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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS"

3rd SUNDAY OF EASTER (A) April 30, 2017

Acts 2: 14,22-33; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1: 17-21; Luke 24: 13-35

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

 

  The 3rd 

SUNDAY

of

EASTER

Today’s Emmaus story is a favorite for a lot of people. It follows immediately upon the account of the women who remained at the foot of the cross until Jesus died. They then followed Joseph of Arimathea, when he took Jesus’ body and placed it in the tomb.

The day after the Sabbath they returned to the tomb with spices for the body. They discovered the body missing. Two men in "dazzling clothes" appeared and told them that Jesus had risen. When the women went back to tell the disciples what they witnessed they did not believe them. The lowly status of women in the ancient world meant they weren’t taken seriously.

Peter ran to the tomb, saw the linen cloths and was "amazed." Luke doesn’t tell us he believed; nor did he get the same revelation the women received. Up to this point in Luke Jesus has not appeared to the disciples in the upper room. No special appearances yet. What Luke gives, after the episode with the women, is the account on the road to Emmaus. It is a very low-key story, almost ordinary-sounding in light of what has happened. There’s a lesson in that for those of us who look for special signs and illuminations. The risen Christ appeared in a daily setting – on a road and at the table.

Like the other gospel accounts, Luke tells us that Jesus rose on the first day of the week and he too features the empty tomb. But why does Luke present his first appearance narrative in such a low-key way? Possibly because he was writing for a Christian community about 50 years after the Easter event. His audience is a long way from Jesus’ time and might ask, as we might: "How is the resurrected Christ in our midst now? Where shall we look for and find him?"

Luke’s response to such faith questions is his description of Christ’s appearance in a setting that he structures like a Eucharistic liturgy, as it might have been celebrated by his early church.

The story opens with the disciples’ confusion and disappointment about the events of Jesus’ life and death. "We were hoping that…," they tell the stranger who has joined them on the road. Things had not turned out the way they had hoped. They seldom do for us too. The worshiping community today will notice the "liturgy" begins, as ours does, with a need for healing for the two disillusioned and crestfallen disciples. Then it moves to a "preacher" breaking open God’s Word for them, enabling them to see God’s plan in what had happened. What follows is a sacred gesture we will experience ourselves around the table today, "the breaking of the bread." In Luke and then later in Acts, "the breaking of the bread" is a term used for the Eucharist.

It’s as if Luke is telling his readers, "do you get it?" The risen Lord is present to us in the celebration of the Eucharist when we gather to receive Christ in his Word and Sacrament. Like the two on the road, we don’t get the extraordinary appearances of Christ the disciples in the upper room would have. Nor does Christ appear to us as he did to Thomas, inviting us to touch his wounds. That would be wonderful and life altering. What we have that is also wonderful and life altering, Luke tells us, is that each time we gather to celebrate the great deed God has done in Jesus with joy and gratitude, Jesus is as present to us as he was in the upper room and to the Emmaus travelers.

What fills us with joy and gratitude is Jesus’ presence with us – in one another, in the proclamation of the Word of God and in the Eucharist. Just as Jesus entered/interrupted the conversation of the downcast disciples as they journeyed and discussed their broken-hearted and discouraged condition, so we invite him to come into our conversations when we feel defeated or inadequate.

These are the difficult conversations when we: seek reconciliation after a long period of hurt; struggle to guide our children and young people; search for words to explain our faith to an inquirer, or doubter; try to comfort a broken spirit weighed down by guilt, sickness, addiction, exclusion, etc. At times like these we too are on a journey, involved in conversations that matter. We invite Jesus to join us so we can discover him, not just as a memory of long ago, but as a living presence with us, on the road as we travel to the home he has prepared for us by his death and resurrection.

The Eucharist is a moment to express thanks for those times when the Word of God has come alive for us. When, with the Emmaus disciples, our hearts have burned with excitement within us. We also give thanks when, in the midst of a dark journey, God’s Word came to us during a meditative reading of Scripture, or a moment of worship. Sometimes the Word speaks clearly and a light is turned on for us, surprising us as it speaks a present and relevant word that brings with it the fellowship of the Lord. With the Emmaus travelers, we celebrate his presence with us today in his Word, the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup.

The disciples’ coming to faith is a lesson for us. We don’t come to see right away. It is a process of reflecting on the Scriptures, walking with others and seeking understanding as we gather to celebrate Eucharist. Luke provides us sojourning Christians with a short and pointed prayer. Like the disciples on the road we say to Jesus, "Stay with us!"

A word about the reading from Peter’s letter. He refers to his hearers being in a time of "sojourning." Hence the link to our gospel story and the couple "sojourning" to Emmaus. But these early Christians are not on a tour, traveling to see the cities and monuments of the world. Their sojourn is a painful journey; they are undergoing sufferings because of their faith in Jesus.

Today’s passage is taken from a larger one that focuses on hope. How could they be Christians without hope? If they, and we, didn’t have hope they would be crushed in spirit, overwhelmed by the adversity afflicting the community. Previously (2:11) Peter reminded his hearers that they are "aliens" and "exiles." We’re not fully at home in this world, not until the Lord returns to make all things new. Meanwhile, Peter advises, we are to live holy lives, "conduct yourselves with reverence." A life of reverence is based on our faith that God has paid for our redemption with, "the precious blood of Christ." Peter’s encouraging his readers that if such a price were paid for us (Christ’s blood) there is no reason to fear the powers that once influenced or controlled our previous lives.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/043017.cfm

QUOTABLE

He is risen! That is the first and last word about what it means to believe and live as Christians. The resurrection of Christ is the one event in history that gives meaning to all of history, including our own.

Shirley C Guthrie

Christian Doctrine, 1994

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

You have made known to me the paths of life.

Acts 2: 28

When the Christian movement first emerged within Judaism, it was known as "the Way," a phrase first coined by the Pharisees. In the Gospel of John 14:6, we have Jesus’ own words, "I am the way and the truth and the life." What does it mean for us, as followers of Jesus, to follow him on the way?

Reflecting on Jesus’s post-Resurrection journey to Emmaus, Pope Francis states: "[W]e need a church capable of walking at people’s side, of doing more than simply listening to them; a church that accompanies them on their journey; a church able to make sense of the ‘night’ contained in the flight of so many of our brothers and sisters from Jerusalem; a church that realizes that the reasons why people leave also contain reasons why they can eventually return. But we need to know how to interpret, with courage, the larger picture. Jesus warmed the hearts of the disciples of Emmaus" (World Youth Day, 2013). This begs the question for those of us who consider ourselves to be a part of the Church, are we accompanying others in their journey? Where are we going if not to God?

A few weeks ago, I had the honor to attend a Mass at Sacred Heart with our Prison Ministry. Three women they have been accompanying came into the Church then. For those three women and the other women that the Prison Ministry touches, the ministry is making a profound difference in their lives. I don’t often get letters from family and friends of incarcerated women, but I received two on behalf of one of the women, who was becoming Catholic, giving profuse thanks for the work our parishioners do.

As another example, one of our Support Circles, that assists homeless families by a year-long accompaniment, was hosting a final get-together with the family. Before the family arrived, the team was lamenting that they didn’t feel that they had been really effective in helping this particular family. So, in the course of the gathering, Sharon Mitchell, our Catholic Charities coordinator, asked the mother how she felt about the help we had given her and her family. Her response so surprised us as she said that, while struggling with depression and setbacks, we had shown her reason to get up and get moving. She was full of smiles and hope for the future.

Accompaniment is what Jesus did; it is love in action.

-----Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Coordinator of Social Justice Ministries

Sacred Heart Cathedral – Raleigh, NC

FAITH BOOK

Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

And it happened that while [the disciples] were conversing and debating,

Jesus himself drew near and walked with them....

He asked them, "What are you discussing as you walk along?

Reflection:

Jesus walked with the discouraged disciples and entered their conversation about their disappointments over what happened to Jesus’ So, we invite him to come into our conversations when we feel defeated or inadequate and give us vision and renewed hope.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Is there some part of our current faith journey that feels lifeless?
  • Despite our struggle, what could Jesus be saying to us at this moment in our lives?

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"The use of the death penalty cannot really be mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • Timothy Richardson #0492102 (On death row since 6/1/95)
  • Richard Cagle #0061528 (6/16/96)
  • William Herring 0180479 (7/22/95)

----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/

DONATIONS

"First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at jboll@opsouth.org.

If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory 3150 Vince Hagan Drive Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation: http://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

  • Individual CDs for each Liturgical Year, A, B or C
  • One combined CD for "Liturgical Years A, B and C."

If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: www.preacherexchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.

(These CDs have been updated twice in the last five years.)

2. "Homilias Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. at Jboll@opsouth.org.

http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/

3. Our webpage: http://www.PreacherExchange.com - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilias Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.
 



Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626

 


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