Third Sunday of Easter
Reflection: Developing a new perspective
By SISTER MARY McGLONE
How many times have you told a family story only to have a sibling say, “I don’t remember it that way at all!” (That is actually a very nice rendition of what often happens.)
Memory shapes our perspective without our willing it. If my brother used to scare me by pulling a mouse out of his pocket, I’m going to react when I see him approaching with a grin and a hand in his pocket. If he should then hand me a gift card, my future expectations might be different.
Today’s readings are all about perspective. The Gospel tells the story of two disciples whose perspective threw them into blind grief. As Jesus, the stranger, walked with them, they described him as a failed messiah — assuming that everyone assessed the situation as they did. Jesus listened to it all, allowing them to vent their desolation as they walked along.
Then, in the way only a close friend can do, he shook them out of their stupor with an all-too-familiar, loving reproach: “You dunderheads! How long did you walk with Jesus without learning anything? Have you forgotten all he said about dying and rising — that all of Scripture teaches God’s love cannot be overcome? Let’s take it once more from the top.”
Finally, sitting at table with them, he explained it all again in one gesture. He took bread and blessed and broke it, reminding them that giving oneself totally for others is God’s route to the fullness of life.
Peter taught something similar in his Pentecost reprise of the mystery of Jesus. Peter recounted the historical events as everyone knew them. He then proclaimed that all that happened to and through Jesus was part of the process of accomplishing the divine plan for the world.
Having reminded them of Jesus’ goodness, his rejection, death and resurrection, Peter summarized it all saying, “It was impossible for him to be held by death.”
Luke the evangelist gave us these two different renditions of the same story. For the early church, it was a story they heard from participants (who probably each had their own version). Ultimately, the story is that, in Christ, the Holy Spirit is filling Earth and her inhabitants. But, as we and the Emmaus travelers know only too well, it takes a long time for Jesus’ followers to understand that.
And so, for us? Because this is the weekend of Earth Day 2023, we might listen long and carefully to one particular line from the first letter of Peter. He says, “Conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourn.”
The author wrote that nearly 2,000 years ago. We hear a modern rendition of it today as Pope Francis tells us in “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home” to show reverence for every bit of creation because “it is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet.”
Peter told his audience that the people of his time failed to recognize that Jesus was sent by God in spite of the good he did. The travelers to Emmaus didn’t recognize the risen Christ as he walked with them until he prayed with them. Until the 19th century, most Christians accepted slavery as a natural state for some people — until they knew they had to change the laws.
When humans accept new perspectives, they must put them into action.
Today, in Laudato Si’, Francis makes an extraordinary claim as he invites us to recognize all of creation as “a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness.” He adds that, for Christians, “the destiny of all creation is bound up with the mystery of Christ.”
Just as people of Jesus’ day missed the point, many today remain unaware or insufficiently concerned about how we are shaping the future of our planet. While the crisis of Earth is but one of the ways in which God’s plan for the future is being thwarted, with the exception of nuclear warfare no other evil compares to the possibility that all life on Earth could be snuffed out as a result of human carelessness or apathy.
Jesus invited the Emmaus disciples to see through his eyes. Francis does the same in Laudato Si’ as he calls Christians to “an ‘ecological conversion,’ whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them.”
He adds, “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not … optional.”
The early Christians had to develop a new perspective. How are we called to do the same?
(Acts 2: 14, 22-33)
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven,
raised his voice, and proclaimed:
“You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem.
Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.
You who are Israelites, hear these words.
Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God
with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs,
which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.
This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God,
you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.
But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death,
because it was impossible for him to be held by it.
For David says of him:
I saw the Lord ever before me,
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted;
my flesh, too, will dwell in hope,
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.
“My brothers, one can confidently say to you
about the patriarch David that he died and was buried,
and his tomb is in our midst to this day.
But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him
that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne,
he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ,
that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld
nor did his flesh see corruption.
God raised this Jesus;
of this we are all witnesses.
Exalted at the right hand of God,
he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father
and poured him forth, as you see and hear.”
(Psalm 16: 1-2, 5, 7-11)
(1 Peter 1: 17-21)
If you invoke as Father him who judges impartially
according to each one’s works,
conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning,
realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct,
handed on by your ancestors,
not with perishable things like silver or gold
but with the precious blood of Christ
as of a spotless unblemished lamb.
He was known before the foundation of the world
but revealed in the final time for you,
who through him believe in God
who raised him from the dead and gave him glory,
so that your faith and hope are in God.
(Luke 24: 13-35)
That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted
what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.