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Third Sunday of Easter (B)

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19, 47; 1 Jn 2:1-5a; Lk 24:35-48

April 22, 2012

SURELY THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD IS IN THIS PLACE. . .

The Gospel we are given to hear on this Third Sunday of Easter is from Luke, and follows immediately upon the familiar story of the road to Emmaus. Today's gospel is also familiar, and in this Easter season causes us to ask: "where and how have we encountered the risen Christ?" In the Emmaus story, Jesus is made known to two, in the breaking of the bread. In today's story, Jesus appears to the community gathered together, sharing fish. In what community settings have we met the risen One?

Luke's account for today is in two parts: after a link with the Emmaus story, Jesus appears to the community, greets them with peace, assures them he is real and not just a spirit, requests something to eat and then eats the fish they offer him. Jesus gives a brief final teaching, connecting what he taught them while he was still among them with their mission to all nations, and announces that he is about to send them the promise of his Father.

"Peace be with you." Ah, sweet peace. When and how have we received peace; indeed, been at peace? When have we brought peace to others?

It has become my practice in visiting the elderly, the homebound, those who are sick, and those who are dying to sing them the simple refrain: "Surely, the presence of the Lord is in this place. . ." And it seems that any agitation or upset is calmed and quieted. Now, that may be the words of the song or its melody, but I feel even more certain that it is the assurance of the presence of God.  

Peace is a major theme in Luke. At Jesus' birth, angels sang of peace: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." In sending out the seventy-two in Luke's Gospel, Jesus instructs the disciples to enter a house with the greeting: "Peace to this household." When Jesus entered into Jerusalem, the people proclaimed peace: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest." As risen Lord, Jesus now greets the assembled community with peace.

However, the community's initial reaction to the greeting does not reflect the peace offered them. At first, they thought they were seeing a spirit, and were startled and terrified. Jesus asks them why, and he invites them to look at his hands and feet seeking to assure them of his bodily presence. Jesus seeks to be present in our communities of real flesh and blood! How are we, the baptized, the body of Christ? Do we seek to be? Are we mindful that we are the body of Christ? Are we perceived to be?

Luke comments that the community was still incredulous and full of amazement when Jesus asked if they had anything to eat. He accepted the piece of fish that they offered and ate it with them. This sharing may call to mind the breaking of bread at Bethsaida, where the meal consisted of bread and fish. Also, the extraordinary catch of fish led Jesus to tell Simon Peter, James and John that they would be catching people. The eating of fish in this context is a wonderful segue for the mission to all nations: those in solidarity with Jesus must preach his gospel.

Those newly baptized or initiated into the Church are in the time of mystagogia - reflecting on the great mysteries. On this Third Sunday of Easter, we are reminded of the meaning of resurrection for us: that Jesus is indeed alive and present. All of us who are baptized into the death and resurrection are to bring peace, to share a common table, and to come to deeper understanding of the Scriptures. Then, we too are sent forth to proclaim the marvelous things our God has done.

By Sallie Latkovich, C.S.J., Director of Biblical Study and Travel 

© Copyright 2012 Catholic Theological Union. All Rights Reserved.

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