Msgr. Joseph Prior

(See the readings for the Third Sunday of Easter, April 18)

“The Lord is Risen! Alleluia, Alleluia!” “He is risen indeed! Alleluia, Alleluia!”

The Gospel account for Sunday’s liturgy is from the Gospel according to Luke. The passage follows the encounter between Jesus and the two disciples who were traveling to Emmaus on that “third day.” At first, they do not recognize him as they journey along. When they reach the destination, Jesus sits with them at table, takes bread, says the blessing and breaks it. It is now, at this point, that their “eyes are opened” and they recognize him, whereupon he vanishes from their sight.

Those two disciples made their way back to Jerusalem where they find the Eleven. They announce that they have seen the risen Lord. The announcement is reciprocated as he has already appeared to Peter. Now the account continues in today’s reading. Jesus, once again, appears in the locked room. He offers them the greeting “Peace be with you.” Naturally they are “terrified.”

How can a man appear in a locked room? Is this really Jesus, they might ask? Is it a ghost? The resurrection is all new. No one has risen from the dead. They do not know what to expect. They are only slowly coming to the knowledge of what this means. All these things add to their fear which Jesus begins to dispel.

He assures them that he is not a ghost, that he is truly risen from the dead. He has a body. He says: “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” Then he shows them his hands and side. The evangelist tells us they were “still incredulous for joy and were amazed.” To emphasize the fact that he has a body, he asks for something to eat. He then eats with them.

Jesus again speaks of his fulfilling all that was prepared for in the law and prophets. Namely 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.” He then tells those gathered that “You are the witnesses to these things.”

The witness involves an active proclamation. We have been and will continue to hear of this proclamation in the first readings during the Easter season. They all come from Acts of the Apostles. The apostles go forth and proclaim the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection – the paschal mystery.

In this Sunday’s account, Peter makes the proclamation. He emphasizes that it is the one God – “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers” who has glorified Jesus by raising him from the dead. Peter then invites them to place their faith in him through repentance and forgiveness.

Years later the First Letter of John recalls that the forgiveness of sin is found in Jesus. John urges us to keep the commandments handed on by Jesus. He urges us not to give into despair if we do fail because Jesus is our advocate. The one who died for the forgiveness of sin will plead for us before the Father.

The author reminds us that Jesus is “expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.” Again, he urges us to remain steadfast to Jesus’ teachings and commandments: “whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.”

The life Jesus won for us, the life he lives in us, will flourish and grow when we remain in him and in his love.

Jesus is risen from the dead. He who willingly laid down his life on the cross is the victor over sin, the victor over death. This is great news and a great source of comfort for those who are suffering in any way. We inherit the call to proclaim Jesus’ resurrection. The gift of life that Jesus won for us needs to be proclaimed so that the world may know his peace. The proclamation comes in word – words of comfort, encouragement, solace and reconciliation. The peace and joy that Christ gives us is offered, in his name, to all.

That offering is our responsibility. The proclamation comes in deed – acts of charity, kindness, care for the poor, seeking justice for the oppressed. These actions, rooted in his love and carried forth in faithfulness to his Word, give living witness to his victory.

“The Lord is Risen! Alleluia, Alleluia!” “He is risen indeed! Alleluia, Alleluia!”

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Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.