by Br Julian McDonald cfc

Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures: “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to these things.” Luke 24: 35-48

As preparation for engaging with today’s gospel-reading, it is worth our while to take a few minutes to read Luke’s account of the encounter the two disciples had with the Risen Jesus on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-32). While it is a story with which we are all familiar, it is worth taking time to note some of the details. The experience of the two disciples led them to rush back to Jerusalem to confirm to a larger, mixed group of disciples that Jesus had really risen. They arrived to be told that their news was stale, and that Jesus had already appeared to some women and to Peter as well. Today’s gospel-reading builds on the experience of the two disciples making their way to Emmaus, and opens with a statement of “how they had recognised Jesus at the breaking of bread”. – a very deliberate reference by Luke to the Eucharist through which subsequent generations of disciples, including all of us, would encounter the Risen Christ.
By the way in which Luke recounted how the two disciples came to recognise Jesus, he was reminding his community that they, too, would come to an intimate knowledge of Jesus through word and sacrament. As the three walked along the road, Jesus reopened and reinterpreted their Scriptures and then gave them the gift of himself in the bread he broke and shared with them. What’s more, while these two disciples and the mixed group of disciples they had re-joined were all excitedly recounting three different appearances of their Risen Lord, Jesus, yet again, suddenly appeared in their midst, confusing them even more: “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?  Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.  And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”  They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence,(Luke 24: 38-43) thereby affirming that he had a physical body and, so, could not be a ghost.
Jesus proceeded to break open what the Scriptures had foretold about his suffering and his being raised from the dead. In doing so, he referred to Moses, the other Prophets and the Psalms. Effectively he was urging them to get into their thick skulls things he had repeatedly tried to teach them Having reminded them of all that, he went on to spell out the mission he was entrusting to them, instructing them to proclaim that the Messiah was very different from what they and everyone around them had expected, but one who would be executed and rise from the dead. Their role was to extend to the world forgiveness and mercy in the name of the risen Messiah and to call the world to conversion of heart.
While we might be puzzled by the disciples’ inability to grasp the reality and significance of God’s raising Jesus Christ, the Messiah from the dead, today’s gospel-reading challenges us to come to terms with the very same event which the disciples could neither grasp nor appreciate. Sunday after Sunday we stand and publicly proclaim our allegiance to the Jesus, the Christ of God who “for our sake was crucified under Pontius Pilate, suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…we confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins and look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” (The Nicene Creed) But is that any more relevant and significant to us than the weather report we hear on the radio every morning? How do we in our lives witness to the forgiveness, mercy, love and freedom offered to us by the Risen Christ? We can probably all admit to the struggle we have in actually forgiving those who have offended us, in showing mercy to criminals big and small, to reaching out to free those around us crippled by fear, doubt and guilt, by acceptance of, and extending tolerance to, those who hold different beliefs and opinions or have a different sexual orientation?
We may well accept that Jesus was actually born into our world, grew and developed as we did, became an itinerant rabbi, was unjustly accused and executed, was, indeed, raised by God from the grave, but have we yet understood the real meaning, significance and consequence of all that for our commitment as disciples of that same Jesus? That’s a topic worthy of personal reflection and, even, discussion with our companion disciples!

Third Sunday of Easter - a reflection on the Sunday readings