3RD Sunday of Easter
April 19, 2018 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
The Gospel this Sunday is from Luke’s last chapter (24). This chapter can be looked at as a triptych. It consists of three scenes, the empty tomb, the journey to Emmaus and the final scene of mission and ascension. The three scenes each share some commonality. There is a unity of time, the same day. There is a unity of place, in Jerusalem (or going away from). There is a unity of persons “those of our company.” They are unified by the theme of “fulfillment.” They all continue the “journey” theme. This makes for an impossible day chronologically, but not theologically.
In the preceding Emmaus scene the disciples do not recognize Jesus until the breaking of the bread. In this scene the entire community is assembled when Jesus himself stands in their midst. His first greeting, here as elsewhere is “Peace be with you.” However the assembly’s reaction reveals none of the joy and hope which pervaded the end of the Emmaus story. They are at first “startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.” Their incredulity shows that they had little comprehension of who Jesus was and what he had undergone. Jesus calms their fears by showing them his hands and feet, inviting them “touch me and see” and by pointing out that a ghost does not have flesh and bones as they see he has. For the disciples this was too good to be true, but they joyfully knew that it was true. As they look on in wonderment, Jesus asks for something to eat. He takes it and eats it “in front of them.”
Together with peace, forgiveness is one of the prime gifts of the risen Christ in both John and Luke. Jesus taught them and us “that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations…” Forgiveness permeates the other readings of this Sunday. In the Gospels we recall the denying of Peter, the doubting of Thomas, the fleeing of all the apostles. But denial, rejection, sin are not the final word. John Donahue reflecting on this gospel tells us: “The resurrection is victory over these deadly elements in life. Karl Rahner once wrote: ‘we are always tempted to stay in sin because we do not dare to believe in the magnificent love of God, and because we do not want to believe that God will forgive us our sins’ (The Content of Faith, p. 306). The experience of such love and irrational forgiveness touched the denying Peter, the doubting Thomas and the fleeing disciples, and remains the enduring gift of the risen Christ to his followers.”
Donahue also points out, “recently the church has moved from proclaiming the necessity of forgiveness to asking others to forgive those sufferings perpetrated by the very community that strives to embody the presence of the risen Christ.” He also tells us, “Today forgiveness “to all nations” has moved from the religious and individual to the global political sphere.”
If we are to know the Peace of Christ we also must be involved with forgiveness at every level, personal (asking forgiveness and forgiving); at the global level, being part of efforts at forgiveness and reconciliation. Clearly it means not being part of or supporting war making, arming others, supporting violence.
Pope Francis has just published another Apostolic Exhortation, On the call to holiness in Today’s World. At this point I have not read the entire document but I do wish to share this part:
101. The other harmful ideological error is found in those who find suspect the social engagement
of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist. Or they
relativize it, as if there are other more important matters, or the only thing that counts is one
particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend. Our defence of the innocent unborn,
for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life,
which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of
development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute,
the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert
euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.
We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel,
spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar,
living their entire lives in abject poverty.