Breaking Open the Word
3rd Sunday of Easter
April 23, 2023
The first reading from Acts is taken from Peter’s sermon on Pentecost. This portion of Peter’s sermon contains the core of the apostolic proclamation of Jesus. It proclaims Jesus’ name, his works, his death and his resurrection. This basis proclamation is cast here in the form of an accusation of the Jews, because the end of the sermon is a call to repentance and forgiveness. The central core of this part of the sermon, however, is the quotation from Psalm 16 and its application to Jesus. The later verses in the passage reveal the basic argument: David had to be speaking of either himself or another, he is dead and buried so he must be speaking of another. Jesus is that other, who fulfills the prophecy perfectly by his resurrection.
The first letter of Peter continues to reflect on the implications of being baptized in Christ. Think of the passage as addressed primarily to the newly baptized who are still learning how to understand their new status, but remember that it is also addressed to all the baptized who also need to remember the meaning of their baptism. This passage begins with a word of caution. Through baptism we have become children of God, permitted to call God our Father. This should not lead us to presume upon that relationship, however. God is also our judge, so reverent fear of awe is appropriate. This will prompt us to act according to God’s will. So too, the realization of the price of our redemption, the life-blood of Christ poured out for us, should cause us to avoid sin and live as God desires. The reading then reminds us again of God’s favor towards us. Even though Christ’s mission was eternally known, it was only revealed in this final age for our sake. His resurrection provides a basis for our faith and hope as God raised Jesus, so God will raise us to share in Christ’s glory.
As the story begins, the two disciples going from Jerusalem to Emmaus are dejected and discouraged. Any hopes they had that Jesus was the Messiah had been dashed. A stranger joins them on the road, it is Christ. But they do not recognize him, they see only a stranger. When he asks them what they are discussing, they tell him about Jesus and his death. Their words indicate that they have not yet recognized Jesus’ divinity. They saw him only as a prophet and perhaps not as the Messiah. Even the reports, they had heard of the empty tomb and the angelic testimony did not lead them to faith in the resurrection. So Jesus teaches them what the scriptures said about him, including the necessity of his suffering, but they still do not believe. When they get to the village, the two disciples display great hospitality toward the stranger, an important virtue for Luke. Then, in the midst of sharing a meal with him, they finally recognize him as the Lord. They are so overjoyed and excited that they immediately head back to Jerusalem to tell the others, who have already experienced the risen one themselves. The story is a strong reminder that Christians have always been able to recognize the presence of Christ in the breaking of the bread. Why does Christ vanish when they recognize him? The text does not say, but perhaps because, once they learned to recognize him in the breaking of the bread, they no longer needed the vision. It is also intriguing that it was only their practice of hospitality that led them to this experience. If they had not pressed Jesus to stay with them, they never would have come to recognize him.
Blind to the presence of Christ
The journey these disciples take to Emmaus is not unlike our own spiritual journeys. We too have been told of Jesus’ death and resurrection, yet we grapple with its meaning. We too have been confronted with scripture, yet we remain blind. And although each of us has experienced the Lord’s presence in our own lives, do we recognize Jesus? The spiritual journeys we take as Christians are indeed journeys from blindness to sight. And we must rely upon the gift of discernment to aid us as we walk. Notice the contrast here between the disciples and the women. The women did not see Jesus but could discern that the angel was of God and had accurately proclaimed Jesus had risen. The disciples, however, were taken to task for their disbelief and confronted with the scriptures by Jesus himself, yet they could not discern the truth. Finally, when Jesus shared a eucharistic meal with these men, their eyes were opened and they recognized him.
Theme in our Life Today
Too often in our lives, we remain blinded to the world around us. The hustle and bustle of our everyday lives make us distracted to the true presence around us. How often do we see the presence of Jesus in our lives? How often do we recognize Christ in others? How often are we blinded to the ways that God is speaking to us? St Ignatius said that discernment is the ability to recognize God when God is, in fact present. How is discernment practiced in your life. Ultimately, the only true way to ensure our spiritual sightedness is to continuously pray for a clearer vision of Christ in our lives. There are too many in the world today that are spiritually blind. Those who do not believe the scriptures and the fact that Christ is Lord and are blind to the manifestations of God as revealed throughout his word and Jesus Christ. The spiritually blind hear the truth, but they cannot see what it means. They cannot see the “big picture” of salvation, and they are unable to see how it applies in their own life. They have trouble confessing the truth because they have difficulty believing what they cannot see. Given that spiritual blindness afflicts the faithful, from the Pharisees to the disciples, how might we ensure that we keep ourselves from this condition? How can we break free from spiritual blindness if it occurs in our lives? The answer is relatively simple, we look to Jesus. Looking to Jesus is the only antidote to spiritual blindness. As we hear in the Gospel story today, the disciples finally recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. When we receive the Holy Eucharist each week, are our eyes open to what we are receiving and that Jesus is fully present: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the eucharist. Jesus is present to us in many other ways: in the scriptures, in those in need, in the sacraments to name a few. Keep your eyes open and focused on understanding and knowing Jesus in our lives so we can avoid spiritual blindness.
Prepare for Sunday
To Prepare for this Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word, consider the following:
1. When have your eyes been opened so that you recognized the Lord walking with you?
2. Think of a time when you had to suffer before you experienced the presence of the Lord.
3. What do you need right now to help you continue in your faith journey?
4. What kept the disciples from recognizing Jesus? What obstacles keep us from recognizing Jesus’ presence?
stay with us,
for evening is at hand and the day is past.
Be our companion on the way, kindle our hearts,
and awaken hope
that we may know you
as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread.
Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen.