15 April 20183 Easter

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
3 Easter
Third Sunday of Easter - Cycle B
Luke 24:35-48

"Read it three times." The advice came from novelist William Faulkner to readers who could not understand his book. He might also include the Easter Gospels in that advice. The Sioux Indians have left us a clever line: "The first question people ask after death is, 'Why was I so frightened?'" The Sioux braves would not have been as surprised as we were by the findings on life after death discovered by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969. They were revealed in her blockbuster book On Death and Dying.

The book was based on interviews with people who were judged clinically dead and then revived. Hundreds of thousands of copies are in circulation. Dr Kubler-Ross has had many followers. Their research method and hers were the same. Interviews were held with the apparently dead shortly after their revival. When the doctors pooled the results of their interviews across the US, they were amazingly similar. People recalled their soul outside their body. They testified to feelings of peace and contentment and meeting dead family members and a religious person whom some call Jesus. Dr Kubler-Ross writes this remarkable line. "The most common denominator of all these people is that when they come back, many of them resented our desperate attempts to bring them back to life.

None of the patients who had a death experience and returned are ever afraid to die again." With Kubler-Ross as a backdrop, let us check out the Easter Gospels. Perhaps they can add to our information on life after death. Perhaps we can discover why Catholics, who have paid their dues this side of the river, would choose not to return after death. Indeed they would be outraged. But why outraged? The Easter Gospels suggest that they have begun to party. They are living life in the fast lane - whatever language you like. Theirs is the wisdom of the monk who said death is nothing more than God's manner of recycling. Check the resurrected Jesus of today's Gospel. He is a flesh and blood person. He speaks. He is even hungry. Why else would He eagerly ask, "What's for supper?" We do not know what kind of a body we will have. But there is a strong hint in St Paul's letter to Philemon 3:21. "The Lord will transform our lowly bodies into copies of his own body." It does sound like we are going to go first class.

Besides, most of us are unhappy with our bodies. Have you noticed that there are very few Audrey Hepburns and Cary Grants born? We have nowhere to go but up. Let us tackle the big sleep problem. College students say to me, "Got to party now, Father! We'll do all our sleeping in the cemetery." Forget about that eternal sleep. The resurrected Christ is constantly on the go - Jerusalem, Emmaus, and then a three day walk up to Galilee. His trips sound exhausting. It is not surprising though. Jesus never said, "I am the resurrection and the rest." Rather He kept insisting, "I am the resurrection and the life." You can look it up in John 11. Heaven then is not a place where we go to collect bed sores. You will not need your pajamas. Get your sleep while alive. Hold onto your seats, for the best is yet to come.

This is all verbatim from the Easter Gospels. Death does not mean we go into solitary confinement. The resurrected Christ is constantly surrounded by people. Today's Gospel is proof of that. But also look up John 20 and 21. He is forever eating or cooking. Perhaps you should be buried with your recipes and good Burgundy. What is He telling us? "I know you need human companionship. You will meet your families again. Everyone but your mother will be surprised you made it into heaven."

Also, as Donald Senior has pointed out, the resurrected Christ speaks no angry words, shows no tension, and has no enemies. This is a night and day difference from the pre-resurrected Christ. Think of Him driving those bandits from the Temple! His Easter message is that we can leave all our tranquilizers and prescriptions behind us. There is no need for a pharmacy or health plan in heaven. The shadows of death may be long and dark, but the Easter Gospels tell us they are not forever. After our respective deaths down the road, I believe we us will say with the Sioux Indians, "Why was I so frightened?" The savant tells us that those of us who are prepared to die are prepared to live. 

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
3 Easter
Third Sunday of Easter: Why Evangelize?

The doorbell rings, usually when the baby is crying, the children are fighting and something is boiling over on the stove. You are hoping it's the teenage girl down the street who often stops in to help you out with the children, so you get the door. Instead of the girl, there are two young men there asking if you believe in Jesus Christ. They come from an evangelical Church and would like to talk to you about your faith. Or maybe there are two women there holding Jehovah Witness pamphlets.

Or perhaps they are Mormon missionaries. You quickly say that you are an active member of the Catholic Church, and they ask if they can come in to discuss the error of your ways. Well, you don't have time for them, nor would you want to get into a debate with them even if you did have time, so you tell them "No thank you," and wish them a good day. Later on in the evening, when the children are sleeping and you finally have a second to think, you say to yourself, "Well, I don't go for strangers coming into my house and questioning my faith, but I do have to admire their determination." Perhaps, you have had those thoughts. I have to agree with you. I don't think it is right for people to question other people's faith, but I also do admire their determination to spread the faith as they believe it.

Where does this determination come from? What is it's origin? It comes from the call to evangelize, gospelize the world. Its origin is in the very foundation of Christianity. In today's Gospel we have Luke's account of the first meeting of the eleven original disciples as well as others with the Risen Lord. The Gospel makes it quite clear that the resurrection of Jesus is not a story, and that the Risen Christ is not a ghost. It is all true. He is real, with a human body. Then Jesus says in the Gospel, all this has taken place so that repentance and forgiveness of sins might be preached in His name. The first reading gives us an example of the first preaching of the disciples, now apostles.

Peter and John had just healed a lame man in the temple invoking the name of Jesus. When the Jews questioned them about this, Peter did not pull any punches. He told them that they put Jesus to death. They even demanded his death when Pilate offered to put a criminal to death instead of Jesus and return Jesus to them. Peter said that they and their leaders sinned, but to a great extent out of ignorance, not realizing who this Jesus was. And then he tells them to read the Scriptures carefully and realize that what happened to Jesus was foretold by the prophets. All was not lost for them, though. They could be converted and have their sins wiped away. Jesus as the First Letter of John, our second reading, says, is the expiation for our sins and those of the whole world. That means he has paid our debt for us. This is a difficult concept. Let me simplify it by analogy.

Let's say you drink too much and drive, and then plow your car into someone's house, right into their living room. Thank God no one got hurt, but their was a lot of damage. You lose your driver's license, but that is just the beginning of your problems. You now owe those people an exorbitant amount of money, far more than you have. You may lose your own house over all this. Now, your parents find out about your troubles, dig deep into their retirement account and pay the people whose house you damaged. Their sacrifice has made atonement for your sin. This is just an analogy, but apply this to Christ. His sacrifice on the cross paid the debt occurred by mankind's sins, past and present. People need to know about this. They need to benefit from this by believing in the Gospel and following Jesus Christ. The disciples were not content with staying in the Upper Room and just believing in Jesus themselves. They could not do that. The Lord demanded that they go out and tell others the Good News that the forgiveness of sins and eternal life were available for all people everywhere.

The disciples had to become apostles. They had to become evangelists. The disciples could not keep the wonders of the New Life in Christ to themselves. Nor can we. No, I don't think we should go door to door and disrespect other people's faith. When people want to speak about faith with us, we should speak with them. But we should always respect them for where they are in their faith journey. The places where we need to concentrate on proclaiming our faith are the places we work, we live, and the schools we attend, to name a few. There are many times that we are among people who brag about their exploits, how they cheated someone out of money or a position at work, how they cheated on their wife or husband, how they took advantage of their girlfriend or even boyfriend; how they talked someone into having an abortion, whatever. When people say or do horrible things and ask us to agree with them at least tacitly, we need to shore up our courage and say something to the effect: "I believe life is just so much better than all that. I'm Catholic. I'm Christian. I take it very seriously to do my best to live what I believe. I know I'm not the best Catholic I can be, but I try. And there is always forgiveness available for me. And this gives me peace and makes life so very beautiful." The people who hear this might become antagonistic. They probably will. They might even become hostile.

Or they might simply walk away and decide never to speak to us again. But they also might wonder if we are right and if there is more to life than they are experiencing. Perhaps, in time, perhaps a long time, a time so long that we no longer have contact with them, perhaps, they decide that they also want the peace of a life that is more than physical life. So, they go to a priest, or a minister, they sit down in his office and say, "We really want what you people of faith have." How did they get there into that office? They got there because the Holy Spirit led them there. And how did the Holy Spirit get into their lives? The Spirit came into their lives because we were not afraid to plant the seeds of God's love. They got there because we take seriously the call of Christ to Evangelize, to bring the Good News to all people, to let them know that if they believe in Christ and repent, as the Gospel says, their sins also will be forgiven. Evangelization is fundamental to Christianity. No one is called to be a Christian for himself or herself. We are called to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to others. Every Sunday we come to Mass. We receive the great gift of God's grace in the Word and in the Sacrament. And then we are commissioned at every Mass to take what we have received and to bring it out to the world. If we are not going to take Christ from here, then why did we come here? "Go in peace glorifying the Lord with your life." "Go, and announce the Gospel of the Lord." "Go and proclaim to the world that Jesus lives."

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
3 Easter
Evolutionary Leap
(April 15, 2018)

Bottom line: An "evolutionary leap" has happened. The question is whether you and I will get onboard - baptism, belief and the Eucharist. I have to admit I've been thinking a lot about Sr. Barbara and Fr. Narciso. I miss them and wonder: What would it be like to meet them again? A lot of my memories are connected with meals: With Sister Barbara enjoying lunch in a Mexican restaurant. At the rectory Fr. Valencia cutting veggies for a salad while I prepare linguine with Prego Sauce, mushroom and peas. Today's Gospel gives some hope food might be part of the future life. Jesus eats a piece of baked fish. And the Bible repeatedly describes heaven as a lavish banquet. I suspect, however, that we will have other kinds of pleasure when that time comes. In his book on Holy Week, Pope Benedict speaks about the Resurrection as "something akin to an evolutionary leap." By Jesus' dying then rising, the pope says, "a new dimension of life emerges - a new dimension of human existence.

He quotes an early third century writer who said that because of the Resurrection "spirit and blood now have a place within God." We see this in St. Paul: In his prison letters (Col 1:12-23 and Eph 1:3-23) he speaks about the cosmic body of Christ. Paul indicates that Jesus' transformed body is the place where people enter into communion with God and one another. Whatever relationship I have with Sr. Barbara and Fr. Valencia - or one of you - it will only be in Jesus. That relationship, we can be sure, will be pleasurable beyond imagining. The big question, though, is how we get there. C.S. Lewis has some provocative thoughts. Like Pope Benedict he draws a comparison from the theory of evolution. He notes that people ask when the next step of evolution - the step to something beyond man - will happen. "But on the Christian view," say Lewis, "it has already happened. In Christ a new kind of man has appeared, and a new kind of life which began in Him is to be put into us." Then Lewis explains that there are "three things that spread Christ's life into us": Baptism, belief and the mysterious action of Holy Communion, the Mass, the Lord's Supper." We began the Easter season with the baptism of adults, then we each renewed our baptism by renouncing sin and professing faith. The culmination of Christian life happens in the Eucharist.

Today's Gospel has a reference to that Sacrament - we hear the disciples telling about Jesus making himself known in the breaking of the bread. Sometimes people tell me they get distracted and bored at Mass. I try not to take it personally. People have even told me they wish I was more like Bishop Eusebio. I respond that I am just as on fire as he is - but he is the Latin version and I am the Scandinavian version! Bland does have a good side.

Three or four days a week I have breakfast of oatmeal, apples and nuts. I'd prefer bacon and eggs, but I have it on good authority that a regular portion of grains and nuts makes for a healthier life. Likewise I have it on good authority that if I eat Jesus' body and drink his blood I will have his life within me. This language of eating and drinking implies not a rare event but something a Christian would do often - weekly, maybe even daily. To use the words of Pope Benedict and C.S. Lewis an "evolutionary leap" has happened. The question is whether you and I will get on board - baptism, belief and the Eucharist. As St. John writes, "The way we may be sure we know him is to keep his commandments." Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
3 Easter
Third Sunday of Easter,
Classic Luke 24: 35–48

Gospel Summary
On that first Easter Sunday of the Lord's Resurrection, two disciples return to Jerusalem from their journey to Emmaus and recount to their friends how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread. Suddenly, Jesus appears in their midst and says, "Peace be with you." They are terrified and think they are seeing a ghost. Jesus says to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?" He then asks them to look at him and to touch him. After assuring them that he is the same person they knew before his crucifixion, he eats some baked fish with them. Jesus then explains how the Scriptures reveal that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead; and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. He then adds, "You are witnesses of these things."

Luke concludes his gospel with this Easter Sunday appearance of Jesus to his disciples as the threshold to its climax and also to its meaning for us. After telling his disciples that they are "witnesses of these things," Jesus declares: "And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." The first reading of this Sunday's Mass from the Acts of the Apostles (also written by Luke) tells us the good news that Jesus kept his promise by sending his Spirit, the promise of his Father. The age of the Church has begun: Peter with the power of the Spirit and in the name of Jesus proclaims those things the disciples had witnessed. Life Implications Luke first wants to assure us that though faith in the Risen Lord is a divine gift and a decision of acceptance beyond reason, nevertheless its basis is the solid ground of reason. The Christ of faith is not the creation of the disciples; he is the one they knew during his earthly life. The same words that are used to describe everyday realities are used to describe the reality of Jesus. Yet, here as in other New Testament appearance accounts, it is clear that the new, transformed reality is not subject to the laws of chemistry or physics.

This is to assure us that Jesus does not possess a body revived from the dead. He exists in a divine mode of existence; he is able to appear suddenly, no longer bound by the laws of space, time, and matter. Luke's gospel together with his Acts of the Apostles may well be called the good news of the Holy Spirit. Its background is the bad news that all humanity is in a state of alienation from God and alienation within itself. The divine action of merciful forgiveness and reconciliation began with the presence of the Spirit guiding the chosen people, Israel (Acts 28: 25). It is the same Spirit who from beginning to end enabled Jesus to advance the divine plan to its next stage. "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit… The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…" (Luke 4: 4–21). Now in the final climactic appearance to his disciples, the Risen Lord authorizes them to begin the end stage in fulfillment of the divine plan. It is the age of the Spirit's action in the Church whereby Christ's mission to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins is extended to all nations.

Jesus knew that without his Spirit the disciples and those who would follow them would be totally incapable of fulfilling his mandate. Each Sunday we listen to readings from Scripture in order to learn how the Spirit was with Jesus, and how the Spirit wishes to inspire us. Thus, in the first reading of this Sunday's Mass from Acts, we see a new Peter speaking through the power of the Spirit. Now he and the other disciples are no longer paralyzed by fear. They speak, often in hostile situations, with the confident, joyful candor and boldness of Christ himself. (This is the "parrhesia" of Acts 2: 29; 4: 13, 29, 31; 28: 31.) It is the Spirit who enables us to know Christ and to live as he lived. In the second reading, John tells us we can be sure that our knowledge of Christ is true faith if we keep his commandments—essentially to love others as he has loved us. The Spirit also enables us to share in the Easter joy of Christ. The complete joy of the Spirit's presence is anticipated in the disciples' experience of the Risen Lord: "They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy" (Luke 24: 52). Today in our breaking of bread with the Lord, we pray for the grace to accept the gift of the Spirit, the promise of his Father, with all our heart so that we might live and act as Christians without fear—in freedom, in truth, in love, in joy.
Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

3rd Sunday of Easter,

Lectionary 47
In the weeks following Easter the Church always reviews the story of its early growth, which is recorded implicitly in any number of New Testament books but most purposefully and clearly in the Acts of the Apostles. Starting with the first days after the resurrection and ascension of Christ the Acts recount how Christianity first rooted itself among the Jewish followers of our Lord who continued to worship near the Temple, praying and praising the risen Jesus as their savior (Acts 2:42-47). Two trends then emerge in Acts, reflecting the course of early Christianity, in which the faith attracted both further Jewish converts and many new gentile (pagan) adherents; today's first reading shows Saint Peter speaking to a crowd of his fellow Jews asking them to see that Jesus was the long-awaited messiah who fulfilled the promises made to the great patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Peter next urges them to turn to Jesus even if they had rejected him before—as Peter himself had—and find newness of life in him: "Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away" (Acts 3:19).

This reminds us all that every person has the possibility for a new beginning in Christ, something we especially understand and rejoice in during the Easter season, filled as it is with rich imagery of resurrection and new life. Once we begin our life with Christ in a conscious and committed manner we are sustained by the grace of God which comes to us in a particular way through the sacraments of the Church, seen in special focus during the Easter season as many young children receive the sacrament of Reconciliation and their First Holy Communion, as Catholic youth and young adults receive the sacrament of Confirmation, and as the traditional season for weddings and ordinations opens. Strengthened through all these beautiful moments of grace, we resolve not to part from the one who has brought redemption and meaning to us. Today's second reading touches upon the question of how followers of Jesus find their way back when they do stray from the new life they share with him.

We hear the apostle John first exhort his disciples to abide with the Lord in an upright life: "My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin." Next he assures us that we need not lose hope if the Christian journey proves too difficult for us and we fall short: "But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one." Jesus, he tells us, will never abandon his faithful who come back to him after falling; rather, "He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world." That is, Jesus gives all the chance for a new beginning just as surely as he gave Saint Peter a chance to recover from his denial of Christ during his passion (Mark 14:66-72).

Peter makes good use of his "new life" in Christ by proclaiming his faith to his brethren. We need not be so bold as Peter in his apostolic preaching but we can show our appreciation for the new beginning we have by living in a consistently Christian manner, extending to others the same possibility of a second chance that we ourselves have received in him. In doing so we live, not in a self-assured illusion of sinlessness (1 John 1:8), but in the confidence that our redeemer loved us enough to die for us and to renew in us a share in his resurrection each time we fall, carrying us joyfully into the same movement of the conversion and growth of his holy people that began in the Acts of the Apostles.
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
3 Easter
Third Sunday of Easter

The liturgy of the last two Sundays have presented us with Gospel readings from St John; but this Sunday we now switch to St Luke. There are differences between the accounts of the various Gospel writers but they have enough in common for us to realise that they do not differ in essentials but merely in perspective. John, for example, makes much of St Thomas' refusal to believe, as we heard in last Sunday's Gospel. This results in Christ making a further appearance in the Upper Room and inviting Thomas to put his finger into the holes in his hands and side. Here we have only a vestige of this incident where St Luke tells us that Jesus, to prove that he is not a ghost, invites all the Apostles to touch him so they can verify for themselves that he is real flesh and bones. Jesus eats some fish, again to prove that he is a real physical person. But, of course, there are some differences between what he was before the resurrection and what he is now.

His is now, what we call in the Church, a glorified body. In his risen body Jesus is able to appear where he wishes at will, even being able to pass through locked doors. He was just as easily able to vanish from people's sight whenever he chose. Jesus was also able to appear to his followers but not be recognised by them until he decided the right moment for them to see who he really was had arrived. Examples of this include Mary Magdalene mistaking him for a gardener until he uttered her name, and also the disciples on the road to Emmaus who, despite spending a good while talking to him on the road, only came to recognise him in the breaking of bread. So, this risen body which, as Jesus says, is real flesh and bones also has some qualities which are well beyond those which we possess here on earth. We can see then that the resurrected body of Jesus, even though it is made of flesh and blood, is able to do things that no normal earthly body can do.

From this we get a clue as to what our own bodies will be like when we eventually get to heaven. God promises us a bodily resurrection; but when we attain heaven we presume that the bodies we will inhabit there will be similar to the resurrected body of Jesus. We understand that these new bodies will not be susceptible to illness or sin and will most likely have some idealised form. I think one of the reasons for this is that God wants us to be recognisably ourselves in the afterlife. And our being, as we experience it in this life, is a mixture of both spirit and flesh. We find it hard to separate our physical bodies from our spiritual nature. This is why suffering from amputations of facial disfigurements is so difficult for people. Losing our arms or legs means that we no longer feel that we are authentically ourselves anymore. In the Apostles Creed we express our belief in ‘the resurrection of the body and life everlasting'. By this we mean that in the hereafter we will definitely have recognisable bodies but obviously they will need to possess greater qualities than the bodies that we now live in. The body we have in this life is open to corruption and has what you might call a limited shelf life.

Also, when we die and our body is buried or cremated it ends up as a pile of dust and is eventually incorporated into the soil. Clearly then we understand that when we are called from this life we will be given a completely new body which will be recognisable as our own but which we call our glorified body. It is a body which is appropriate for and adapted to the completely new and different conditions of eternal life. The text set before us also says that Jesus opened the minds of the disciples to understand the scriptures and instructed them to proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all the nations. Earlier in the Gospels the disciples are often portrayed as being a bit dense and lacking in understanding. There are many examples of situations in which they completely misunderstand the message of Jesus; also on occasion they are to be found jockeying for position; and before the Crucifixion we see how Peter even denies knowing him. But after the resurrection, particularly after Pentecost, we see that the Apostles have become completely new men. Their minds have been opened and they come to possess a courage which was previously unknown. Not only this, but as we can see from the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, they acquire a complete understanding of Jesus' message, and along with this they achieve a fluency of speech and an articulacy not seen before. In a few short days they seem to have moved from being dunderheads to persons of intellect, courage and great insight.

This is an astonishing transformation. Before the resurrection they were hesitant and unsure but now they do not fear to proclaim the Gospel both to the generality of the people as well as to the authorities. Not only this, but we find that they are able to perform extraordinary miracles just as Jesus did. This is indeed a profound change; they have become completely new men. Here it seems the Risen Christ is able to get the Apostles to come to this new depth of understanding rather swiftly; certainly, much more than he appeared to be able to do during his public ministry. We can only assume that this is the result of the powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit which occurred both at Pentecost but also on the occasions Jesus visited them in the Upper Room and breathed on them. The transformation we see in the Apostles is a conversion from being followers to becoming leaders.

This change in the Apostles enabled them to transform what was a widespread group of disciples of various degrees of commitment into the much more cohesive body which is the Church. This powerful impetus, which is the result of the action of the Holy Spirit, continues within the Church down to this very day. Despite the faults and failings of both pastors and people the Church continues to flourish; it continues to reflect on the truths that Jesus taught and fearlessly proclaims them to whoever is willing to listen. It remains a voice for the voiceless and carries on its ministry of reconciliation and love in the world. But most of all it is a community which draws the people together for worship and to celebrate the sacraments in praise of the one true God and Father of us all.

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