3rd Sunday of Easter Year B ~ April 14, 2024

3rd Sunday of Easter Year B ~ April 14, 2024


The New Testament contains many accounts describing 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 full appreciation of what took place. Last Sunday we heard the story as it was recalled in the community of John’s gospel.  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: the disciples are confused and frightened; when Jesus comes into their midst, finding faith in him is not easy and immediate; his greeting, however, and his loving acceptance of them into his abiding friendship brings them a great joy, and they find full faith in him; he instructs them all that has taken place is according to the designs of God set forth in the Scriptures; he charges them with the mission of bringing to the whole world the good news of their Resurrection faith and the ‘forgiveness of sins’ it brings; he promises the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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.  However, it is the abuse of human freedom that has made the destructive world from which we need to be saved and set free.  The words of Peter in the first reading suggest a line of thought which has relevance for the world in which we live you have killed the author of life. And St. Leo the Great has words of wisdom to share; “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 worlds 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 Abrahams 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.

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”.

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, machine devoured her.

In today’s world of confused moral values, who is to judge the moral guilt of many things that are done?  But if what is done is a turning away from the light to darkness, from what leads to life to what leads to death, it is sinful in the sense that it is an aberration that has destructive consequences from which only God can save us. We are the people of Resurrection where death has no place because God has created everything for eternity as we read in the second chapter of the Book of Wisdom.  

I believe today’s Gospel reading is so powerful to remind us about the culture of life that we can touch Jesus because he has physical body like us “Touch me and see, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have”. And St. Paul says, “he was like us but sin”. The two disciples are back to Jerusalem to witness the life they have experienced in the Lord as they recognized him in the breaking of the bread and St. John confirms that this bread is a bread of life that came down from heaven and however will eat this bread will live forever. St. Peter rightly claims, “you have the words of life and where shall we go”.

There is another aspect related to the culture of life which we can see in the Gospel today that “But out of joy they still did not believe in him” and they stood there dumfounded as Pope Francis states. The joy impeded them from believing. Their joy was so great, there was so much joy that “no, this can’t be true” like moment. We have all believe that the life we have in Jesus is real and he died for us to grant us eternal life.

As we can touch him in the Holy Eucharist, we must remember as St. Paul says, “if we have died in him, we will also rise with him”. What are we going to choose during this season of Easter? In the Book of Deuteronomy (30:11-20) “Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?”  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?”  No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe. See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death, and adversity.  If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.  I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings, and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Today’s liturgy not only reminds of us that Jesus is the author of eternal life, but it does encourage us to understand that in our journey of struggles, as he walks with us by “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” We are lucky people that we can touch him in the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist to taste and feel him. Listen closely to some of the saints talking about Easter.

“Christ’s resurrection is the strength, the secret of Christianity. It is not a question of mythology or of mere symbolism, but of a concrete event. It is confirmed by sure and convincing proofs. The acceptance of this truth, although the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s grace, rests at the same time on a solid historical base. On the threshold of the third millennium, the new effort of evangelization can begin only from a renewed experience of this Mystery, accepted in faith, and witnessed to in life.” St. John Paul II

“The Church is alive, as her Divine Founder is alive! The Church advances with the very virtue of life, as Jesus, after having submitted to the debt of mortal nature, proceeds victoriously beyond the stone barrier, which his enemies have placed to guard the tomb! Over the centuries, too, there have been other enemies for the Church, who have tried to close it as if in a sepulcher, celebrating its agony and death from time to time. But she, who has within her the invincible strength of her Founder, is always reborn with him, forgiving everyone and assuring serenity and peace to the humble, the poor, the suffering, to men of goodwill.” St. John XXIII

“The Virgin Mary was most certain that her son would rise on the third day, as he had predicted, but perhaps she did not know the hour of his resurrection, because it is not written that Christ had revealed the hour of his resurrection, whether at prime or terce (first or third hour of daylight), etc. And she prepared the room, and found a chair for her son, saying, Here my son shall sit and here I will speak with him.  And she looked out of the window, and she saw the dawn breaking, and she rejoiced, saying, ‘Now my son is rising.’ And on her knees, she prayed, saying: ‘Rise up Lord to meet me, and behold: even you, O Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel’ (Psalm 58:6).” St. Vincent Ferrer

“All I want to know is Christ and the power flowing from His Resurrection!”  St. Francis of Assisi

Let me end my reflection with this story by an unknown author, to remind ourselves that once we feel Jesus in our life then he helps us to rise above our grief and suffering.

Once there was a young woman who was invited to go rock climbing. Although she was scared to death, she went with her group to a tremendous granite cliff. Despite her fear, she put on the gear, took a hold on the rope, and started up the face of that rock. Well, she got to a ledge where she could take a breather. As she was hanging on there, the safety rope snapped against Brenda’s eye and knocked out her contact lens. Well, here she is on a rock ledge, with hundreds of feet below her and hundreds of feet above her. Of course, she looked and looked and looked, hoping it had landed on the ledge, but it just wasn’t there. Here she was, far from home, her sight now blurry. She was desperate and began to get upset, so she prayed to the Lord to help her to find it.

When she got to the top, a friend examined her eye and her clothing for the lens, but there was no contact lens to be found. She sat down, despondent, with the rest of the party, waiting for the rest of them to make it up the face of the cliff. She looked out across range after range of mountains, thinking of that Bible verse that says, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.” She thought, “Lord, you can see all these mountains. You know every stone and leaf, and You know exactly where my contact lens is. Please help me.” Finally, they walked down the trail to the bottom. At the bottom, there was a new party of climbers just starting up the face of the cliff. One of them shouted out, “Hey, you guys! Anybody lose a contact lens?” Well, that would be startling enough, but you know why the climber saw it? An ant was moving slowly across the face of the rock, carrying it. She told me that her father is a cartoonist. When she told him the incredible story of the ant, the prayer, and the contact lens, he drew a picture of an ant lugging that contact lens with the words, “Lord, I don’t know why You want me to carry this thing. I can’t eat it, and it’s awfully heavy. But if this is what You want me to do, I’ll carry it for You.”

I think it would probably do some of us good to occasionally say, “God, I don’t know why you want me to carry this load. I can see no good in it and it’s awfully heavy. But if you want me to carry it, I will.” God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

Can we touch him?