Third Sunday of Easter, April 6, 2008 (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, the Gospel selected for Tuesday of the Octave of Easter. 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 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, April 7, 2008 (John 6: 22-29)
The day after the miracle of the loaves and fishes that we read about in last Friday’s Gospel, Jesus and his disciples had left the mountain where the miracle occurred, and were nowhere to be found. The crowd got into boats and sailed for Capernaum hoping to find Jesus there. They were hoping the miracle would be repeated and Jesus would feed them again for once more they were hungry.
Isn’t our whole world today hungry for the Lord? They may not know it, but they are. They keep on seeing him in idols that take his place such as war and terrorism and the like, but in reality it is the God of peace and happiness that they are seeking. They and us are all hungry for the presence of Jesus in our lives. We hunger, too, for his word. Yet, how often we choose other gods that we find in today’s world. These gods may take the form of greed, lust, anger, material things, selfishness, laziness, gluttony. These are some of the idols, the gods, of today’s world. And all too often, even though we know better, we too fall head over heels into worshiping these false gods. Jesus, it is you we truly hunger for. Keep us from the false gods of our present day world.
Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter, April 8, 2008 (John 6: 30-35)
“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?” The people saying these words, at least many of them, are the same people that Jesus fed on the mountain with a couple loaves of bread and a few fish. Are they totally blind, we may ask? How could they be part of such a wonderful miracle and still ask for a sign? The Israelites on the journey with Moses to the land of milk and honey were the same way. God fed them, gave them water from the rock to drink, and still they complained that Moses had brought them into the desert for them to die of hunger and thirst. Human beings must be chronically blind. All of us!!
God has been so good to all of us! Just pause for a moment and think of some of the many wonderful gifts God has given to us all. Just for starters, he has given us our spouse and families, our calling in life and the gifts and talents with which to pursue it. He has given us a home and enough of this world’s goods to provide a comfortable life, he has healed our addictions and many other illnesses, he has given us friends, an education, a job, and on and on and on. And yet I continue to complain, to find all this lacking, to follow the false gods of this world in hope of fulfillment, to go my own way, asking the Lord for some further sign that I may decide to follow him! Lord, please heal the chronic blindness of our hearts that plagues us all. How can we be so insensitive, unloving and blind in view of all you have done for us?
Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter, April 9, 2008 (John 6: 35-40)
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” Jesus tells us in these words that he is the life, the abundant life, we all desire. The life that Jesus promises us is the life that I like to refer to as quality life. I have come to discover in my own time here on this earth that there is life and there is quality life. I have had both. Just plain life means to me the life I have when I try and do it all alone. I’m breathing, have a blood pressure, and doing things and sometimes I even think that this is really the way to go, that it can’t get any better than this. But eventually this type of life proves to be shallow, there is no depth to it at all, no sense of fulfillment or wholeness. I don’t seem to be getting anywhere, just kind of sitting still, spinning my wheels. I look for God but in all the wrong places.
Quality life, on the other hand, is “coming” to Christ and “believing” in Christ. This is the kind of life that when I have it I am not hungry and do not thirst, there is no restlessness in me, It is abundant life and I am satisfied with it, fulfilled, complete, whole. I see myself growing and progressing. I am happy and serene. Quality life is believing that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and truly living this way, trying my best to follow daily what I believe Jesus wants me to be and do. There is a calmness about me, a joy of living.
I learned the distinction between sobriety and quality sobriety when I was in treatment for alcoholism. Sobriety meant not to drink. Quality sobriety meant to follow Jesus in the 12 Steps, to grow, to mature, to become a new person, to really enjoy life and my purpose in it. It is relatively simple to take this same thing and apply it to life in general. There is no comparison between sobriety and quality sobriety or between life and quality life. Which do you prefer?
Thursday of the Third Week of Easter, April 10, 2008 (John 6: 44-51)
When we share the abundant life given to us by Jesus in the Eucharist, we share in the life of Jesus, of God, himself. God is the source of all life. He is certainly the source of the quality life we spoke of yesterday, the fulfilling life we wish to share.
God is goodness itself. God is love. There can be no good, no love, without God who is the Source of love and goodness. God is the efficient cause of all this. We have goodness and love to the extent that God gives them to us. In his plan of salvation, God saw fit to give us his Divine Son to become man and to die for us on the cross. His Son, Jesus, told us that he is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus is God and therefore he, too, is the Source of all good and love. We all participate in these to the extent that Jesus gives them to us. He told us he came to bring us life and to bring it abundantly and we
therefore receive abundant goodness and love. We share in the goodness and love of God himself. Such is the gift that God has seen fit to give us if we choose, with our free will, to accept it.
All of this wordiness that has been going on for the last paragraph is only quite simply saying that if we choose to follow Jesus and his ways we will be happy and peace-filled. What I wonder, if we have thought about it at all, is how it is possible for us to choose not to follow Jesus.
Friday of the Third Week of Easter, April 11, 2008 (John 6: 52-59)
Today’s Gospel is approaching the end of chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. He tells us in this particular Gospel, as we have been seeing all this week, that he brings us goodness, love, happiness, peace – all the good things he told us he would give us abundantly. We will never hunger or thirst for them again. All we have to do is accept what he gives us and do the Father’s will for us.
But like the Jews in the Gospel, we quarrel among ourselves and with ourselves. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Because he is that “bread” that comes down from heaven, because he is the Son of God. It all revolves around the answer to the question Jesus asked of his disciples so long ago: “Who do people say that I am? Who do you say that I am?” The Jews rejected Jesus as Son of God as we do occasionally. In fact, I wonder sometimes if any of us fully accept this all the time. If we did, how could we act the way we sometimes act and do some of the things we sometimes do? Sin, after all, is a rejection of Jesus. Lord, I pray with the man in the Gospel: Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.
Saturday of the Third Week of Easter, April 12, 2008 (John 6: 60-69)
Today’s Gospel brings to an end the very beautiful and meaningful chapter 6 of St. John’s Gospel. I find the ending itself to be very beautiful and meaningful:
“As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him for all, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” Here is the answer again to that question: Who do people say that I am? Who do you say that I am?
Would that these words of Peter would be our words too. We read today of so many people leaving the Church, rejecting Jesus as they do so, for another way. What we don’t read about is the eventual return of many of them. This happens in the quiet atmosphere of the confessional where people come to admit their wrong choice after years and years of trying to do it their own way, to return again to the way and truth of Jesus. They, like myself and many others, discover that our way that at one time made so much sense really doesn’t make any sense at all. I surely didn’t find the happiness I was sure I would find. And like the Prodigal Son or Daughter, we finally return to the Source of goodness and life, happiness and peace. My words to these people, when I am privileged to play a small part in their return, are: “Welcome back!” And through their tears of joy they almost always respond, “Thank you, Father, it is good to be back!” Indeed it is!