Third Sunday of Easter – 23 April 2023
Lectionary Readings: Acts 2:14. 22-28; Ps. 16:1-2. 5. 7-11; 1Pet. 1:17-21; Lk. 24:13-35Theme: In the Breaking of the Bread
The liturgies of this Easter Season feature dramatic encounters of the Risen Christ with Mary Magdalene at the tomb (Easter Sunday), with the disciples locked in the upper room (Second Sunday of Easter), and with Cleopas and his companion on the way to Emmaus (this Sunday).
The key to the Emmaus journey is the disciples’ observation: “Were not our hearts burning … while he opened the scriptures to us?” At Emmaus, a new awareness emerges, as Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them, leading them into their own articulation of the Easter Kerygma: Jesus of Nazareth … a prophet mighty in deed and word … condemned to death and crucified … IS ALIVE! They recognize the Risen Jesus, then he vanishes from their sight. They return to the Jerusalem community, proclaiming their experience of him in the breaking of the bread.
The passages from Acts and 1Peter clarify and enrich that focus of this Sunday’s liturgy. In Acts, Peter proclaims the Jesus Kerygma, which is the central component of the missionary discourse schema, with its call to repentance (cf. JBC, 732). Peter presents a stark contrast: “you crucified and killed Jesus of Nazareth by the hands of those outside the law” but, in a divine act of liberation, “God freed him from death.” All of this is in the “definite plan and foreknowledge of God,” in an ongoing invitation to conversion.
Contrast appears again in 1Peter: “you were ransomed not with perishable things like silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.” There is an invitation to us in Marcie Lenk’s comment that invoking God as “Father,” (1Peter 1:17) conveys intimate identification with Jesus, who suffered as did the communities in Asia Minor, whom the letter addresses (cf. JANT, 502). In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, Christian leaders such as Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria, believed that the letter was written by Peter, in Rome, just before his death in 65 A.D. However, many scholars now hold that it was drafted, in the name of the apostle, by Silvanus, a scribe, at the end of the 1st or beginning of the 2nd century. Supporting that are considerations such as: the quality of the Greek, the scripture quotations from the Septuagint rather than the Hebrew text, and the fact that there was no connection between Peter and the communities of Asia Minor that are named in the letter – Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.
Returning to the gospel, we see the transformation in the disciples: from disappointment, sadness, and despondency, to joy, exuberance, and commitment to Jesus’ way. He had declared that he would not eat with them again until the coming of God’s kingdom (Lk. 22:14-17), and so, as the Risen Jesus breaks bread with them once again (Lk. 24:30-31), the realization dawns that God’s kingdom has indeed come.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1) Reflect on a personal experience, when you became aware of a new insight about your life and/or your faith. 2) How has that insight evolved in your life?
Bibliography: Brown, R. E. et al., The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 1990); Levine, A-J. and Brettler, M. Z., The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford U. Press, New York, 2017).
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Diane Willey, nds, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna 2005, 2006