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Pastor's Letter 20210418 - 18 April 2021 - Opening Our Minds


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April 18th, 2021

Third Sunday of Easter

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“Walking the Emmaus Road"

A Message from Father †Michael

Today’s Theme:   “Opening Our Minds”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

“Ignorance is bliss….”  Before we learned “the rules” of life, our actions were taken at face value, and we did not normally receive recriminations for them.  This period of life, usually completed, or nearly so, by the end of our childhood, is fleeting, and with good reason.  In order to commit “sin,” one must be aware that one’s action is “sinful,” first of all.  Then a person must decide to proceed with it, in spite of this understanding—with “full consent of the will.”

This is the subject of today’s First Reading (Acts 3: 13-21,) from a sermon Peter addressed to crowds who were attracted to him and John, due to the sensation they caused by curing a lame man  (Acts 3:11.)  Peter’s indictment of the audience excuses their complicity in condemning Jesus to death, because of their ignorance of His identity.  But then, Peter invites them to repentance and conversion.  

In today’s world, it is virtually impossible to hide behind a cloak of ignorance, because we have “seen” Our Blessed Lord, and have “known” what He has done for us.  We encounter Him in the Sacraments and in God’s Word.  This makes us fully responsible for the gift of salvation, and fully accountable for it when the Author of Life returns.

Our Second Reading (1 John 2:1-5,) reinforces Jesus’ advocacy for us with the Father when we falter, and fail to obey the commandments.  At the time, some believed in the supremacy of human reason, influenced by Greek culture, by  which some claimed to possess so superior a knowledge of God as to be excused from the demands of ethical behavior.  John preached that knowing God definitively directs a person toward morality.  Today, the dangers of “Gnosticism” (knowing) that divided the Johannine community still persist.  Many still have a tendency to substitute intellectual advances of technology for the only knowledge worth acquiring—that is, knowledge of God in Christ, which is Life.  

The Emmaus Road story (Luke 24: 13-35,) preceded today’s Gospel selection, in which Luke features the risen Lord showing two of the apostles how the Scriptures foretold that the Christ would suffer and so enter into Glory.      He did so by combining various passages from the prophets.   In this way, He taught them to accept the idea that the suffering Messiah was part of God’s plan of salvation.  

Later, having shared their experience with the other apostles, they are once again huddled in the upper room.  Again, Jesus appears to them with “Shalom,” and reassures them He was the same Christ Who was put to death and had risen.  He shares a meal with the group and “opened their minds.”  Once again, Jesus gave them a mission: to proclaim the Gospel and preach repentance and forgiveness of sins.  

In the concluding verse of the Emmaus story shows us Jesus “taking the bread, blessing and breaking it, and giving it to them.”  In that action He “opened the eyes” of the disciples to His identity.  Preaching and breaking bread comprise an early lesson in liturgy, highlighting our encounter with the Lord in Scripture readings and the Holy Eucharist, every time we celebrate Holy Mass.    

Breaking Through

We can empathize with the apostles, gathered behind locked doors.  The room was haunted by absence and full of bittersweet memories of Jesus.   It was there the Master washed their feet, celebrated the Last Supper, and where they had sworn loyalty to Him—a loyalty that didn’t even continue through the night.  

So, they were “wounded”—by fear, doubt, guilt, grief and despair.  They were also wounded collectively, by absence of two of their number—Judas, and Thomas. In their pain, they erected a barrier around themselves.

When Jesus came to them, He broke through that barrier without blaming or scolding them for their failure to stand with Him.  His offer of peace (“Shalom,”) gave them the forgiveness they craved.   Suddenly, the greatness and wonder of it all struck them: death had been overcome; evil had been defeated; and their sins and betrayal had been set aside.  Good had triumphed over evil; a fresh start was possible; and they were filled with joy.

Jesus’ approach was so gentle, without a hint of harshness.  He gave them courage; healed their wounds; renewed their hope; gave them life; and empowered them.   From utter collapse and failure, something totally and utterly new arose.  As a result, they had not only believed in Him, but also in themselves, becoming at once fully known and fully loved.  

Easter doesn’t take away our pain or remove our fears.  Rather, it introduces a new element into our lives, giving meaning to our pain.  Everything is different because Jesus is alive, and speaks His words of peace to us even today, as He spoke to the apostles.  

When we fail under trial and temptation, we can draw encouragement from Jesus’ own disciples, all of whom failed during His passion.  This promotes a quiet joy among us  along with a deep sense of peace, because we know that life is stronger than death.

The resurrection means that Jesus lives and we encounter Him in faith in the Holy Eucharist.  Knowing Christ does not insulate us from reality.  But He will be with us where we are, helping to give meaning and beauty to our lives, especially to the parts that are painful and dark.  And, like the apostles, we also are commissioned to bring the Good News to others.  

The Role of Faith

This came to me from a dear friend of mine—some of you may have seen it, too, on Facebook, this past week:

Faith

Faith doesn’t always take you out of the problem;

Faith takes you through the problem.

Faith doesn’t always take away the pain;

Faith gives you the ability to handle the pain.

Faith doesn’t always take you out of the storm;

Faith calms you in the midst of the storm.

The resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our Christian faith.  The empty tomb, in itself, is not a direct proof of the resurrection. Nevertheless, it was the first step towards establishing the truth that Jesus had escaped the bonds of death, and prepared the disciples to encounter the risen Lord.

The theory that the resurrection was produced merely by faith of the apostles does not withstand scrutiny.  Their faith in the resurrection was born of direct experience with the risen Jesus.

It is crucial that we affirm the bodily resurrection of Our Blessed Lord.  This is contrary to the belief that the human spirit is, in some way, “naturally” eternal and continues after the death of the body, suggesting the body dies and the soul continues into a new life.  Nowhere in the Bible is this taught.  

Christians believe the body will share in the triumph of the resurrection, because Jesus rose with His body; the tomb was empty; the apostles touched Him; He ate with them; and walked with them.  His was not a resurrected corpse, but a glorified body, not subject to the human boundaries of time and space.  It was marked with signs of His mortal life (the wounds,) but also different from the flesh and bones nailed to the cross.  It was a body no longer subject to the ordinary laws of nature.  He is not as He was, but He was Who He was.

This is the most profound basis for the Christian attitude towards the human body.  We care for the bodies of the sick, the hungry and the wounded because we know they ae destined to share in the resurrection of Jesus.

This is the message of Christian Humanism.  It invites humanity not to become something else, but to be more authentically what it already is.  

May God Richly Bless You!

“The evidence for Jesus' resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things:

First, it is a very unusual event; and second, if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live.”

~~Wolfhart Pannenberg, Theologian~~

To view a live stream of today's Holy Mass, click here:  https://youtu.be/0Up9xyxUaT4

I Can See-On the Emmaus Road.docx

Edited by Father Michael
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