Monday, May 25, 2020


The Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and Mary at Pentecost by Elizabeth Wang

Pentecost Sunday A B C

Readings: Acts 2:1-11 1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13   John 20:19-23

“Lord send out your spirit, and renew the face of the earth” (Ps 104).  In remembering the first Christian Pentecost, we fervently pray in the refrain of the responsorial psalm that God’s Holy Spirit renew the world and the church with the gifts of unity, peace, joy and forgiveness.
The Acts reading describes the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples at the Jewish pilgrimage feast of Pentecost (Shavuoth) in fulfillment of prophetic expectations of the final age when all the nations will know the God of Israel.  Isaiah 66 speaks of God’s coming in the following way: “For behold the Lord will come as a fire . . . with a flame of fire . . . I am coming to gather all the nations and tongues” (Is 66:15.18).  As Peter will affirm in his Pentecost sermon, the prophet Joel announced: “God says: ‘It will come to pass in the last days,/ that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh’” (Acts 2:17).  Luke’s account of Pentecost has all of these elements.  The Spirit descends upon the gathered group of one hundred and twenty would-be witnesses to Jesus’s death, resurrection, and ascension with a noise “like a strong driving wind.”  Tongues “as of fire” part and rest on each of them, and the Holy Spirit enables them to speak in different languages to Jewish pilgrims from most of the known world.  In a symbolic reversal of the confusion of tongues at the tower of Babel incident (Genesis11), the disciples speak in understandable languages of “the mighty works of God.”  As Peter will proclaim in his Pentecost sermon, Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension have begun the final age when all are called to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:14-41).
In the reading from 1 Corinthians, Paul insists that the Holy Spirit’s various gifts are meant for the common good of the community and for the unity of what were previously divided groups.  In Corinth some were using the possession of spectacular gifts like tongues as a basis for claiming superiority within the community.  Paul reminds the Corinthians that one Spirit gives various gifts--wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, working miracles, prophecy, tongues and interpreting tongues--for the building up of the whole community, and not for the exaltation of the individual (12:4-11).  He also uses the body of Christ metaphor to express the interdependence of all members--Jews or Greeks, slave or free--upon one another because they share a common baptism “into one body.”

The Gospel selection is John’s account of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the apostles on Easter night.  John places all the key saving events--the Resurrection, the ascent to the Father and the bestowal of the Spirit--on Easter (John 20:1-23).  When Jesus appears to the disciples on the evening of that first day of the week, he has already ascended to the Father as he had announced to Mary Magdalene (John 20:17).  He can now give them the gifts he had promised in the farewell discourse: peace, joy, and the Spirit/Paraclete (John 14-17).  Twice he greets the apostles with “Peace be with you” (cf. John 14:27).  When they see his hands and his side as proof that he was crucified and has now returned to the Father, the disciples experience the joy that Jesus had promised them (cf. 16:20-24).  Finally, Jesus sends them into the world as he was sent by the Father.  He breathes on them and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound.”  As God “breathed” life into Adam in Genesis, Jesus is recreating the community of disciples with the life of God’s forgiving love.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Easter VII A

Christ's Farewell Discourse: Expository Sermons from John 13-17 ...

7th Sunday of Easter A

Readings: Acts 1:12‑14  1 Peter 4:13‑16  
John 17:1‑11

            On this Sunday between the feasts of Ascension and Pentecost, the Church prepares us for the coming of the Spirit and the task of witnessing to the gospel in the world.   Let us wait in confident hope for the coming of the Spirit as we sing the refrain of this Sunday's responsorial psalm: "I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living" (Ps 27).
            The reading from Acts describes the early community's prayerful actions immediately after Jesus ascended into heaven.  Before his ascension Jesus had instructed the apostles to wait in Jerusalem for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will  be baptized with the holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4‑5; see Lk 24:49).  So now after witnessing Jesus' ascension on Mount Olivet, the apostles return to Jerusalem and go to the upper room to await the gift of the Spirit. While they are waiting, Luke tells us the apostles "devoted themselves to constant prayer."  Luke also emphasizes the prayer of  Jesus at key points in his ministry: before his baptism (3:12),  before calling the twelve (6:12), before asking his disciples  whether they believe in him (9:18), before the transfiguration  (9:28), before teaching the Our Father (11:2), in the Garden when  he accepts his Father's will (22:41), and on the cross as he commends his spirit to the Father (23:46).  In imitation of their master, the disciples devote themselves to prayer as they await the Spirit. 
            Luke also highlights the presence of other important people from Jesus' ministry besides the apostles.  He mentions the women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.  In Luke's gospel the women are an important part of Jesus' missionary band from the beginning (8:1‑3).  They remain faithful to Jesus through his death (23:49) and burial (23:55‑56).  They are also the ones who first discover the empty tomb when they come to anoint Jesus' body, and they are the first to announce the resurrection to the twelve (24:1‑12).  Mary also has a special prominence in Luke's gospel.  She might be called the first disciple because she hears and does the word of God (see Lk 1:26‑38; 2:19,51; 2:34f.; 8:21; 11:27f.).  Finally, the brothers of Jesus are important, especially James who will have a key leadership role in the Jerusalem community (see Lk 8:19‑21; Acts 15:13‑29).
            The reading from 1 Peter gives advice to those who are suffering persecution because of their Christian faith.  Peter distinguishes between two types of suffering.  If Christians "are insulted for the sake of Christ," they should rejoice in the knowledge that they "share Christ's suffering" and that "God's Spirit in its glory has come to rest on" them.  But if they suffer for being murderers, thieves, malefactors, or destroyers of others rights, they only are paying the deserved punishment for their crimes. 

            The Gospel reading from the end of the Farewell Discourse in John features Jesus’ prayer for his disciples whom he is leaving in the world.  Jesus has come to his hour of glory when he is to return to the Father by being lifted up on the cross as the ultimate sign of God's love for the world.  In the first part of the prayer Jesus asks that the Father “glorify” him.  He has completed his "work" by giving the Father glory on the earth, that is, by revealing his love.  Now Jesus asks the Father, “give me glory at your side, a glory I had with you before the world began.” In the second part of the prayer Jesus prays for the disciples whom he is leaving behind in the world.  He begins by praising them.  They were given to him by the Father; they have kept the Father's word; they realize that Jesus has come from God and have received this message of truth.  All of this can be summarized by saying that they have "eternal life" because they “know . . . the only true God” and “Jesus Christ” whom he sent.   The word “know” here has the Semitic sense of intimacy, of sharing a common life.  On the basis of this shared life, Jesus can say to the Father, “For these I pray‑‑ not for the world but for these you have given me, for they are really yours.”

The Ascension

The Ascension: What Mother Seton Found in the Sky
The Ascension A

Readings: Acts 1:1-11   Ephesians 1:17-23     Matthew 28:16-20

            The Feast of the Ascension celebrates both the resurrected Jesus’ triumph over the power of sin and evil by his ascension to the right hand of the Father and also the apostles’ mission, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to witness to Christ’s victory throughout the world.  Let us rejoice in Jesus’ enthronement in the words of the refrain of our responsorial psalm: “God mounts his throne to shouts of joy;/ a blare of trumpets for the Lord” (Ps 48).
            The account of Jesus’ ascension in the first reading comes from the introduction to Luke’s second volume, the Acts of the Apostles.  As with his gospel, Luke addresses Acts to Theophilus (“lover of God”).  He recapitulates the events of the Gospel with special emphasis on Jesus’ commissioning the apostles to wait in Jerusalem to receive the power of the Holy Spirit who will send them as his witnesses to the whole world.  In his summary of the Gospel Luke recalls Jesus’ actions and teachings until his ascension, his choice of the apostles, his suffering and death, his resurrection appearances over a forty day period in which he spoke of the kingdom of God and proved that he was alive, and his command not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the Father’s promise of their baptism with the Holy Spirit.  He prefaces his second account of the ascension (see Luke 24:50-53) with a dialogue between the apostles and Jesus at their last meeting.  They ask, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  But Jesus says that it is not for them to know “the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority.”  Instead he promises: “. . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Then like Elijah and certain traditions associated with Moses, Jesus is “lifted up, and a cloud takes him from their sight.”  For Luke this is Jesus’ enthronement as the triumphant Messiah and Son of Man at God’s right hand (cf. Dan 7:13 and Luke 1:32; Acts 2:22-36; 7:56).  His exodus or departure has been a part of God’s plan from the beginning (cf. Luke 9:28-36; 9:51).  Like the prophets Moses and Elijah who appeared with him in glory at the transfiguration to talk of his exodus (9:28-36), Jesus must leave physically for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on his successors who will carry on his work (see Deuteronomy 34 and 2 Kings 2).  The “two men dressed in white garments” who stand beside the apostles as they witness the ascension may be Moses and Elijah (cf. Luke 9:28-36; 24:1-8).  They do not allow the apostles to gawk at Jesus’ ascension, but rather assure them of his return as the Messiah/Son of Man who will establish his kingdom after their work of witnessing to him throughout the earth. 
            The Epistle reading is taken from the thanksgiving section of Ephesians in which the Pauline author prays that God, through the resurrected and ascended Christ, will give the Christian community, his body on earth, “a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.”  In Christ’s resurrection from the dead, ascension, and enthronement at God’s right hand, God has defeated the powers of evil that formerly ruled the world—“every principality, authority, power, and dominion and every name that is named.”  God has put all things beneath Christ’s feet and given him “as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.”  Paul’s prayer is that the Christian community will have the eyes of their hearts enlightened by the risen and triumphant Christ so that they know “the hope that belongs to his (God the Father’s) call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe.”
            The Gospel reading of the commissioning of the disciples is the conclusion of Matthew and completes the main themes of the entire Gospel.  As the triumphant Son of Man (cf. Daniel 7), the risen Jesus appears to the eleven disciples who have gone to Galilee, as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had told them (Matt 28:9-10; cf. 26:32).  When the disciples see him in his glory, they worship, but also are filled with doubt.  Jesus then approaches them and assures them that he has triumphed over death and is now risen as the victorious Son of Man as he had repeatedly announced (Matt 16:21-28; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; 24:1-51; 25:31-46; 26:63-64).  In Matthew’s Gospel the period between Jesus’ resurrection and his triumphant return as Son of Man in judgment is a time for the gospel to be carried by his disciples to all the nations (24:14).  They are the emissaries of Jesus; to receive them is to receive him and the Father who sent him (10:40-42; 18:1-5; 25:31-46).  Jesus has prepared them for this mission by his teaching in the five great discourses throughout the Gospel (5:1-7:29; 10:1-11:1; 13:1-53; 18:1-35; 23:1-25:46).  Now he commissions them to make disciples of all nations, by “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit” and by teaching them to observe all that he has commanded them.  Jesus, who is Immanuel, “God with us” (1:21-22), concludes by assuring them of his presence with them in this mission until his return in glory: “and behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Monday, May 11, 2020

Easter VI A

Last Discourse of Our Lord Jesus - Watching Holy Week Unfold with ...6th Sunday of Easter A

Readings: Acts 8:5‑8,14‑17  1 Peter 3:15‑18 
 John 14:15‑21

            On the last Sundays of the Easter season, the readings begin to prepare us for Jesus' Ascension and the gift of the Spirit on Pentecost.  In today's Gospel from the farewell discourse in John, Jesus promises his disciples that he will not leave them orphaned after he departs from the world.   He will send them the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, who will enable them to witness to the gospel in a hostile world.  The first two readings speak of the heroic witness of disciples in the early Church.  As we hear of the spread of the gospel through their testimony, let us join all creation in praising God with the refrain of today's responsorial psalm: "Let all the earth cry out to God with joy!" (Ps 66).    
            The reading from Acts recounts the spread of the gospel message to Samaria through the ministry of Philip, one of the deacons chosen in last week's reading.  In the previous section of Acts, Luke recounts the death of Stephen and the subsequent violent persecution of the Church in Jerusalem by Saul of Tarsus and others.  This opposition does not stop the spread of the gospel but only furthers its growth.  When the disciples are scattered into Judea and Samaria, they begin to preach the gospel in these areas.  Philip's courageous and powerful ministry culminates with the Samaritans receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit that had first been poured out in Jerusalem on Pentecost.  He proclaims the Messiah and works numerous miracles which bring "the rejoicing in that town to a fever pitch."  Once the Samaritans have accepted the word of God and been baptized in the name of Jesus, Peter and John come from Jerusalem and give them the gift of the Holy Spirit through prayer and the imposition of hands.     
            The 1 Peter reading is from a section of the letter in which Peter is warning his readers that, because they live in a pagan world, they may have to suffer for the sake of the gospel.   In the verses immediately prior to today's reading he reminds them: “But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.”
            The remainder of Peter's advice is still relevant for us as we attempt to live the Christian gospel in a secular world.  First of all, Christians should be ready to articulate their beliefs and give "the reason for their hope," not in a strident and offensive way, but "gently and respectfully." Secondly, Christians should be moral citizens who do not bring libel on the community by their lives.  Peter commands them to keep "your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame."  Christians may have to suffer for "doing good," but suffering punishment for evil crimes brings no credit to the community.  Only those who suffer for good deeds are following Christ, "a just man" who died "for the sake of the unjust.”

            The Gospel reading from John continues the theme of being faithful to Jesus' teachings in a hostile world.  As Jesus prepares to depart from this world, he promises his disciples that, if they love him and keep his command to love one another, he will give them "another Paraclete" to be always with them.   This is John's special term for the Holy Spirit; it is sometimes translated as "Advocate," one who is called to someone's aid as a "counselor" or "defender" in a trial.  Although the disciples will be left in a hostile world that cannot accept "the Spirit of truth," they will have the Paraclete with them. 
            In the last section of today's Gospel, Jesus goes on to promise that, after he has returned to the Father, he too will come back to his disciples and give them a share in the life of love that he and the Father have. "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. . . . On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.  Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.  And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him."

Monday, May 4, 2020

Easter V A

Permanent Diaconate FAQ - Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver
5th Sunday of Easter A

Readings: Acts 6:1‑7  1 Peter 2:4‑9  John 14:1‑12

            "Lord, let your mercy be on us,/ as we place our trust in you."  The refrain for this Sunday's responsorial psalm (Ps 33) is the perfect prayer for the Church in this Easter season and for the situations faced by the early Christian communities in today's readings.  In each case the churches have to struggle with problems without Christ’s physical presence to guide them.   They must trust in the example of Jesus and the presence of the Risen One in their midst.
            In the first reading from Acts the growth of the early Jerusalem community causes divisions between the native Jewish‑Christians "who spoke Hebrew" and the Greek speaking Jewish‑Christians who had immigrated to Jerusalem.  The widows of the Greek speaking community were being neglected in the daily distribution of food, but "the twelve" solve the problem in a wise way which does not distract them from prayer and proclaiming the word.  They propose that the Greek speaking community choose seven of their number who are "deeply spiritual and prudent" and give them the task of "serving" (diakonein) at the tables.  This suggestion seems good to the members of the community; they select seven men whom the apostles pray over and impose hands upon.  Such a sensible solution to this potentially divisive issue leads to continued growth in the Jerusalem community.  We are told, "The word of God continued to spread, while at the same time the number of the disciples in Jerusalem enormously increased." 
            This text has been traditionally associated with the beginning of the order of deacons in the early Church.  Although in this section of Acts the role of the seven seems to be limited  to service (diakonia) at tables, in subsequent chapters two of the men set aside here, Stephen and Philip, take active roles in proclaiming the gospel (Acts 7‑9).  In fact, Stephen will die as a martyr for his courageous proclamation of the gospel before the Sanhedrin.

The reading from 1 Peter is part of an exhortation addressed to a Gentile Christian community that is living "as aliens and sojourners" in a hostile pagan environment.  Peter uses a series of quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures to inspire these recent converts with their great dignity because of Jesus’ victory over sin and death in his resurrection.  He builds his argument around the image of the risen Jesus as "a living stone."  Jesus is the cornerstone of a new community in fulfillment of the passage in Isaiah 28:16: "See, I am laying a cornerstone in Zion,/ an  approved stone, and precious./ Whoever puts faith in it shall not  be shaken."  For those without faith, Jesus is "a stone which the builders rejected" (Ps 118:22‑23) and "an obstacle and stumbling block" (Isa 8:14).  If Jesus is the cornerstone, members of the Christian community are the new Temple, or as Peter says, ". . . living stones, built as an edifice of spirit, into a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."  Peter concludes his exhortation with a call to holiness in words taken from Ex 19:6. “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people he claims for his own to proclaim the glorious works’ of the One who called you from darkness into his marvelous light.”  
            The Gospel reading is from Jesus' farewell discourse in John.  Jesus is preparing his disciples for his return to the Father and their need to continue his work of revealing the Father's love.  Although they are understandably "troubled" by the prospect of Jesus' departure, he gives them several reasons to have faith in God and him.  First of all, he is going to prepare a dwelling place for them in his Father's house where they will share fully in God's love.  Secondly, when Thomas complains that the disciples “do not know where” Jesus is going or “the way,” Jesus assures him with the words: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”  The way to the Father and the fullness of truth and life is through Jesus who is about to lay down his life in love for his flock.  Finally, when Philip asks Jesus, “show us the Father,” Jesus tells him “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”  Jesus concludes by inviting the disciples to have faith that he and the Father are one and if he returns to the Father, they will be empowered to do his work.  “I solemnly assure you, the one who has faith in me will do the works I do, and greater far than these.  Why?  Because I go to the Father.”  Jesus' death and resurrection unleash into the world the power of God's own love working within the believing community.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Easter IV A

Thursday In Whitsun Week | I am the door, Jesus, Readings of the day
4th Sunday of Easter A

Readings: Acts 2:14,36‑41  1 Peter 2:20‑25  
John 10:1‑10

            "At one time you were straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd, the guardian of your souls" (1 Pet 2:25).  This Sunday's readings call us to rejoice in the fact that we have in the risen Jesus a good shepherd, who has laid down his life for us and now calls us to hear his voice as he leads us to the fullness of life.  Let us joyfully sing the refrain of our responsorial psalm: "The Lord is my shepherd;/  there is nothing I shall want" (Ps 23). 
            The first reading from Acts proclaims the glorious success of Peter's first preaching of the resurrection on Pentecost. It begins with the climactic conclusion of Peter's Pentecost sermon which we heard last week:  "Let the whole house of Israel know beyond any doubt that God has made both Lord and Messiah this Jesus whom you crucified."  After the people have heard Peter's good news, they ask "What are we to do, brothers?"  Before his ascension, Jesus had told the apostles that their task would be to preach in his name repentance for the forgiveness of sins "to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem" (Lk 24:27).  Now Peter begins that mission.             "You must reform and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, that your sins may be forgiven; then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It was to you and your children that the promise was made, and to all those still far off whom the Lord our God calls." The people's response is overwhelming.  We are told that "some three thousand were added that day." 
            The 1 Peter reading is taken from a section of the letter that was addressed to slaves who made up a significant portion of the early Christian communities.  They were always in danger of being unjustly beaten and punished by their masters.  Peter tells them that if they suffer "for doing what is right, this is acceptable in God's eyes."  In fact, they are following in the footsteps of Christ who, though innocent, endured insult, suffering, and death on the cross in order to heal them from sin. “He did no wrong; no deceit was found in his mouth. When he was insulted he returned no insult. When he was made to suffer, he did not counter with threats.  In his own body he brought your sins to the cross, so that all of us, dead to sin,could live in accord with God's will.” 

            In the Gospel reading from John Jesus presents two images of himself in relation to his followers: the shepherd of the sheep and the gate of the sheepfold.  In both cases, Jesus contrasts himself with other selfish leaders who are “thieves and marauders.”  In the first image, the difference between the true shepherd and the thief is that the shepherd is known to both the gate keeper and the sheep.  The true shepherd enters through the gate, and “the keeper opens the gate for him.”  But the thief “climbs in some other way.”  Likewise, when the true shepherd speaks, the sheep “recognize his voice,” and they follow him as he “walks in front of them.”  In contrast, “They will not follow a stranger . . . because they do not recognize a stranger's voice.” As the gate of the sheepfold, Jesus is the way to safety.  Whereas the thief  “comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy,” Jesus came that the sheep “might have life and have it to the full.”   The way in which Jesus gives fullness of life is by laying down his own life for his flock.  Those who see and believe in this revelation of God's love “recognize (Jesus') voice” and joyfully follow him in the path that leads to life.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Easter III A

Beyond Question: A 40 Day Lenten Journey: What are you discussing ...Vulnerability and Resurrection – Luke 24: 13 – 35 - John Blackwell3rd Sunday of Easter A
Readings: Acts 2:14,22‑28  1 Peter 1:17‑21 
 Luke 24:3‑35

            "Lord, you will show us the path of life" (Ps 16).  The refrain for the responsorial psalm captures the spirit of this Sunday's readings.  We can all identify with the disappointed disciples on the road to Emmaus whose hopes had been crushed because their master Jesus, "a prophet powerful in word and deed," had been delivered up to death and crucified.  Let us listen attentively to the story of their transformation when they meet the risen Jesus, who explains to them how Moses and the prophets announced that the Messiah had "to undergo all this so as to enter into his glory."  And, as we go on to celebrate this Sunday's Eucharist, may our eyes also be opened "to know Jesus in the breaking of the bread."
            The reading from Acts is the heart of Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost, when, for the first time, he boldly proclaims the gospel message of God's victory over death by raising Jesus.  Jewish pilgrims have gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Shabuoth (Weeks or Pentecost) which comes fifty days after Passover.  Transformed by the power of the Spirit, Peter tells them the gospel story in three stages.  First of all, he reminds the Jews of the wonders God worked through Jesus while he was in their midst: “Jesus the Nazorean was a man whom God sent to you with miracles, wonders and signs as his credentials.”   Secondly, Peter recounts how Jesus ‘was delivered up’ to crucifixion and death at the hands of pagans (the Romans), but he insists that this was according to “the set purpose and plan of God.”  Finally, and most importantly, Peter bears witness to God's raising Jesus: "God freed him from death's bitter pangs, however, and raised him up again, for it was impossible that death should keep its hold on him."  Jesus' victory over death is then related to Psalm 16 in which David spoke prophetically about the Messiah's trust that God would free him from death: "I have set the Lord ever before me,/ with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed./ My heart has been glad and my tongue has rejoiced,/ my body will live on in hope,/ For you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,/   nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption./ You have shown me the paths of life;/ you will fill me with joy in your presence" (Ps 16:8-11). 
            The reading from 1 Peter speaks of the demands of our resurrection faith.  We are like redeemed slaves who have been purchased with a great price: "Christ's blood beyond all price: the blood of a spotless, unblemished lamb."  Therefore Peter commands: "conduct yourselves reverently during your sojourn in a strange land."  In one sense Christians no longer have their citizenship in this alien world.  They have been "delivered from the futile way of life" which their pagan fathers handed on to them.       

            One way of looking at this Sunday's Gospel is to contrast the disciples' disappointment on the way to Emmaus with their excitement when they return to Jerusalem.   As they speak with the hidden Jesus on the road to Emmaus, it becomes clear that the disciples know all of the events that are to become the gospel story, but they do not yet understand them as good news.  They tell this stranger about "Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet powerful in word and deed," but then they go on to recount their disappointment when the "chief priest and leaders delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him."  Although they have heard about the empty tomb from the women, they speak of their story as a "tale about a vision of angels who declared he was alive."
            Jesus does two things to transform these two disciples into believers.  First of all, as they journey on to Emmaus, he explains the scripture passages in Moses (the Torah) and the prophets which spoke of how the Messiah had to suffer in order to enter his glory.  Secondly, when they invite Jesus to stay with them that evening, he takes bread, pronounces the blessing, breaks it and distributes it to them.  These two actions‑‑ reading the Hebrew Scriptures in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection and breaking bread in memory of him‑‑ were the two essential parts of the early Christian Eucharistic celebrations and continue to be the central actions to this very day.   Through these two actions the disciples are transformed into believers.  Luke simply says, "With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him."   Although Jesus then vanishes from their sight, the memory of his teaching is still with them.  They recall, "Were not our hearts burning inside us as he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?"  Now they must share their joy with the Eleven, and so we are told that "they got up immediately and returned to Jerusalem" where "they recounted what had happened on the road and how they had come to know him in the breaking of bread."