Daily Readings for 4/20/2022, Wednesday of the Octave of Easter (from the USCCB lectionary)
Acts 3:1-10 Peter and John were going up to the temple area
for the three o’clock hour of prayer.
And a man crippled from birth was carried
and placed at the gate of the temple called “the Beautiful Gate” every day
to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple.
When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple,
he asked for alms.
But Peter looked intently at him, as did John,
and said, “Look at us.”
He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them.
Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold,
but what I do have I give you:
in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”
Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up,
and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong.
He leaped up, stood, and walked around,
and went into the temple with them,
walking and jumping and praising God.
When all the people saw him walking and praising God,
they recognized him as the one
who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple,
and they were filled with amazement and astonishment
at what had happened to him.
Luke 24:13-35 That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his Body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he 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.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the Eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
In my Easter homily I offered a possible reason the women among Christ’s disciples were the first to see the risen Lord, and to preach the Good News of the Gospel. These included Mary Magdalene, and from the combined Gospel accounts, also Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary the Mother of James (and Joseph), Salome, and Joanna. In short, I posited these women were able to encounter Christ first because their hearts were open to His presence, and their faith guided their feet to the tomb. They had every bit as much reason to fear as the male disciples, who were in hiding, but their love for Christ overpowered their fear, and drew them to His presence.
In 1 John 4:8 St. Paul tells us “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” A few verses later, in verse 18, Paul affirms: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Fear and love are incompatible. Of course there will be fear. We are human. But, if we allow our fear to overpower our love, then we are not in a position to “know God,” for God is love. The women in the resurrection accounts moved out of love, not fear, and thus were able to recognize God in their midst. Of course, the manner of and reason for Mary and the other women encountering Christ first is a matter of mystery left to God, but this relationship between fear and love is scripturally clear, and was an important aspect of the women’s response to the crucifixion and resurrection.
In today’s readings we see two accounts in which the disciples’ love enables them to interact with Christ in special and powerful ways. First, we have Peter and John encountering a crippled man at the Beautiful Gate in Acts 3. This is after Peter accepts forgiveness for denying Jesus, in John 21, and after the Holy Spirit is imparted to the disciples in Acts 2. Second, we have the Emmaus account from Luke 24, immediately after the women have related Jesus’ resurrection.
In Acts 3, Peter and John encounter the crippled man at a pivotal point. They’ve just received the Holy Spirit, and have begun to take an active role in spreading Christ’s Gospel. Immediately after receiving the Holy Spirit, Peter publicly admonishes other Jews in Acts 2:38 to “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acting with the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter allows his love for Christ to overpower his fear. And the results are astounding — Acts tells us about 3,000 Jews accepted Christ and were baptized that day. These new followers of Christ “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer,” and “everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.”
The power of love over fear infused every aspect of the newborn Church, and it is this power that Peter and John bring to the crippled man. Having just seen Christ arrested and crucified, these two men know they are risking their lives by healing in the name of Christ. But, their love for the man, and for Christ, prevails, enabling them to work with the Holy Spirit as the hands and feet of Christ. So, how do we likewise act in the power of the Holy Spirit to be Christ’s hands and feet, to be the builders of His Kingdom?
Again, Acts 2 gives us a hint at the answer: they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Christ makes “the breaking of bread” — faithful reception of the Eucharist — central to this life in Him, both in His instructions at The Last Supper and in the account of the walk to Emmaus. The disciples walk for roughly seven miles with Christ, listening to Him recount all of the Old Testament prophecies of Him. But, “their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.” Overcome with anguish and disappointment, the two disciples — Cleopas and likely his wife, Mary — are looking at the Gospel in the ways of this world. Christ responds critically: “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!” And still, they do not recognize Him.
It is only when they respond in love, by welcoming Christ into their home and to their table, that they are empowered to fully recognize His presence in the breaking of bread. Likewise, Christ walks with each of us, inviting us to set aside the ways of this world, and to live in his presence by loving Him in our neighbor. When we live by that love, we open our hearts and our spiritual eyes to fully receive and encounter Christ in the Eucharist.
So, let us walk with Christ in love. Let us be empowered by love to be His hands and feet. In love, let us be empowered to see Christ in all God’s children. Because of love, let us welcome Christ into our homes, to our tables, and into our hearts, in every child of God in need. By love, let us fully encounter Christ in the Eucharist. And by this love, let us transform the world. Amen.