Third Sunday of Easter

This Sunday’s gospel presents us with two disciples of the Lord who were trying to make sense out of the shocking events that took place in Jerusalem. They were in a quandary over the Lord’s death. They had been convinced that He was the Messiah, but how could the Messiah suffer like Jesus suffered? Nor could they make sense out of the report that Jesus had risen from the dead. They could not decipher what all this meant to them. In fact, they were having difficulty understanding anything about life[1].

We are no different than they were. We have difficulty understanding life. What is the meaning of all the non-stop activity of our lives? Why do we scurry about trying to accomplish so much and then often end up accomplishing little other than exhausting ourselves? How do I, how do you, deal with suffering and even death? What sense can be made of our brief existence on earth?

John Paul II, during his life said many times that it is only in the Mystery of Christ that the Mystery of Man finds its meaning. Jesus became one with us so that we might become one with Him. The activity of our lives, from writing theological dissertations, to shopping for food, to coaching teams, to changing the baby’s diapers and everything in between, all have profound meaning when they are performed with the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. These same activities are meaningless when they are just done because they have to be done. When Jesus becomes the beginning and end of our activity, every action of our lives is a prayer. This includes suffering.

In his homily for Pope John Paul II’s funeral, Cardinal Ratzinger, the present Pope Benedict XVI, quoted John Paul II’s last book, Memory and Identity: "In sacrificing himself for us all, Christ gave a new meaning to suffering, opening up a new dimension, a new order: the order of love ... It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love and draws forth even from sin a great flowering of good". The Cardinal then added: “Impelled by this vision, the Pope suffered and loved in communion with Christ, and that is why the message of his suffering and his silence proved so eloquent and so fruitful”[2]

The disciples on the road to Emmaus could not understand what happened to Jesus or why it happened until they were brought into an understanding of Scripture. Once the disciples were brought to a deeper understanding of the Bible, the events of the week before began to make sense to them. Once Peter and the other disciples who had hidden from the Temple Leaders on Good Friday came to an understanding of the suffering of the Messiah, they were no longer destroyed by the fear of suffering in their own lives. The Word of God did it. Again, “It is only in the Mystery of Christ that the Mystery of Man takes its meaning”[3].

Throughout our lives we are drawn to ever deeper experiences of the Word of God in Scripture and Eucharist. Every year might seem to be the same. Perhaps, we begin the liturgical celebrations of Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter with the feeling, “Here we go again.” But every year brings a new and deeper understanding of the Word of God. And with this understanding of the Word of God comes a new and deeper understanding of ourselves, of the mystery of our lives.

The mystery of our lives will not be completely solved until after our deaths when we see God face to face. But we can approach the solution, we can take the steps to find meaning in existence through our union with Jesus in Word and in Eucharist. And then our hearts also will burn with joy as we savor the presence of Jesus in our lives.

[1] Sunday 6th April, 2008, 3rd Sunday of Easter. Readings: Acts 2:14, 22-33. Lord, you will show us the path of life—Ps 15(16):1-2, 5, 7-11. 1 Peter 1:17-21. Luke 24:13‑35.
[3] Gaudium et Spes, 22.

Ilustration: REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn, Supper at Emmaus (1648), Oil on canvas, 42 x 60 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Probably the most humble and humane of all of Rembrandt's depictions of Christ may be found in his Christ at Emmaus, now hanging in the Louvre Museum in Paris. Here he gave Christ the face of a modest servant of mankind, filled with the goodness and grace that had for him become a reality in his faith in Christ. In this, Rembrandt became truly an artist of "free" expression. Centuries before the Russian philosopher and poet, Osip Mandlestam, Rembrandt seemed to have hit upon a similar realization- -that an artist could be made free because of his faith. Somehow the redemptive act of Christ freed the artist from, what Mandlestam referred to in his letter to the composer Scirabin, "necessity." We might rephrase this, by saying that Rembrandt had discovered the freedom of forgiveness.

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris