A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)

B. Reflection & Dialogue: Christ with us in word and in sacrament

A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)

First Reading (Acts 2:14, 22-33). It was impossible for him to be held in the power of Hades.

This reading is part of the first sermon of Peter, and of the Church, on the first Pentecost Sunday after the descent of the Holy Spirit. On Easter Sunday when Jesus appeared to them, the disciples were in the room with the doors closed, for fear of the Jews. The situation was quite different on Pentecost Sunday when the Holy Spirit came on them. They were now filled with courage, and with zeal to preach the good news concerning Jesus to their own Jewish people. The Twelve were acting as one unit. In the present reading we only have a passage of a very long discourse by Peter, in which he explains from the Scriptures certain truths concerning the death of Jesus, his resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit on that Pentecost Sunday. The discourse shows deeps reflection on the part of the early Church on the mysteries of the person of Christ (his death on the cross, his resurrection, his return to the Father and the coming of the Holy Spirit), and the manner in which these were foretold in the Scriptures. Peter spoke of Jesus’ earthly life, which his listeners would have known about, and of the miracles that God worked through him. Jesus’ death was in keeping with God’s plan. He then passes on to the resurrection of Jesus, which Peter says was in keeping with a prophecy of David. It was accepted by all at that time that David was the author of Psalm 15 (16 in the numeration of the Hebrew Bible). The Psalmist says that God will not abandon his soul to Hades (the underworld), which Peter takes as a prophecy of the resurrection of Christ, rather than as referring to David himself. The apostles, Peter stressed, are witnesses to the resurrection of Christ. He then gives a summary of the belief in what followed on the ascension of Christ to the right hand of the Father: Jesus received from the Father the Holy Spirit, who was promised, and it was the outpouring of that same Spirit that was experienced on the first Pentecost Sunday.

Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 15[16]). Show us, Lord, the path of life.

Second Reading (1 Peter 1:17-21). Your ransom was paid in the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain, namely, Christ.

The Easter spirit can be perceived in this reading, as indeed throughout this entire letter (Christ as the lamb). The passage opens with mention of God as Father (“if you are acknowledging as your Father”, or, perhaps, better: “if you invoke as Father”), words which bring to mind the Lord’s Prayer: “Father in heaven”. Profession of faith establishes guides for living. It is necessary to imitate God our Father, as Jesus has often reminded his followers. In Peter’s words they are called to live in “reverent fear” during their time of exile, living away from their home. The “exile” in question is rather that of resident aliens, as strangers, in a foreign country or setting, not exiles from heaven their true home. As believers in Christ, a tiny minority in largely pagan surroundings, they must have a sense of who they really are. They have been rescued from the futile ways inherited from their pagan ancestors by the saving death of Christ. Peter is not casting any slur on non-Christian society – he will in fact later in the letter note that all authority is to be respected and obeyed. But as a guide for life, and for an eternity, he regards their pagan past and present as empty. Believer’s guide is not that pagan past but the death and resurrection of Christ and the mystery of salvation these truths involve. God had his plan of salvation n Christ from all eternity, but revealed only in the writer’s and readers’ own age, “in our time”, called the end of the ages. God gave all this glory to Christ for a very definite purpose – so that believers have faith and hope in God. This is the foundation of the Christian calling: faith and hope.

Gospel (Luke 24:13-35). They recognized him at the breaking of bread.

This well-known incident is recounted only in the Gospel of Luke. The passage tells of two disciples of Jesus who lost faith in him because of the scandal of the cross, to have that faith restored through their encounter with Jesus and his interpretation of the Scriptures concerning his person. The place name Emmaus is mentioned in the text, but the identification of this is uncertain. It is not certain how far distant is was from Jerusalem, whether it was sixty stadia (about seven miles) or one hundred and sixty. The present-day town of Amwas is about twenty miles (about one hundred and sixty stadia) west of Jerusalem. The two travellers were probably pilgrims to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. The conversation between them and Jesus (unknown it them) concerned the death of Jesus, whom they regarded as a prophet mighty in deed and word by all the people. They may have been followers of his in Galilee. Jesus explains to them the mystery regarding his own person, within the Father’s plan of salvation. To understand Jesus in relation to this mystery it would not be sufficient to have been his follower during his earthly mission. His person must be considered as part of the divine plan, and seen in this light the cross was not a scandal but part of that divine plan, of which the Scriptures had spoken. Jesus explains to them the Scriptures concerning himself, from Moses (the Pentateuch) and the Prophets. At table for the meal with them, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus. The meal was not a Eucharist, but one in the tradition of those favoured by Jesus during his life on earth. If they were earlier Jesus’ disciples, the two travellers would have recognized the significance of the blessing and the breaking of the bread, leading to the identity of Jesus. On their return to Jerusalem they heard the news that the Lord (Jesus) had arisen and had appeared to Simon. The narrative retains the older name Simon for Peter, an indication that in this passage we have a very early Jerusalem account of an appearance of the risen saviour.

B. Reflection & Dialogue: Christ with us in word and in sacrament

Today’s Gospel reading is probably one of the best-known passages of the Bible. It carries a powerful message to people of every age. Many can identify with the two travellers in their journey, with their faith and hope lost, and the future they believed that was held out for them and their people in ruins, and yet accompanied by an understanding, if unknown friend, who walks with them in their journey to give them a new vision, or rather connect the new reality with the world they formerly know.

Today the individual’s life experience is often referred to as a journey, and indeed rightly so, a journey with regard to one’s self awareness, where one stands, and what is in store for one. Helpers and advisers are encouraged to accompany a person on this journey.

Often reference to such accompanying on the journey is made in the context of counselling, without any faith reference. It may be worth recalling the accompanying presence of Christ in Irish tradition: Christ with me, Christ before me and much more.

Today’s readings invite us to reflect on the presence of Christ in the Mass, in the Scripture readings and in the Eucharist. Christ is really present in both. It is scarcely necessary to recall once again the basic truth, so emphasised by the Church in recent documents, that Christ is present in his word, since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in in the Church. The Scripture readings bring the old and the new together for us – the meaning they had for their first readers or listeners and the application that they can be put to today in our changed circumstances. This contact with the Bible reading is no mere intellectual exercise. In it, when approached in faith, Christ is present through his grace and the Holy Spirit.

And, needless to say, Christ is present in a very special way in the Eucharist, in the breaking of bread, an action that brings to mind the multiple meanings the breaking of bread had for Jesus during his lifetime on earth and after his resurrection.

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