Recently the world witnessed the latest from the realm of false antiquities: someone claims to possess the nails from Jesus’ resurrection. Many people look to such items as well as apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in various places throughout the world or on a piece of French toast at your local Denny’s to bolster their faith. Millions of dollars are spent to span the globe in search of such phenomena, and yet the greatest presence of God on earth resides in your neighborhood Catholic Church – the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Today’s readings bring us back to the central elements of our faith.
The Gospel text relates the journey of two disciples who were leaving Jerusalem for Emmaus when they encounter Jesus on the way. However, the two men do not recognize Jesus while walking on the road. The conversation turns to the events of the past few days, events which the two men seem to know so well while their mysterious companion appears unaware. As they walk along the way Jesus proceeds to explain to them the scriptures concerning the Messiah and how the events of the past few days were necessary events in the life of the Messiah for the climax of salvation history. While Jesus speaks to them, their hearts are burning within them, yet they still do not recognize him until they stop for the evening and Jesus performs the Eucharistic action of breaking the bread. Then, they come to recognize Jesus, but he disappears from their sight. What are we to make of all this?
Jesus is no longer physically present to us as he was prior to his death. If we search for that presence in material objects or in alleged apparitions we will be disappointed. As the second reading points out, we have been ransomed from our futile conduct of seeking God’s ransom in perishable things like silver or gold. Instead, we have been ransomed by the blood of the spotless lamb, Jesus the Christ. The presence of the risen Jesus is in the Word of God and in the sacramental actions of the Church, as the two men in the Gospel text discovered.
And yet there is more to be discovered. Jesus performed many great signs and works while on earth, just as God had done for the Israelites throughout salvation history. We encountered these various events during the Easter Vigil liturgy when we heard the many readings from the Old Testament regarding God’s intervention in history. We have heard three great signs of Jesus in the weeks preceding Holy Week when we heard the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman, the healing of the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus. Many people long to experience such phenomena in our own time and they lose faith when such does not happen.
However, Peter tells the Israelite people in the first reading that Jesus has been raised and that they are now experiencing the effects of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Jesus’ faithful people. The presence of the Holy Spirit works miracles in our own lives: just look at Peter in this first reading, the same Peter who fifty days earlier had denied Jesus thrice and ran away with all the others in fear. The Holy Spirit continues to have that effect on the lives of people in our own day, and he can have that effect in our own lives if we but recognize Jesus risen from the dead and present to us in Word and Sacrament. We celebrated just such a life last week in the beatification of Pope John Paul II. The Holy Spirit transformed a poor young man who lost both his parents at a young age to a state of holiness that inspired nations to seek freedom and led millions to a renewal of faith in their lives.
The miracles we seek should be the radical change of our own lives and the great deeds the Holy Spirit can do in us for others. As we acknowledge the presence of Jesus in our lives and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we pray today with the universal Church: “Let us pray in confident peace and Easter hope. Father in heaven, author of all truth, a people once in darkness has listened to your Word and followed your Son as he rose from the tomb. Hear the prayer of this newborn people and strengthen your Church to answer your call. May we rise and come forth into the light of day to stand in your presence until eternity dawns. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Jude Huntz is Director of the Human Rights Office in the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph.
Daily Scripture Readings
Monday, May 9
Psalms 119:23-24, 26-27, 29-30
Tuesday, May 10
Psalms 31:3cd-4, 6 and 7b and 8a, 17 and 21ab
Wednesday, May 11
Psalms 66:1-3a, 4-5, 6-7a
Thursday, May 12
Psalms 66:8-9, 16-17, 20
Friday, May 13
Psalms 117:1bc, 2
Saturday, May 14
Acts 1:15-17, 20-26
Psalms 113:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 15
Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Psalms 23: 1-3a, 3b4, 5, 6
1 Peter 2:20b-25
The full text of the Scripture readings for this week and next week can be found here:
Click on the “Readings” tab at the top of the page.