Third Sunday of Easter
Acts 3:13 – 19
Psalms 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9
1 John 2:1 – 5
Luke 24: 35 – 48
Reflection Question: Why was the Easter experience so difficult for Jesus’ followers?
As I pondered this week's gospel (as well as many of the other Easter stories) I was aware that the faith we now share was not always easy, especially for the closest companions of Jesus. I asked myself: Why was the Easter experience so difficult for Jesus' followers?
She was at a loss. The tomb was empty and she didn't know where his body was. The Gardener spoke and she voiced her distress. Then his voice called her name and she leapt up to embrace the Risen One, who sent her to tell her companions.
They were disheartened as they walked along the country road. Jesus walked with them. They did not recognize him. Then he broke bread with them, they recognized him and with exuberant energy ran back to town to tell their companions.
They were fearful for their safety, and locked themselves in a room together to talk about all that had happened in recent days. Suddenly a Stranger was in the room, too, with a greeting of "Peace." Recognition and joy followed. Thomas missed the event, so the Stranger came back to alleviate his doubts and – his faith strengthened – Thomas once more joined his companions.
Nervous and unsettled, the disciples continued to hide away and share their recent experiences. Another appearance. "A Ghost," they exclaimed. Patiently, he revealed his risen Self, and confusion became amazement and incredulous joy. Their truest Companion was with them again.
Sadness prevailed. What could they do? Return to their most familiar place. The Sea of Galilee. Their fishing boats. But empty nets were the only result of a long night on the water. A Stranger on shore redirected their efforts which succeeded far beyond their hopes. The Stranger invited them to breakfast, and they knew the Risen One was their host, even though they could not speak of it.
These wonderful Easter narratives we hear every year have great significance for all of us. How often our faith wavers. How easy it is to question God's plans when we are worried, or anticipate a difficulty, or simply experience confusion. When we lose something precious to us – a relationship breaks, a loved one dies, good health vanishes with a fearful diagnosis, a job comes to an end – do we fail to recognize that the Risen Christ is right there with us?
Thank God for companions in faith. Ultimately they stand with us and we with them to say, like Jesus, "Fear not." "Be at peace." "Come and break bread with me." "Open the Scriptures to find God revealed." No wonder the early Christian community described in the Acts of the Apostles sounds too good to believe! But they were together. They shared everything. They strengthened one another's faith. They broke bread and broke open the Scriptures together. They were true companions on the way.
One of the earliest catechisms of the church, the Didache, prescribed that every day one should speak with one of the saints (another faithful, baptized person) to strengthen one's faith, values, practices and ties to a sustaining faith community. Good advice for everyone, even those whose experience of the Resurrection is 2000 years after the fact.
By: Sister Susan Jenny, Sister of Charity of Seton Hill, Diocese of Greensburg