convincing that this was the same Jesus who had died right before their very eyes. 

Indeed any of us, if it were possible for us to have been there with them, would also have taken quite a lot of convincing. Luke tells us that they were completely dumbfounded. 

Also critics, both at the time and down through the centuries, could easily have said that the disciples were deluded or that they did actually see a ghost or some sort of spirit. This makes the evidence of Jesus eating a piece of fish quite important; this story of Jesus eating is a categorical denial that he is either an apparition or a figment of their imagination. 

So this first part of the text could be summarised as Jesus establishing his credentials, proving to them who he really was. 

In the second half of the Gospel reading for today Jesus explains to the disciples that his death and his resurrection were already foretold in the scriptures. The text says that he opened their minds to what was written about him. 

This is a lovely phrase and we can believe it to be true because this is surely something we have experienced ourselves. We study the scriptures, or we hear a sermon about them, or we discuss them with others and suddenly one or other aspect of the Gospel becomes crystal clear to us. Then we too feel like our minds have been opened. 

What we have in the text then is two things; firstly the proof that he is not a ghost and then the instruction of the disciples by Jesus about what is in the scriptures relating to himself.  

When Jesus visits the disciples on that evening he does so with two definite purposes in mind. He wants them to understand that it really is him who has risen and he wants them to understand that what had happened to him was all foretold in the Bible.  

What he is doing is preparing them for their new role which is that of missionary. As he says in the last phrase: ‘You are witnesses to this.’  

Up to now the disciples had been his companions, his followers; but now they become his witnesses. Their new task is to give testimony. In short they have become missionaries; and this is exactly the same thing that occurs to every Christian once they have accepted the Gospel –they also become missionaries.

The fact that Jesus explains the scriptures to the disciples in his own day ought to alert us present-day disciples that the scriptures are very important. It tells us that they need to be studied and meditated upon and indeed that we should be experts in them.

This is not something that we should leave for the priest to do for us on a Sunday morning. Whenever we go to mass we should pay particular attention to the readings, we should reflect on them and think about what they mean. It is something too that we ought to be doing at home.

Perhaps it would be worth saying that there ought to be a Bible in every home, or at the very least a Sunday Missal that we can consult the readings ourselves. A Bible is better because we can read longer sections of text and see the events of Christ’s life in context rather than just read the very short extracts we get at mass.

Of course what Christ was referring to when he addressed the disciples was the Old Testament and he wanted the disciples to understand the references to himself so that they could appreciate them for themselves but also so that they could convince the Jews living around them of who he was and what he had achieved and how this was foretold.

Today we have also the Gospels and the other writings of the New Testament and these are even more valuable in strengthening our faith. We are able to read about the actual things that Jesus did and learn precisely what he taught as recorded by the four evangelists. The New Testament is therefore infinitely more valuable to us modern day disciples.

In particular when we study the Gospel texts we are able to see how the words addressed to the Apostles are also addressed to us. We find that the text has a real power and speaks directly to us even though we might be separated by a couple of thousand years and even though it is mediated to us in a quite different language from the one it was written in.

As we think about the words of the Gospel and turn them over in our minds we deepen our understanding of the faith and we find wonderful material for prayer and meditation. The little phrase you see at the top of the parish newsletter is always taken from the Sunday Gospel; it is a phrase that you can turn over in your mind during the coming week and use as material for meditation. Try doing this sometime; it will do you no end of good.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we get a glimpse of how St Peter set about this own task of witnessing to Christ. We see how he fearlessly stood up in front of the people and explained to them precisely who Jesus Christ was and invited them to repent of their sins.

We might not think that we could be as eloquent or courageous as St Peter, but we should not jump to this conclusion too hastily. Instead of shutting our mouths when some topic of faith is discussed we should not hesitate to speak out because it is only when we speak that we will find the words.

Let us not forget that we are Christ’s missionaries in the world of today and unless we speak out the Good News will not be heard and mankind will be the less for it. Jesus says in the last line of the Gospel that the forgiveness of sins will preached to all the nations. Who will do this preaching if it is not us?

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
April 19, 2015

Third Sunday of Easter, Year B—April 19, 2015
In today’s Gospel, Jesus appears to the apostles and says, “Peace be with you.” Why does this produce the exact opposite of peace?

Gospel (Read Lk 24:35-48)

We would do well today to keep the context of our Gospel reading in mind if we want to understand its full force. In the preceding verses, Jesus meets two disciples on Resurrection Day walking away from Jerusalem toward a town called Emmaus. They were bitterly disappointed in Jesus’ death. Seeing Him would certainly have cured that; however, they were “kept” from recognizing Him. That made it possible for Jesus to give them an extended Scripture lesson, showing them how God’s plan included the suffering and death of His Servant, Jesus. Still, the disciples did not know the identity of this Stranger. When they invited Him to stay with them, “He took bread and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them” (Lk 24:30). These were His exact actions at the Last Supper, too. At this, “their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished out of their sight” (Lk 24:31). This remarkable event caused the excited disciples to hurry back to Jerusalem; we now take up the rest of the story.

Third Sunday of Easter: Mercy
Three weeks ago, you folks in the pews had the worst part of our liturgy.  Three weeks ago the celebration was Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.  You remember, the Passion was proclaimed with a narrator, a priest, deacon or our seminarian playing the role of Jesus, a lector doing the other parts, and you folks taking the role of the crowds.  You had to call out, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  I’m sure you hated having to act that part.  Can you imagine if you really were there in that horrible praetorium demanding that Pilate send Jesus to be tortured to death?  Certainly, when you heard the report about His resurrection, you would have thought, “If this is true, and Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God, I’m doomed.”  Even worse, if you were one of the temple priests fanning the crowd into a frenzy, you would think that there was no chance you would escape the fires of hell.  But St. Peter in today’s first reading, tells the people who were in that crowd, including those who led them, that if they repented and are converted to Christ, their sins will be wiped away.

Beware of False Gospels
In the heyday of the Roman Empire, the corruption of the
times caused a wave of dissatisfaction to arise.  Many were disgusted with the gross sensuality of society and yearned for a higher, spiritual kind of existence.  They sought a redeemer who would come down from heaven and enlighten those who walked in darkness.

When they heard about Jesus of Nazareth, they suspected they’d found their man.  But surely, they thought, he was a divinity who just appeared to be flesh and blood so that he could pass on to us the secret knowledge needed for spiritual enlightenment.  Since he wasn’t really human, he couldn’t have really died.

On Accepting God’s Will
Not long ago a priest shared some guidance with my wife and me that has been the cause of a great deal of conversation and reflection in our home.  In response to learning that we pray every day about our oldest son’s future and that he be healed of his autism, he encouraged us to pray first for acceptance.

Let me explain.

10 Ways the Church Is Rising
We are used to thinking of Christianity as a spent force, a dying ancient religion that had its day in the sun and now is over and done with.

That is exactly how his opponents thought of Jesus on the original Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.

If the Church is the body of Christ, then we can expect the same thing to happen in the life of the Church, as it has in every age since the Church began. Here is a summary of  the 10 signs that Christianity is on the rise I shared at Aleteia.

Five Ways to Incorporate the Holy Spirit
The Sanctifier, the Consoler and Counselor, the Paraclete, the Gift from God most high, the Finger of God, the Interior Master of the soul, Uncreated love, the mutual embrace between Father and Son, Faithful Friend, Sweet Guest of the soul, Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, Fire, Light, Window, Wind, both gentle and powerful—all of these are titles that have been given to the Holy Spirit through the ages! Let us get to know the Holy Spirit, love the Holy Spirit, be docile to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit and become a pliable and most useful instrument in His hands for the salvation of countless immortal souls.

The Tragic Case for Christ
                                   I. An Anatomy of Tragedy

Man knows two things: how things are (the World), and how they should be (the Ideal). I don’t mean that he knows these things perfectly, or that every man completely agrees with every other man about what is or what ought to be. But everyone has some sense of these two things, and tragedy – all tragedy – can be traced to the chasm between the two. Together, these two observations form a single insight: things are not as they should be. The larger the gap between these two things, the greater the tragedy.

The Faith That Conquers All Evils
A Germanwings pilot apparently purposely crashes his airplane into the mountains. Reports indicate that he had been emotionally unstable in the past and even suicidal. There are many questions on our minds like, “How come he was still allowed to fly airplanes? What is to be gained by killing innocent passengers?” There are many such questions but very little answers.

Our God is a Mighty God
I love silence. I crave it sometimes, especially in a world that seems filled with noise 24/7. Radios and TVs, alarm clocks and iPods, CD players and Youtube, telephones and cell phones and people talking-talking-talking wherever we go.

It can be a challenge to hear God’s voice over all of that noise. We might try too hard, though, much harder than required. Sometimes – many times – God speaks in the loud and powerful.

We can forget that our God is a mighty God.

What Makes You Powerful?
As a single mom of five boys, I pretty much know what I’m doing in the next five minutes or so. Beyond that is anyone’s guess, so it should come as no surprise that I didn’t realize that the Feast of Divine Mercy is the Sunday after Easter. As Good Friday’s Tenebrae service came to an end, an announcement was made inviting anyone interested to stay for a few extra minutes to pray the first day of  Novena Before the Feast of Divine Mercy together and I accepted the invitation.

Every night before bed, Dominicans pray Compline. It’s among the shortest prayers of the day, and seldom takes more than twelve minutes to chant. Yet during the Easter season, in this small space of time we sing Alleluia twenty-eight times! After forty Lenten days of its absence, here it is again, back from the dead.

First we have to ask, why do we sing Alleluia?

Apostle: One Who Is Sent
The word apostle has a dynamic quality. The Greek apostolos means “one who is sent.” It describes an agent or vicar, an emissary or ambassador. More than a messenger, an apostolos is a representative. Scholars believe the word is a direct translation of the Hebrew shaliah; and the ancient rabbis pronounced that “a man’s shaliah is as himself.”

The Apostles were first known as the Twelve — a number rich with meaning. For a Jew of the first century, it recalled the twelve tribes of Israel, the tribes now dis­persed among the Gentiles and assimilated into other peoples. The gathering of the scattered was seen as an essential component of God’s salvation. The reconstitution of Israel was a work expected of the Messiah, the Christ.

‘I’ve Just Received a New Start in My Life Because God Has Forgiven My Sins’
Practical advice from catechists and priests on preparation, execution and follow-through for the sacrament of reconciliation.

When Christian LeBlanc tells his sixth-grade catechism class that he feels “sleek,” they know exactly what he means.

“I tell them that I feel sleek and clean because I’ve just been to confession,” said LeBlanc, an architect and columnist for who teaches catechism at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville, S.C.

Learn to Heal Painful Memories
Sometimes people get stuck when they try to get over their anger or to forgive. They can’t seem to erase the terrible memory. A key way to deal with this is called heal­ing of memories. Dennis and Matthew Linn have studied the whole process of healing memories, and they suggest that there are five stages in healing a memory, similar to the five stages of facing death outlined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross:

The Home is Symbolic
What is the difference between a home and a hotel? Or a dormitory? If you were to come home to a clean house (cleaned by a maid) and had food to eat (store-bought), would it really make any difference who did those things? What if it wasn’t your home, but an actual hotel or if you were renting a room?

Apparently your environment affects your sleep and studies show that you will sleep better if your bedroom is clean and comfortable. Even animals sometimes make their homes beautiful. The bowerbird male is famous for using creative materials in making a nest as courtship.

A Meditation on the Sins of the Intellect
When I was in the seminary, my Moral Theology Professor, Fr. Robert Zylla (R.I.P.), encouraged us to meditate on the sins of the intellect during the third sorrowful mystery (The Crowning with Thorns). In his years of teaching he had surely witnessed the intellectual pride that could beset theologians and seminary students who figured they knew a few things. And added to this human tendency to intellectual pride was the rather prideful sense of the 20th century that we had somehow “come of age.” Dissent from church teaching was rampant and what came to be called the “hermeneutic of rupture and discontinuity” was in full flower.

Enough is Enough
“I think all of us should have a respect for innocent life. With regard to the freedom of the individual for choice with regard to abortion, there’s one individual who’s not being considered at all. That’s the one who is being aborted. And I’ve noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born. I think that, technically, I know this is a difficult and an emotional problem, and many people sincerely feel on both sides of this, but I do believe that maybe we could find the answer through medical evidence, if we would determine once and for all, is an unborn child a human being? I happen to believe it is.”

Do “the Dead Know Nothing?”
The toughest texts to deal with concerning the natural immortality of the soul are found in the Old Testament. These are the go-to verses for Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others who deny it. One way you can go about explaining things to them is to go to the manifold and obvious texts in the New Testament that clearly teach the human soul to be immortal. These would include Jesus’ teaching about the afterlife in his parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31 (there Jesus indicates there is an immediate or “particular” judgment and either reward or punishment at the point of death), the various texts that teach of the eternity of Hell (Matt. 25:41; 46; Rev. 14:9-11; Rev. 20:10-15, etc.), etc.

The Devil is Real : You’ll need this “Manual for Spiritual Warfare”
Is the devil real? Here is Msgr. Ronald Knox on that: “It is stupid of modern civilization to have given up believing in the devil, when he is the only explanation of it.”

Monsignor Knox, eminent British convert, author, retreat master and translator of the Bible, may have been indulging in irony. But irony doesn’t change the fact that the devil and his demonic associates exist.

An Uncomfortable Religion
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the controversy surrounding Indiana’s “religious freedom” law. Debates on this issue ultimately boil down to a question of liberty v. justice.

Christian business owners invoke their First Amendment right to exercise their conscience when it comes to whose patronage they accept. Gay rights advocates insist that a just society cannot be one in which individuals decline to accept business from a customer based on their sexual orientation and corresponding lifestyle choices.

Two Gifts of Deeper Prayer: Silence and Spaciousness
One of the great spiritual battles/journeys is being able to get beyond and outside our own self. St. Augustine wrote that one of the chief effects of sin is making man curvatus in se (turned in on himself, turned inward). Forgetful of God, we lose our way. Called to look outward and upward, to behold the Lord and His glory, we instead focus inward and downward, on things that are passing, noisy, troubling, and far less noble. No longer seeing our Father’s face and experiencing joyful confidence, we cower with fear, foolishly thinking that things depend on us.

Shroud of Turin Inspires Conversion and Deepens Faith
TURIN, Italy — When the Shroud of Turin goes on display in Turin Cathedral beginning April 19, Pope Francis will be among the millions of visitors expected to see and venerate what is believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. Walking in the footsteps of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Pope Francis will venerate the shroud on June 21, days before the exhibit closes on June 24.

Surely, countless people will be moved, including those renewing belief in God and those wanting to enter the Catholic Church after seeing the shroud. In the past, others have traveled that road of spiritual renewal, whether Catholic or not.

Historical Truth and the Crusades
Hatttip to John Hinderacker at  Powerline for the above video by Dr. Bill Warner in which he states a fact that is obvious from the historical record:  the Crusades were a tardy, and defensive, reaction to an ongoing Islamic Jihad that would continue against Christendom until the technological gap in the nineteenth century rendered Islamic states, for the moment, largely militarily impotent:

A Little Film I Watched About Where Jesus Was Baptized In Jordan…
During breakfast this morning, on the 787 Dreamliner flying the livery of Royal Jrdanian Airlines, I watched an interesting little film. It’s about the place in the Kingdom of Jordan that has been visited by popes, and pilgrims.

The site is one of the many reasons why I was hoping to return to Jordan someday. And someday came sooner than I realized it would.

Six Ways to Avoid Being a “Stealth Catholic”
I have had numerous conversations with friends and professional acquaintances over the years on the subject of openly sharing our Catholic faith. I am always a little surprised at how often many of them express strong reluctance to being open about their beliefs. The reasons given have included, “I don’t want to offend anyone.” “We could never do that at work.” and “I don’t like to discuss that outside of my parish.” Do we ever stop and reflect on how often our public actions and thinking are overly influenced by what others may think about our Catholic faith?

Love Isn’t Supposed to Be Efficient
As a mother of lots of kids, I think a lot about treating them fairly. They make sure I think about it a lot:  “Hey, she got more pudding than I did!” “Hey, you never let us watch Jaws when we were that age!” “No fair, he got an extra ten minutes on Minecraft, but I didn’t even get to save my chickens!”

It’s enough to make you crazy, or crazier. But in a big family, especially, it really is necessary to keep track of things and try to keep them just and fair and evenly distributed. If you don’t keep track, you’re likely to find out that one especially squeaky kid has gotten all the grease, while a more reserved child gets unintentionally gypped. So I do constantly assess how fair I’m being, and we make adjustments as necessary.

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