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Apr. 30, 2017

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER

The first reading (Acts 2: 14, 22, 23) is taken from the beginning of Peter's first public proclamation about Jesus and how God raised Jesus from death, thus fulfilling the Messianic prophecies about the promised descendant of David.  The reading is taken from the first and the longest of Peter's five discourses preserved in the Acts of the Apostles.  During his speech, Peter refers to Israel's beloved King David, quoting Psalm 16 (ascribed to David), and asserts that David, "foresaw and spoke of the Resurrection of the Christ." Today's reading tries to describe a time before the earliest Christians realized that God was calling them to embrace all people. At this stage, they acted as though they were the only ones to have caught on to the Messianic identity of Jesus, and their goal was only to convince others of what they had realized.

 The second reading (1 Peter 1: 17-21):  Peter exhorts the early Christians to place their Faith and Hope in God Who has saved them through the precious Blood of His Son and Who has raised Jesus from the dead.  Peter repeats the assertion made in Acts that Jesus' death and Resurrection was part of God's plan from all eternity.  Hence, Jesus' sufferings and subsequent glorification by God should serve to center the Christian's Faith and Hope in God Who has accepted those sufferings as an act of Redemption for all mankind. From this reassuring truth, Christians should sense God's providence in their own situation and the whole of their lives, and should understand the place of their present struggles in broader history.  The root of our Faith must be the Resurrection of Jesus, and Peter argues that it is essential for everyone in the Christian community to have the experience of the risen Jesus in his or her life.

Exegesis: Luke's Emmaus Gospel is a beautiful, theological dramatization of one of the encounters of the disciples with their risen Lord during those wonder-filled days after the discovery of the empty tomb (Mk 16:12-13). It is the story of how on Easter Sunday two disciples of Jesus, discouraged and devastated, set out on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus -- a distance of about seven miles -- and were met by a Stranger going along the same road.  They began to speak to Him about all that had occurred in the Holy City during the previous week.  Most probably, Cleopas and his companion were husband and wife, residents of Emmaus and disciples of Jesus who had witnessed His crucifixion and burial.  The two disciples chose to leave Jerusalem on the third day after the death of Jesus – the very day they had received news that the tomb was empty.  They were “prevented” from recognizing the Stranger, Jesus, perhaps partly by preoccupation with their own disappointment and problems. As they journeyed on, Jesus showed them how the Scriptures had foretold all that He had done and suffered, including his death and its purpose.  His coming to them and walking alongside of them illustrates the truth that the road to Emmaus is a road of companionship with Jesus Who desires to walk with each of us.  "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). The incident further illustrates that Jesus is with us even when we do not recognize him.