Sunday Sermon for May 8, 2011, the Third Sunday of Easter, Year A

Readings: Acts 2:14, 22-33; 1Pt 1:17-21; Lk 24:13-35

In the Gospel reading today we hear about our Lord appearing to two of His disciples as they were walking along the road to Emmaus. As these two men spoke about Jesus as a Prophet mighty in word and deed and in Whose Person they were hoping the Messiah would be found, the Lord upbraided them for their lack of faith and understanding. They witnessed the events of Good Friday and now they heard that the tomb was empty, but they could not fathom what this could mean. The Messiah, after all, was supposed to set Israel free from its bondage to the enemy; the One in Whom they had put their hopes was dead and, therefore, they would have to look for someone else to overthrow the Romans.

Jesus responds to the disciples, after they tell Him about the crucifixion, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!” Then He asks them pointedly: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Following this He spoke to them about all of the Scripture passages of the Old Testament that referred to Him (there are 300 explicit prophecies regarding the Messiah). Even after hearing all of this, they still did not believe or understand. Only when our Lord broke bread for them were the eyes of their hearts opened to recognize Him.

Once they knew that our Lord had risen from the dead, they could begin to grapple with understanding the ramifications of what that meant for them, for Israel, and for the world. St. Peter demonstrates his insight as early as Pentecost when he speaks to the crowds of people about the prophecy of David regarding the Messiah who would have to die, but whose soul would not be left in the netherworld and whose body would not undergo corruption. Beyond this, he now understood that to have a son of David seated forever upon his throne was not a matter of regal succession, especially since there had not been a Davidic king in Israel for many years at that time.

This insight that Jesus is the One promised as the King Who would be seated forever upon the throne of David was of immense importance to the people of Israel. But the more profound insight that Jesus is King and Messiah in the spiritual realm rather than the worldly and political realm demonstrates a new way of thinking, separate from the prevailing ideas in Israel at the time. In fact, St. Peter, in the second reading, shows deeper insight yet when he is able to speak about the people of Israel being ransomed from the futile conduct that was handed on to them by their ancestors. This ransom was not one of silver or gold, but of the Precious Blood of a spotless, unblemished Lamb. Again, we see that references that the Jewish people would understand, but with a new perspective that would shake their faith and, hopefully, cause them to look deeper at the mysteries of God.

Now it is our turn. Notice that Jesus did not reprimand His disciples for going to Emmaus to do business; He challenged them about their lack of faith. Once they recognized Jesus and believed, they not only changed their plans, they changed their lives. Peter and the others also changed radically when they understood the ramifications of the Person, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the people of Israel were ransomed from futile conduct which was part of covenant given to them by God, what would St. Peter say about us? By this I do not mean us as Catholics, I mean us as twenty-first century people who are immersed in worldly ways that are far more futile than what St. Peter was speaking about regarding the Israelites.

Do we really recognize what Jesus did for us? We have all heard the Scriptures many times; do we allow them to penetrate to the deepest parts of our being and change us? Have we recognized Jesus is the Eucharist as His early disciples did on the road to Emmaus? It is important for us to note that these two men on the road to Emmaus were not Apostles, they were part of the wider body of disciples. In other words, they were like the rest of us. Jesus is not asking that you stop working to support your family, He is not asking you to do anything in opposition to your state in life; but, He is asking you to change the way you do things, to change your life, to be in accordance with the faith you profess. Pray for the grace to have the eyes of your heart opened so that you can recognize Him and believe.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit