Reflections for the 3rd Week of Easter 2011 **
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2008 and 2009.
They refer to the daily readings for the 3rd Week of Easter 2011.
Third Sunday of Easter 2011
May 8, Luke 24: 13-35
A number of the Gospels following the Resurrection in the Octave of Easter and the Sundays of the Easter Season have to do with recognizing Jesus. The word recognize comes from two Latin words: re = again, and cognoscere = to know. Literally, then, to recognize means to know again, to identify as something or someone previously known and now known again. We could use an example of having known someone and then some obstacle comes into the picture that prevents you from knowing the person. When that obstacle is removed, then you are able to know, recognize, that person once more.
We see this in several of the Gospels. We see it in John 20:11-18. In this Gospel Mary Magdelene went to visit the tomb of Jesus and when she looked inside the tomb the body of Jesus was gone. She began to weep and went about the garden looking for Jesus. Jesus was there but when she saw him she didn’t know it was Jesus. She thought he was the gardener. He said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She replied to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Mary did not recognize Jesus, the one she had previously loved and known so well. She failed to recognize him because of her own concerns and grief which were foremost in her mind at that time. Her focus was on herself and not on Jesus and because of this she failed to recognize or know Jesus. Then Jesus said to her, “Mary!” With that the obstacle of self-focus was removed and she recognized Jesus who had called her by name. Her focus now was on Jesus and she knew him again.
We see the same scenario in the Gospel for this Third Sunday of Easter. The two disciples are on their way out of Jerusalem and headed for Emmaus. Jesus joined them as they were walking along but they didn’t recognize him because of the obstacle of feeling sorry for themselves and their disappointment in Jesus whom they thought was the Messiah and then died on a cross. When Jesus began to speak to them as they walked along, they were enthralled at his words and when it was time to stop for the night and he appeared to be going on, they urged him to stay with them. While they were having a bite to eat, Jesus “took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.” The breaking of the bread, the Eucharistic banquet, removed the obstacles of self-pity and disappointment and once again they knew, recognized, Jesus.
And obviously, the same thing happens to us. From time to time we fail to recognize Jesus because of some self-imposed obstacles that block our vision. Anger, resentments, drugs, alcohol, self-pity, selfishness, hatred, material things, work, illness — all of these and more can be obstacles to our recognizing Jesus in our lives. Let’s take an inventory of ourselves and if we find any of these obstacles to knowing Jesus, let us ask the Lord to help us remove them so we may recognize him, know him again.
Monday of the Third Week of Easter
May 9, John 6: 22-29
In today’s Gospel reading we see the aftermath of the miracle of the loaves and fishes where Jesus fed the crowd with a few loaves of bread and some fish. After the people had eaten, Jesus managed to slip away from them. The people finally discovered where he went and got into their boats and followed him to Capernaum where they found him again. In reality they went chasing after him hoping for another meal at his expense. Jesus realized this and told them to raise their sights a bit higher and seek the lasting spiritual food that he could give them.
Why do we follow Jesus, why do we chase after him? Did he grant some favor we asked of him and we are looking for more favors? Maybe we, too, can set our sights a little higher and work to attain Jesus’ values of compassion, caring, forgiving, healing and serving other people. These things constitute the “food” for our souls and “endure for eternal life.”
Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter
May 10, John 6: 30-35
The Gospel reading for today reminds me of the Gospel episode where Jesus met the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s well and asked her for a drink of water. In the conversation that ensued he told her to seek the living water that could quench her thirst forever. In today’s Gospel he tells the crowd to seek the true bread from heaven that will satisfy their hunger forever. We, too, are to seek our spiritual nourishment from God’s gifts.
I read a story recently about an immigrant family from Europe who spent almost all of their money for boat tickets to the USA. In order to have a little money for when they arrived at their destination, they stayed in their cabin during the voyage and ate hard bread that they had brought with them rather than purchase the expensive food in the dining room on board. After they docked in New York, they discovered that the food on board the ship was included in the price of the ticket. They had missed out on the good meals.
So it is sometimes with us and the Food and Drink given to us by Christ. The ticket to the Kingdom is belief (a deep faith and trust) in Jesus. When I have that, all the rest comes along with it. We do nothing to earn or deserve the eternal gifts of Jesus. They are his pure gifts to us all and are included in the ticket.
My God, how good you are to us.
Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter
May 11, John 6: 35-40
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.”
C.S. Lewis in his work Mere Christianity wrote: “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Humankind feels sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
Such desires do exist in us that no experience in this world can satisfy. I have read in many spiritual books, for example, that I have a desire deep in my heart or soul to return to my Creator. I know of no experience I have had here on earth that can fully satisfy that desire. I have another deep desire to be happy and free of pain and suffering. No earthly experience can satisfy this desire either. Also, I have the desire to be whole, complete, fulfilled and holy as the Lord God is holy. This desire isn’t going to happen here on earth either. Nor will my desire for joy, peace and complete serenity, or the desire I have to be re-united with my family and friends someday, be satisfied here on this earth. I dare say, we all have these desires.
Do you think, like C.S. Lewis, that just maybe we have been made for another world?
Thursday of the Third Week of Easter
M May 12, John 6: 44-51
“Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.”
I don’t know about you, but I would imagine that your idea of God, like my idea of God, has changed over the years. When I was a child going to grade school, I really believed Jesus was always watching me and just waiting for me to goof somehow so he could write it down in his ever-present notebook so he could punish me later for what I did. I thought God was revengeful, exacting, and somehow expected me to be perfect before I could ever even hope to get into heaven.
Now I believe that God is going to save us all in spite of ourselves. I believe he is loving, merciful, compassionate, forgiving. There is no ever-present notebook. Nothing I do affects Jesus at all. I believe that all of us are very special to him and that we are all going to enjoy eternity loving him and one another. Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” I see all the above in Jesus and in the Scriptures. My God is a loving God. Scripture tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8) and he/she who abides in love abides in God and God in them.
My God, you are far more than I can ever imagine until I see you face to face.
Friday of the Third Week of Easter, May 13
John 6: 52-59
Jesus of Nazareth
Requests the honor of your presence
At a meal given in his honor.
I’m quite sure that most of you have at one time or another seen the above invitation. It was written by that notable author, Anonymous, and I have seen it any number of times.
Jesus issues a number of invitations to us in the Scriptures. He tells us: Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will refresh you. I will re-fresh you, he says. I will make you fresh all over again. I will make you new again. I will restore your strength and enthusiasm for life. Jesus also invites us to eat his flesh and drink his blood that we might have life everlasting.
Let us accept these and his other invitations often. Daily Mass and reception of the Eucharist are beautiful ways to begin our days. Our happiness, peace and calmness in living depend on our recharging the spiritual batteries of our person often, and I know no better way to do this than Mass and the Eucharist daily. Get rid of the excuses for not doing this! Try it just for a month and notice the difference in life!
Saturday of the Third Week of Easter
May 14, Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle
After the Ascension of Jesus to the Father, the Apostles had to find a replacement in the college of Apostles for Judas. Having a twelfth Apostle was important to the Chosen People. There were, after all, twelve Tribes of Israel and if the new Israel was going to come from the Apostles, a twelfth was needed. The one to be elected had to have been a follower of Jesus from the beginning, from the time of the baptism of Jesus by John to his Ascension. The new Apostle had to be a witness of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and to the various teachings of Jesus during his time here on earth.
The choice was to be made between Matthias and Barnabas. Matthias was elected. This is the first time we hear of him in Scripture and the last. Clement of Alexandria, one of the early Fathers of the Church, says that Matthias, like all the Apostles, was chosen not for what he already was, but what Jesus foresaw he would become. And doesn’t Jesus choose us in the same way? We were chosen to be his disciples not because we are worthy but because we would become so.
Let us reflect on whether or not we have an idea of what God wants us to become. This is a good thing to think about from time to time.