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3 EASTER A

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Contents: Volume 2 - The 3rd Sunday of EASTER (A)
April 26, 2020


 

 The

THIRD

 Sunday of

Easter

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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1.

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3rd Sunday of Easter 2020

The main accounts in today's readings give us a blueprint for dealing with difficult times such as we have during the current pandemic. If we start with the Gospel reading, we see two grieving disciples, leaning on each other emotionally while they discussed the events that have turned their lives upside down. They were trying to figure out the connection between the Crucifixion and the "missing Jesus" .

Enter the Risen One, the Wise One who joins them unrecognized, gently asking about their distress. He then sheds light on the confusing events, enlightening them based on the now fulfilled Scripture texts of old. They break bread together and, filled with the Presence of Jesus internally and externally, they realize who their companion is.

Off they go, grief and fear gone and replaced by joy, back to their community in the Upper Room, to share the Good News. Immediately following (but not related in this week's readings) is when Jesus appears in the Upper Room and those present get to experience the Risen Christ together, as a community. These activities "marinate" so to speak, and what emerges is the confidence and boldness of the first disciples. Their "preaching" as expressed so eloquently by Peter in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, is why we have the Good News today.

So here we are, too. Where are we, individually, on this journey from grief and fear to joy? Individually, we are in different places, going back and forth, in small chunks of time, trying to make sense of what makes no sense. Our present reality contains confusing stories, little facts, the unknown, and certainly changed lives. What do we do?

I think we go back to Jesus who is waiting for us. We need to connect (with proper distancing or remotely at first) with some usual companions on our spiritual journey. We need to listen to each other's stories then beak open the Word together and listen to the many times Jesus tells us "do not be afraid." We need to join in virtual Masses, gathering, breaking open the Word, and join in spiritual communion, to strengthen our confidence and ignite our boldness. Yes, it is different from the experience of the first disciples in some ways, but remarkably similar in others. It is certainly different from our usual comfort zones.

I can't imagine that Peter pictured himself as such a strong orator and evangelist as he stood shielding and averting his eyes from the tortured Jesus! I can't imagine that the grief-stricken duo on the road to Emmaus thought they would practically run back to Jerusalem joyfully! I can't imagine what I will do or what those I know will do!

Jesus knows, Jesus cares. Let us trust in Jesus's ways, not our own. He will help us reclaim our spiritual strength and courage to find our "voice" through the power of grace.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Third Sunday of Easter April 26, 2020

Acts 2:14 & 22-23; Responsorial Psalm 16; 1st Peter 1:17-21; Gospel Acclamation Luke 24:32; Luke 24:13-35

This is my favorite gospel of the entire year. The narrative from Luke’s Gospel teaches us something wonderful about our individual and communal life journey. This is the Emmaus story. We celebrate the third Sunday of Easter as a journey, our journey of faith. Our instruction tells us Jesus, the Risen Christ, is with us.

Where is God in the terrible events of a global pandemic? Where can we discover God’s presence as the socio-economic world of ours comes crashing down as we stand helpless. Religious leadership waits in the upper room for visitation. Political leadership acts like a petulant five-year old, manipulating events and truth for political advantage. Citizens of means seek our remedies. Ordinary folk can only mask and stand apart. The marginalized suffer most as they lack the resources to distance themselves from their environments. So, where is this risen Christ? What has his pain and cruel death accomplished?

Some will insist this is God’s punishment for sin. Those whose faith focus on literalism and fundamentalism teach that God has grown tired of homosexuality, of abortion, and of human sexuality returning to paganism. For them, the pandemic comes from God’s wrath. They think of God as a heavy-handed tyrant, dishing out favors to those who pander to him and terrible retribution to those who disregard or despise him.

In the joy of the empty tomb, we set expectations of what God is for us. For many, God is the remedy to all our ills. God is the construction expert who stretches out the road, the trajectory of our lives, making it smooth and bump-free. The difficulty that arises is that we think of God as being external to us – fixing what is broken, eliminating obstacles, making creation itself serve our desires and whims. The constant mistake of humanity is that we insist, we believe, and we behave as though God is made in our image and likeness.

The story of Emmaus is filled with instructions for us. These two – Cleopas and another -- were walking home to Emmaus, a town seven miles to the west of Jerusalem. At a walking pace it would have taken a couple of hours to get there. It seems to be home, the place where the two lived. The time of day must have been afternoon, since they knew of the preposterous story of the empty tomb. It was beyond their ability to believe. No one dead comes back to life. Surely Jesus was dead – his side had been opened with a lance and the Roman crucifixion team testified to Pilate that Jesus was indeed dead and no longer a threat to the Roman empire – or to the religious and economic leadership of the Jews. They headed west into the setting sun. As they came home, it was twilight. It was time to get off the road lest they become victims of violent thieves. They came to safety behind their closed doors. Just as hope comes to human hearts with a rising sun, so also fear and security are emotions of approaching darkness.

As the two walked along from Jerusalem toward the darkness of evening, they tried to understand how it happened that the one they believed was the Messiah could come to such a terrible end. It was clear to them and to all Jerusalem that Jesus had died. Just a week earlier, his entrance into Jerusalem was a new beginning filled with hopes and expectations that swirled and ran through the thousands gathered in Jerusalem for Passover. Jesus came into Jerusalem accepting the shouts of the crowd, Hosanna – save us oh son of David. To have these hopes suddenly turn dark – well that was hard to comprehend.

So, the two are walking, hearts and heads downcast wondering what went wrong. Sure, some women had come with a story about the empty tomb and a hallucination of seeing Jesus alive. But these were women and being the weaker sex, they were easily misled, not so? A stranger came along, asking what so absorbed them in conversation. Surely this stranger must have been sleeping through Passover! Was he the only one who didn’t know what had happened?

The two walk toward home. They are joined by another who speaks to them, opening their minds to the experience of the Chosen People, using the writings of history and prophecy to explain how the Messiah would come and be rejected and yet triumph. Even though Cleopas and the other were headed into the dying of the day, the setting sun, they were able to see, to understand. The Messiah did not come to conquer the world. He came to the hearts of persons who lived in the world. In their hearts they would discover God’s presence and God’s strength and God’s power and love. It would be their work to live in his loving kindness and make different whatever they encountered. No matter whether their work was easy or hard, welcomed or rejected, God would be with them. The story insists that Jesus is with us even on our most difficult journeys.

As this trio came to Emmaus, the stranger wanted to continue on into the darkness. Cleopas and the other insisted the stranger stay with them in the safety and security of their home. As they sat to supper the stranger gave the blessing common to Jewish households. "God, we give you thanks for this bread, the fruit of the land and the work of human hands." In his praying the blessing so familiar to them, they recognized Jesus. Perhaps it reminded them of the time Jesus fed five thousand men plus thousands more women and children. In any case, at that moment they recognized Jesus. As they recognized him, he disappeared. Yet, he remained with them, though not visibly so.

They forgot dinner. In shock, they realized the women’s story of the empty tomb wasn’t a hallucination. They ran back to Jerusalem, arriving breathless in the upper room. They ran on the road heading east, toward the rising sun. Their encounter with Jesus revived their hopes. Even at the end of the day, when darkness was coming over the land, they had the energy to return to the upper room to share their experience with the others. This is a new beginning, there is the hope of the rising sun.

What are the lessons? Without the Christ, we tend to darkness, to the setting sun. The meaning of life, of our lives, is shrouded in darkness. We meander down a road to hoped-for destinies of security and comfort. We seek safety. With the Christ, the Risen One, we venture to the place of God’s presence, to the upper room where we share with others. When we look at the history of humanity from the perspective of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, we discover purpose and direction, meaningful growth and fulfillment of spirit. Human life is about how each of us individually and collectively grow in stature of spirit. In that growth we effectively come to the fullness of the image and likeness of God that each of us is a unique, one of a kind person. The Emmaus story is tells us to search and to always look to the rising sun of hope for ourselves and for all human kind. In that hope we recreate all of creation, impressing on it the image and likeness God gives us.

There is another way to look at Emmaus. It is an explanation of what the church is. Where two or more are gathered in the name of Jesus, Jesus is present. Where the Scriptures are proclaimed and explained, Jesus is present. Where we gather and share a simple meal, even there Jesus is present. When we come to our community, the community of believers in the Risen One, there it is we discover hope, faith, and unconditional love for one another and in that love, we love God, the Trinity.

We all share the walk to Emmaus trip, personally and communally. Even though there is darkness and despair, the Lord walks with us. We must have our eyes opened to see him. The disciples have nothing over us by their physical presence to Jesus. Jesus is present with us even now – if we look for him.

In the hearts of Christians, Jews, and Muslims, there is the desire to experience God present with us. Where are you, oh God? How can I see you, hear you, touch you, and find your present in my heart and mind? Some will beg for visions, for apparitions. Some will despair of ever experiencing God and turn sadly away, believing themselves condemned. Still others will conclude the lack of experiencing God is proof that God does not exist. Still others remember tragic histories of families, of communities, of cultures and believe God has lost interest in his creation. Where is God? How do we know when we experience God’s presence? Are there luminous clouds, loud trumpets heralding his presence? Must we struggle up high mountains either literally or figuratively to see God’s face? Why is it that our prayers aren’t answered? Where is the healing touted in the gospels? Are we disillusioned because of sinfulness and seduced by the pursuits of what the world considers important? "The Proud say in their hearts, there is no god." Yet if we seek him, God is here. The gift of faith cures our blindness and hardness of heart. Let us walk with him toward the rising sun with Faith, with Hope, and shared Charity.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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LEAVING THE CHURCH OR STAYING? 3RD SUNDAY EASTER A

For many of us life is a series of changes. Some of these are forced upon us, others freely chosen. We decide, for example, to move to a new suburb, look for a new job, replace our old car with a new model, go on a diet, enroll the children in a different school, or support a particular charity. When we make such decisions, we usually do so with expectations that the changes will work out, and that our lives will be so much better and happier. But things don't always work out as well as we hoped. As a proverb puts it: 'Man proposes but God disposes!’ Sometimes, in fact, all our efforts to change situations bring failure, frustration, disappointment, discouragement, and disillusionment, and we can’t help thinking and saying, ‘If only this hadn’t happened’, ‘if only that’.

This is just what happened to those two disciples with the sad faces whom we meet in the gospel today. To their credit they have previously responded to the invitation of Jesus to be his friends and workmates. They have learned a great deal from him about the meaning of life. They have shared his work of teaching and healing. They have enjoyed his company and accomplished a great deal of good. As the influence of Jesus has spread, they have been filled with hope for a better world for everyone - a kingdom world of justice, peace, and joy.

Now, however, this has all come to an abrupt end. For in these past few days Jesus, their beloved Leader and Teacher, has been arrested, tried, sentenced, tortured and killed. So disappointed and so disillusioned are they about Jesus in fact, that they have even decided to leave the Church, the community of his followers. This is just what they are doing when we catch up with them today. Slowly but surely, they are walking away from it all. Slowly but surely, they are putting Jerusalem and the other disciples behind them, and heading off to the village of Emmaus, some seven miles away, to start a new way of life.

It’s within this situation of unanswered questions, disappointed hopes and broken dreams that Jesus re-enters their lives. Not simply as Jesus of Nazareth this time, but as the Risen Lord, powerful and empowering! As they trudge along the road, with their eyes cast down, and their shoulders hunched, they start chatting to each other about all that has happened. All of a sudden Jesus himself joins them, but they are so preoccupied with their frustration and grief that they don’t recognize him at first. Yet they answer all his questions with the basic facts. They add that they have even heard a rumor that he is no longer dead but alive. Yet while they know and recall the basic facts about him, they have no idea how to join the dots. They need Jesus to explain to them from the scriptures that the Messiah would gain victory and glory only through suffering. So influential and impressive is Jesus' explanation of the facts that later they say to each other: 'Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us along the road ...?'

By now the sun is setting and they've reached their destination. Jesus pretends to go on. They have enjoyed his company so much that they plead with him to stay with them. He graciously accepts their invitation. There at table their guest becomes their host. He takes bread, says the blessing over it, breaks the bread, and gives it to them. Just as he did at the Last Supper! There and then they recognise him for who he is.

More than that, they immediately reverse their previous decision. They turn around and go back to the other disciples in Jerusalem. They go home, then, to the Church they have so recently left.

In recent years there have been changes in the Church throughout the world. While wanting more, some people have embraced the changes. Some have resented and resisted them. Others have struggled around the news of priests misbehaving, and of the cover-up by their superiors. For this too, some church members have been so disgusted that they have simply walked out.

What we all need in these times of change, disappointment, anger and disgust, is stronger faith, stronger faith in the on-going presence of the Risen Lord to his Church. We need this stronger faith and the hope and love that go with it. Especially right now, when we cannot come together in church to celebrate his presence and influence, and to support one another with our faith and love.

But our Risen Lord is with us right here right now, in ways that match his presence to his disciples on the way to Emmaus. He is here in our small home gatherings. He is here as he tells his story in our readings and in how we respond. And as soon as we can gather again with our fellow Christians, he will be here among us in our community-sharing around his table. He will be among us again, therefore, as both our host and nourishment for the next stages of our journeys of life. We can hardly wait, then, to go back to church.

May we welcome him, both then and now, with our minds and hearts and lives open to his powerful influence! May we welcome him especially as he comes to us today, comes to us in the mighty power of his Spirit, who was for us, who is still, and who will be, his second self! bgleesoncp@gmail.com

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John


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