3rd Sunday of Easter B

Sheer Joy

Each year the Irish National Tourist Board invites marching bands from home and abroad to take part in the Dublin St. Patrick’s Day parade. The band from Bishop Kearney High School in Rochester accepted in 1982. It was the eighth parade trip to Dublin for the “Marching Kings,” and they had won the major Irish awards in 1979. But a win in 1979 did not guarantee a win in 1982. In three years the band membership had changed almost completely, and they were in competition against over eighty international quick-stepping units.

Flying to Ireland a bit early, the Kings marched in some smaller parades. At Galway their concert and jazz bands carried off first honors. Judges of the Limerick parade voted them the top school band. These awards were encouraging but second-class. Band Director Ray Shahin would not let his team relax. At Dublin, he warned them he would simply not let them beat themselves.

Well, the big parade took place on March 17 on Dublin’s O’Connell Street. Traditional Irish rain mixed with hail didn’t make the high stepping any easier. The Marching Kings did their best, but the prize winners were not to be announced until evening. They all went to an official dancing party tired and tense. Finally at 8 PM Mr. Shahin came in with the verdict. Color Guard and Twirlers category, first place: Bishop Kearney. Best overseas band category: Bishop Kearney. And finally over-all best band category: Bishop Kearney. Pandemonium broke loose. The 140 winners sprang to life again, cheering, hugging, weeping. Two days later their schoolmates welcomed them back to Rochester with a banner inscribed “We’re walking proud!”

God permits us all occasional moments of unexpected delight. “Pinch me,” we say, “I think I’m dreaming.” Thrills like these can help us to appreciate the far greater joy of the disciples at Easter. The Jesus whom they had seen hurried off to death stood live again before them.

“They were incredulous for sheer joy and wonder.” (Luke 24:41 Today’s gospel.)

-Father Robert F. McNamara

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Q369: St. Luke seems to harp a lot on “repentance” in the Acts of the Apostles, and also in his Gospel. Why such a continued focus on that subject?

Jesus was acutely aware that the Evil One would try to “steal” souls from God and destroy life. This is why Jesus says that he, Jesus, came to bring new life to his sheep and to have that new life more abundantly (e.g., Jn 10:10).

But there is a barrier to this new life, and that is the personal and community sinfulness that we place between ourselves and God. Peter and the apostles were well aware of this barrier, and thus we hear Peter in today’s first reading (Acts 3:13-15, 17-19) calling for repentance and a change in the direction of our lives, to remove this barrier of sin.

It is crucial to realize that we need to deal with this sin before new life can come into our hearts. Unfortunately, our first reading today stops in mid sentence. Listen to the full sentence: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (v. 19, RSV). That refreshing new life is there, ready and waiting to be delivered by the Author of Life to all who accept it through repentance and by amending lifestyles.

Finally, it you think St. Luke (and all the other evangelists) “harp” on the subject of repentance, it is well to remember that the very first words out of Jesus’ mouth in his public ministry were about the urgent need for repentance (Mk 1:15). One wishes that we would hear more of this call to action from our modern day preachers!

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! To believe in Jesus and his call to repentance first requires a death to selfishness, that obstinate barrier between us and God (CCC #591). Christ cannot be formed in us unless we humble ourselves through the journey called “conversion” (CCC #526). The result of our daily conversion and re-commitment is “new life in Christ.”

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Q525: It would appear that our “Faith” is something that can “grow,” based on today’s readings. Does that mean WE are responsible to some extent for our progress, or lack of progress in understanding scriptural values?

Absolutely, and our faith is always based on the Resurrection – an incredibly powerful event. Never before, and never since, has someone risen from the dead to live forever. The witnesses who saw Jesus in his many appearances were privileged in that respect; but they were also now responsible to pass along that Good News! That news was so staggering and awesome that the disciples became profuse in their descriptions to us of their new understanding of Jesus. In our First Reading (Acts 3:15ff) the disciples call this Risen Jesus the Holy One; the Righteous One; the Author of Life; and the Messiah (Christ).

The initial “terror” and incredulity (Luke 24:37,41) of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus had soon changed into joy and amazement. They had not yet made the connection between the promises of the old covenant, and their fulfillment in Jesus the Christ. But that ignorance soon changed, as Jesus “opened the scriptures” to help them understand – a revelation which “burned their hearts (Luke 24:32). As they were witnessing to the other disciples about those events, Jesus appeared again – this time to all of them gathered together in Jerusalem.

At this appearance, the disciples are led even deeper into reality, as Jesus shows them the marks left by the nails of crucifixion, and the mark in his side left by the soldier’s spear. There could be no doubt! He had risen! But was it a ghost? Jesus also puts that thought to rest, by eating in their presence – ghosts don’t eat; they don’t have physical bodies that can consume food. Once again he points the gathering to Holy Scripture, so that they would understand that the salvation history of Israel, and the world, was fulfilled and completed in Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Seeing, touching, and eating were all actions taken during the appearances of the Risen Jesus – both to awaken the disciples’ faith in his Risen Reality, and to show that this same body is now glorified in a new form of existence not limited by human boundaries (CCC #645). Now our faith comes from hearing this message from the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops (CCC #875), who protect and pass on to us this mystery of our faith.

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You are Witnesses of These Things

Today’s Gospel shows us Jesus appearing to his disciples really and truly alive, but in a different way. He had not simply regained the life he had surrendered on Calvary; he now lives with a new life in a transformed and glorified body. Perhaps that is why in every Gospel account of his risen appearances the disciples do not recognize him or have doubts. They were not expecting a resurrection; they had to be convinced. And when they were convinced, they were commissioned to be witnesses of the reality of the resurrection not just in words but in the way they lived. All three readings today refer to our need to give witness to our faith in the risen Jesus by the way we live. We are called to remember that actions speak louder than words; we are called to repentance, to change the focus of our lives. This is how most of us fulfill our mission to bear witness. It is a great challenge and we don’t always live up to it, but even then we can be forgiven.

Father, open our hearts to the mystery of your Son’s resurrection. enable us to proclaim it in everything we do. Set us free from faith and hope in lesser things. Set us free for faith and hope in you. Bring the Easter mystery to perfection in our lives.

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