3rd Sunday of Easter. April 19th 2015.
Acts 3:13-15,17-19; 1Jn 2:1-5; Lk 24:35-48
Journeying from regret to joy
The disciples were still incredulous for joy
I knew one of my parishioners as a quiet devout lady who attended Holy Mass every morning. All I remember about her was greeting her and saying goodbye to her every day after Mass. After she suddenly passed away, her daughter told me things that I never would have guessed about her mother. Every single day of her life, the deceased rose around 2 am to spend hours in prayer. I was really edified. Then the daughter showed me her mother’s prayer book, and behold, I found my name along with the names of many other people written in her prayer book. She was praying and sacrificing herself for me all these while and I never recognized her, I never knew what moved her, I never spent time with her, I never had a chance to chat with her, I never expressed my gratitude to her. Talk about a sense of regret that came over me.
Think of this: I regretted not recognizing and appreciating more a woman who prayed and sacrificed for me. How much more will the regret be if I do not recognize in this life Jesus Christ who suffered, died and was raised for me? I wondered, is my life today “a life of faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given Himself up for me?”(Gal 2:20)
In the First Reading, St. Peter describes Jesus as the “Holy and righteous one” who was not recognized by the people. Jesus, who “did all things well,”(Mk 7:37) who went about “doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil,”(Acts 10:38) and whose suffering and death “was announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets,” was not still not recognized as the Messiah by His people. On the contrary, they put Him to death, preferring instead the murderer Barabbas.
Before we berate the Jews for their blindness and inability to recognize Jesus despite all the amazing things that He did and the affirming words of the prophets, let us reflect on the words of the Catechism:
Since our sins made the Lord suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for He is in them) and hold Him up to contempt. And it can be seen that our crime in this case is greater in us than in the Jews. (CCC#598)
Jesus lives in our hearts today and He performs many amazing things for us today. St. John teaches us in today’s Second Reading that Jesus is both our “advocate with the Father” and “expiation for our sins.” As our expiation, He has won forgiveness for our sins. As our perpetual advocate, all sacramental graces, blessings, virtues, strength, truly good and holy desires come from the risen Christ. We have every reason to recognize Him now and we also have greater regret in store for us if we fail to do so but choose to crucify Him by our sins and refusal to repent.
Today’s readings bring before us the call to move from regrets to joy by recognizing in our midst the presence of the Crucified and Risen Author of life. In raising His Son from the dead, our Father beckons on us to journey away from regrets towards a real participation in the paschal joy of the risen Christ. We can discern from today’s readings five ways of recognizing Christ with us in our lives and the joyful hope that comes from this recognition.
We recognize Jesus with us through prayer, by listening to His words and speaking to Him. In listening to Jesus’ words without knowing that it was Him, the two disciples on the way to Emmaus recounted, “Where not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures for us?”(Lk 24:32) This was no monologue but an honest dialogue as they also responded to Jesus’ words by honestly sharing with Him their regrets and frustrated hopes, “But we were hoping that He (Christ) would be the one to redeem Israel.”(Lk 24:21) When we too prayerfully read the scriptures with faith and speak to Him from our hearts without any pretense, we allow the risen Christ to set our hearts on fire too and we begin to recognize His presence with us.
Secondly, we recognize Jesus with us through ongoing repentance from our sins. St. Peter reminds the Jews in the First Reading of their regretful ignorance but does not leave them in regrets. Repentance begins the journey away from regrets to joy, “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.” Sin blinds us to Christ’s presence with us but our honest acceptance of our sinful past and our journey back towards God opens our eyes to recognize Him. In this light, the Sacrament of confession bestows both forgiveness of sins and light to recognize in our lives the presence of the Lord who forgives us our sins.
Thirdly, we recognize Jesus with us through the Eucharist. The disciples first recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread: “Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” Upon appearing to them, Jesus invites them to touch Him: “Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” It is primarily in the Eucharist that we touch the body and blood of the God-Man Jesus Christ and allow Him to open the eyes of our hearts to His living presence. Faith in the Real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is the first step to recognizing His presence in daily life.
Fourthly, we recognize Jesus with us through our proclamation of Christ, seeking to make others know Him better. We must proclaim the One whom we have encountered in the Eucharist if we are going to recognize His abiding presence. The two disciples enjoyed a longer vision of the risen Christ than their earlier brief experience of Him at Emmaus because they refused to keep their earlier experience to themselves: “They recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” The disciples are then called to be witnesses to the risen Christ they had recognized: “You are witnesses to these things.” Our firm and unwavering resolve to make Christ better known to others by our words and actions further disposes us to recognize His presence with us.
Fifthly, we recognize Jesus with us through the community of the Church. All the appearances of the risen Christ were either in the community or involved a call to community. Mary of Magdala had tried to hold on to the humanity of the risen Christ but Jesus sends her back to the community: “Stop holding on to me…But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”(Jn 20:17) We will recognize Him in our midst when we see Him in others and serve them with love. His presence in the community is so tangible that “in receiving the least in His name, we receive Him.”(Mk 10:37) We cannot forsake the community of the Church and hope to recognize Christ in our midst. Let us resist the temptation to try to live the Christian life as lone rangers. We need others.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the disciples where “incredulous for joy and were amazed” because they recognized the risen Christ in their midst. They let go of their regrets and broken hopes about Him and their decisions to follow Him. This too can be our own story if we make use of the above means of recognizing Jesus in our hearts today and His continuous action in our lives no matter what the past may have been. A joyful hope awaits those who recognize Him today.
This same risen Christ whom we encounter in this Eucharist “lives to make intercessions for us.”(Rom 8:34) He prays for us in heavenly glory and on earth He pursues all of us, even those who do not seek for Him. Like a person mad with love, He never ceases to show us His sacred wounds to invite us to journey from regrets about failures, sins, sufferings, etc into His own deep abiding resurrection joy, a joy that this world cannot bring.
We have a choice to make – live in regret or journey to joy. We will enter into His own joy if we recognize Jesus Christ in this life. But, if after all that Christ has done for us and all that He still obtains for us today from Heaven, we still fail to recognize Him, then we will surely regret it in this life and in the life to come.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!