3nd Sunday of Easter Year A ~ April 23, 2023
HE OPENS OUR HEARTS
We continue to sing Alleluia; Alleluia Indeed the Lord has risen Alleluia. This song keeps reminding us that we the people of the Resurrection and Jesus our Saviour is the author of eternal life. The season of Easter is the season of celebrating life not the death because our Lord has won the victory over the death. He is the author of life and came to give life and life in abundance as St. John says.
St. Leo the Great says “My dear brethren, there is no doubt that the Son of God took our human nature into so close a union with himself that one and the same Christ is present, not only in the firstborn of all creation, but in all his saints as well. The head cannot be separated from the members, nor the members from the head. Not in this life, it is true, but only in eternity will God be all in all, yet even now he dwells, whole and undivided, in his temple the Church. Such was his promise to us when he said: See, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. And so all that the Son of God did and taught for the world’s reconciliation is not for us simply a matter of history. Here and now, we experience his power at work among us. Born of a virgin mother by the action of the Holy Spirit, Christ keeps his Church spotless and makes her fruitful by the inspiration of the same Spirit. In baptismal regeneration she brings forth children for God beyond all numbering. These are the sons of whom it is written: They are born not of blood, nor of the desire of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. In Christ Abraham’s posterity is blessed, because in him the whole world receives the adoption of sons, and in him the patriarch becomes the father of all nations through the birth, not from human stock but by faith, of the descendants that were promised to him. From every nation on earth, without exception, Christ forms a single flock of those he has sanctified, daily fulfilling the promise he once made; I have other sheep, not of this fold, whom it is also ordained that I shall lead; and there shall be one flock and one shepherd”.
He continues to say, “Although it was primarily to Peter that he said: Feed my sheep, yet the one Lord guides all the pastors in the discharge of their office and leads to rich and fertile pastures all those who come to the rock. There is no counting the sheep who are nourished with his abundant love, and who are prepared to lay down their lives for the sake of the good shepherd who died for them. But it is not only the martyrs who share in his passion by their glorious courage; the same is true, by faith, of all who are reborn through baptism. That is why we are to celebrate the Lord’s paschal sacrifice with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. The leaven of our former malice is thrown out, and a new creature is filled and inebriated with the Lord himself. For the effect of our sharing in the body and blood of Christ is to change us into what we receive. As we have died with him and have been buried and raised to life with him, so we bear him within us, both in body and in spirit, in everything we do”.
The New Testament contains many accounts describing for us the experience of the original disciples of Jesus as they found faith through their encounter with their Risen Lord. The writers of the gospels are so certain of the meetings, that laid the foundations of Christian faith that they do not attempt to harmonise the details of the stories they are handing on. They pass on these stories to share the wonder of finding faith and new purpose through an encounter with the Lord’s triumph – a wonder that can hardly be captured by a single account.
As our Easter liturgies recall these stories, we are like a family group listening to one another sharing personal recollections of a past even that meant a great deal to the whole family. Given from different points of view, these recollections bring a far fully appreciation of what took place. Last Sunday we celebrated the Feast of Divine Mercy by meditating on the mercies of God beyond comparison. And, we reflected on the Gospel that how Jesus took the fear of the disciples away by giving them his peace and an anointing with the Holy Spirit. Of course, we can not ignore the role of St. Thomas who wasn’t willing to just merely believe in the words of disciples but wanted to have firsthand experience by touching Jesus.
Today, we hear Luke’s account of the disciples’ meeting with the Risen Saviour. From all these accounts a coherent story emerges that invites the Church of every age to share in the original moment of Resurrection faith. Two of them are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus with broken and sad hearts. Their world is darkened by the death of the Saviour. Even they have heard that the Lord is Risen from the dead but still they are finding hard to believe because the darkness of doubts has subdued them. They are bit confused and don’t know to how to handle the situation. I do believe many of us must have went on the same route as those two disciples walked on, whenever we lose someone from our own family. Death of someone causes darkness, brokenness, and sadness which all lead us to disbelief. But God himself consoles us and helps us to understand that in the life of his Son, there is eternal life and light.
St. Theodore the Studite reminds us that the Cross of Christ must bring joy in our suffering and help us to rise with him because we sing the song of Alleluia; “How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of paradise but opens the way for our return. This was the tree on which Christ, like a king on a chariot, destroyed the devil, the Lord of death, and freed humans from his tyranny. This was the tree upon which the Lord, like a brave warrior wounded in his hands, feet, and side, healed the wounds of sin that the evil serpent had inflicted on our nature. A tree once caused our death, but now a tree brings life. Once deceived by a tree, we have now repelled the cunning serpent by a tree. What an astonishing transformation! That death should become life, that decay should become immortality, that shame should become glory! Well might the holy Apostle exclaim: Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world! The supreme wisdom that flowered on the cross has shown the folly of worldly wisdom’s pride. The knowledge of all good, which is the fruit of the cross, has cut away the shoots of wickedness”.
Moreover, he says “The wonders accomplished through this tree were foreshadowed clearly even by the mere types and figures that existed in the past. Meditate on these, if you are eager to learn. Was it not the wood of a tree that enabled Noah, at God’s command, to escape the destruction of the flood together with his sons, his wife, his sons’ wives, and every kind of animal? And surely the rod of Moses prefigured the cross when it changed water into blood, swallowed up the false serpents of Pharaoh’s magicians, divided the sea at one stroke and then restored the waters to their normal course, drowning the enemy and saving God’s own people? Aaron’s rod, which blossomed in one day in proof of his true priesthood, was another figure of the cross, and did not Abraham foreshadow the cross when he bound his son Isaac and placed him on the pile of wood? By the cross death was slain and Adam was restored to life. The cross is the glory of all the apostles, the crown of the martyrs, the sanctification of the saints. By the cross we put on Christ and cast aside our former self. By the cross we, the sheep of Christ, have been gathered into one flock, destined for the sheepfolds of heaven”.
The encounter of those two disciples with the Lord opened a way for us to remember that Lord opens our hearts to recognize him. Though they are walking with broken hearts and sad faces, however still they feel the presence of someone (Lord’s). They continue dialoguing with the Lord to understand the Scriptures the Lord was opening for them. Then the time came when they recognized the Lord in the breaking of the Bread and talked to each other “were not our hearts burning within us, when he was talking to us and explaining the Scriptures. Their encounter leads us to understand that once we have relationship him, then there is no one who could separate us from the Lord as St. Paul says”.
A minister passing through his church in the middle of the day Decided to pause by the altar and see who had come to pray. Just then the back door opened, a man came down the aisle. The minister frowned as he saw the man hadn’t shaved in a while. His shirt was shabby, old, and his coat was worn and frayed. The man knelt, he bowed his head, then rose and walked away. In the days that followed, each noon time came this chap. Each time he knelt just for a moment, a lunch pail in his lap. Well, the minister’s suspicions grew, with robbery a main fear. He decided to stop the man and ask him, “What are you doing here?” The old man said he worked down the road. Lunch was half an hour. Lunchtime was his prayer time for finding strength and power. “I stay only moments, see, because the factory is so far away. As I kneel here talking to the Lord, this is what I say:
I JUST CAME AGAIN TO TELL YOU, LORD, HOW HAPPY I’VE BEEN SINCE WE FOUND EACH OTHER’S FRIENDSHIP, AND YOU TOOK AWAY MY SIN. I DON’T KNOW MUCH OF HOW TO PRAY, BUT I THINK ABOUT YOU EVERYDAY. SO, JESUS, THIS IS JIM, CHECKING IN TODAY.”
The minister, feeling foolish, told Jim, that was fine. He told the man he was welcome to come and pray just anytime. Time to go, Jim smiled, and said “Thanks.” He sped to the door. The minister knelt at the altar, he’d never done it before. His cold heart melted, warmed with love, and met with Jesus there. As the tears flowed, in his heart, He repeated old Jim’s prayer:
HOW HAPPY I’VE BEEN, SINCE WE FOUND EACH OTHER’S FRIENDSHIP, AND YOU TOOK AWAY MY SIN. I DON’T KNOW MUCH OF HOW TO PRAY, BUT I THINK ABOUT YOU EVERY DAY. SO, JESUS, THIS IS ME, CHECKING IN TODAY.”
Past noon one day, the minister noticed That old Jim hadn’t come. As more days passed without Jim, He began to worry. At the factory, he asked about him,
learning he was ill. The hospital staff was worried, but he’d given them a thrill. The week that Jim was with them, brought changes in the ward. His smiles, a joy contagious. Changed people, were his reward. The head nurse couldn’t understand why Jim was so glad when no flowers, calls or cards came, not one visitor he had.
The minister stayed by his bed; He voiced the nurse’s concern: No friends came to how they cared. He had nowhere to turn. Looking surprised, old Jim spoke up and with a winsome smile; “The nurse is wrong, she couldn’t know, that in here all the while. Everyday at noon, He’s here, a dear friend of mine, you see, He sits right down, takes my hand, leans over and says to me:
‘I JUST CAME AGAIN TO TELL YOU, JIM, HOW HAPPY I HAVE BEEN, SINCE WE FOUND THIS FRIENDSHIP, AND I TOOK AWAY YOUR SIN. I ALWAYS LOVE TO HEAR YOU PRAY, AND I THINK ABOUT YOU EVERY DAY, SO JIM, THIS IS JESUS, CHECKING IN TODAY.'”
Jesus who is a stranger in the story, helped these disciples to understand everything and believe that he truly had risen from the dead. He walks with them (who knows if he walked for 11 kilometers with them to their village Emmaus) to comfort them and to open their hearts and mind to understand he is walking with them. Moreover, to confirm that he had risen and had conquered even death, he went inside their home to eat. During his stay with these two disciples three very important things happened: first he took the bread and said the blessings and their eyes were opened. This reminds us that through Holy Eucharist we could see Jesus with our own eyes. Secondly the eyes of the disciples were opened, and they recognized him, but he disappeared. What does it mean? It means Jesus wants us to recognize him in every situation of our life. He opens our eyes to see his presence in the world. Lastly the hearts of those disciples are burning with the love and presence of Jesus.
St. Paul describe it in this way “For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline”. On the other hand, St. Peter in his first letter, invites us to remember that Jesus always walks with us in our trials and suffering: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed”.
There was once a spider who lived in a cornfield. She was a big spider, and she had spun a beautiful web between the corn stalks. She got fat eating all the bugs that would get caught in her web. She liked this home and planned to stay there for the rest of her life. One day, the spider caught a little bug in her web, and just as the spider was about to eat him, the bug said, “If you let me go, I will tell you something important that will save your life.” The spider paused for a moment and listened because she was amused. “You better get out of this cornfield,” the little bug said, “The harvest is coming!” The spider smiled and said, “What is this harvest you are talking about? I think you are just telling me a story.” But the little bug said, “Oh no, it is true. The owner of this field is coming to harvest it soon. All the stalks will be knocked down, and the corn will be gathered up. You will be killed by the giant machines if you stay here.”
The spider said, “I don’t believe in harvests and giant machines that knock down corn stalks. How can you prove this?” The little bug continued, “Just look at the corn. See how it is planted in rows? It proves this field was created by an intelligent designer.” The spider laughed and mockingly said, “This field has evolved and has nothing to do with a creator. Corn always grows that way.” The bug went on to explain, “Oh no. This field belongs to the owner who planted it, and the harvest is coming soon.” The spider grinned and said to the little bug, “I don’t believe you,” and then the spider ate the little bug for lunch.
A few days later, the spider was laughing about the story the little bug had told her. She thought to herself, “A harvest! What a silly idea. I have lived here all my life, and nothing has ever disturbed me. I have been here since these stalks were just a foot off the ground, and I’ll be here for the rest of my life, because nothing is ever going to change in this field. Life is good, and I have it made.”
The next day was a beautiful sunny day in the cornfield. The sky above was clear, and there was no wind at all. That afternoon, as the spider was about to take a nap, she noticed some thick dusty clouds moving toward her. She could hear the roar of a great engine, and she said to herself, “I wonder what that could be?” By the time she could understand, a machine devoured her.
Do we allow the Lord to open our hearts to recognize him or are we still lost in the world?
Other Sermons In This Series
September 02, 2022
October 07, 2022