3rd Sunday of Easter – Year A

Resources Used:
  • St. Charles’ Borromeo Bible Study for today’s readings (click here)


1st Reading – Acts 2:14, 22-33

Today’s first reading tells of the formation of the early Church as we hear Peter address the people of the day of Pentecost. His address is in two parts: Part 1, which we do not hear today, explains that the messianic times foretold by the Prophet Joel have now arrived; today’s reading is the second part of the address and it proclaims that Jesus of Nazareth, whom the Jews crucified, is the Messiah promised by God and eagerly awaited by the righteous of the Old Testament; it is he who has effected God’s saving plan for mankind.

“Pentecost” means “the 50th day”. It is one of three feasts mentioned in Exodus 23:14-17 where it is called simply the harvest festival, the feast of the first-fruits of the grain harvest. In Leviticus 23:15-21 the feast is reckoned by counting seven weeks from the beginning of the grain harvest; it is a day of sabbatical observance. As with the other two feasts mentioned in Exodus 23:14-17, it is a pilgrimage feast: “three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord God”. Jerusalem is crowded with pilgrims. The resurrected Jesus had spent forty days instructing His apostles and then ten days ago ascended after telling them “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for ‘the promise of the Father… you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 1:4-5). The Holy Spirit has come upon them this day and now Peter, the chief apostle and spokesman for the group, addresses the crowd of pilgrims who are outside the upper room, attracted by the sound of the coming of the Spirit.

What we have here is Saint Peter, the masterful teacher, demonstrating that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah who was foretold by the prophets by reminding his listeners of our Lord’s miracles (verse 22), as well as of His death (verse 23), resurrection (verses 24-32) 3 and glorious ascension (verse 33).

Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-11

The sixteenth psalm is a prophecy about Christ (Pseudo-Athanasius) in two themes; deliverance and thanksgiving.

The psalm goes on to speak of the resurrection of the flesh (Origen). It was not just his soul, but his body had hope (Jerome). He speaks here as man, not as God (Cyril of Alexandria), of the salvation of his humanity through the presence of the Word (Athanasius). He saved what he assumed (Gregory of Nyssa).

The psalm ends in an expression of joy overflowing (Cassiodorus, Theodoret). He who is the way learned the way (Jerome). And that way comes from him to us (Maximus of Turin).

2nd Reading – 1 Peter 1:17-21

Today we hear Saint Peter call us to holiness. The Christian has attained the honor of being God’s child, his son or daughter. Peter summarizes God’s plan for man’s salvation, which comes about in Christ: from all eternity it was God’s design to save men through Christ; this design was made manifest “at the end of times”; when our Lord offered Himself as an expiation for the sins of men, and then rose from the dead and was glorified.

Now if you invoke as Father (v. 17)

Calling upon a father as a witness is swearing an oath (kaddush in Hebrew) it is recognizing a covenant bond in which we are all children of God. The Didache (The Teaching of the 12 Apostles), a 1st-century writing, tells us that the “Our Father” was recited three times a day.

with the precious blood of Christ (v. 19)

The sacrifice of Jesus is effective, it allows us to approach the Father and gain absolution for 4 our sins. “If the unfortunate Jews observe the Sabbath in such a way that they do not dare to do any secular work on it, how much more should those who have been ‘redeemed, not with gold or silver, but with the precious blood of Christ,’ pay attention to their price and devote themselves to God on the day of His resurrection, thinking more diligently of the salvation of their souls?” [Caesar of Arles (A.D. 542), Sermons, 73,4]

as of a spotless unblemished lamb (v. 19)

This is a Passover reference which carries over into the Eucharist. Just like the original Passover sacrifice, the sacrifice of the Eucharist must be eaten to be effective.

who through him believe in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God (v. 21)

The resurrection of Jesus is the basis of Christian faith and hope and is the main proof of Jesus’ divinity and His divine mission (see 1 Corinthians 15). The apostles were, first and foremost, witnesses of our Lord’s resurrection; and the proclamation of the resurrection was the core of apostolic catechesis. Jesus the Christ rose from the dead by His own power, the power of His divine person. The Saint Pius V Catechism points out that “We sometimes, it is true, read in Scripture that He was raised by the Father; but this refers to Him as man, just as those passages, on the other hand, which say that He rose by His own power relate to Him as God.”

Gospel – Luke 24:13-35

Last week we heard the account of Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples as recorded in the Gospel of John. It was at this appearance that He conferred the ability and responsibility to forgive sins to the apostles. Today’s gospel reading is the first appearance of Jesus away from the tomb as recorded in Luke’s gospel. There is a parallel account in Mark 16:12-13.

The Lucan theme of journey is predominant as an image for discipleship.

15 And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, 16 but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.

Throughout his gospel, Saint Luke plays on the theme of seeing. Now he articulates this theme as he tells how the risen Christ opens the eyes of disciples to see His true meaning in God’s plan. But as this story narrates, the disciples’ eyes are only fully opened after they have shown hospitality to a stranger.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas,

From Eusebius (A.D. 263-339) we learn that Cleopas is the brother of Joseph, Jesus’ foster father and father of Symeon. Symeon succeeded James as Bishop of Jerusalem and after A.D. 70 led the Christians back to Jerusalem. “After the martyrdom of James and the capture of Jerusalem which instantly followed, there is a firm tradition that those of the apostles and disciples of the Lord who were still alive assembled from all parts together with those who, humanly speaking, were kinsmen of the Lord – for most of them were still living. Then they all discussed together whom they should choose as a fit person to succeed James, and voted unanimously that Symeon, son of the Cleopas mentioned in the gospel narrative, was a fit person to occupy the throne of the Jerusalem see. He was, so it is said, a cousin of the Savior, 6 for Hegesippus tells us that Cleopas was Joseph’s brother.” [Eusebius, The History of The Church (3.11)]. The names may not be important for salvation history, but the tradition brings out that the “brethren of Jesus”, his close relatives, did not completely reject Him.

“We need a Church able to dialogue with those disciples who, having left Jerusalem behind, are wandering aimlessly, alone, with their own disappointment, disillusioned by a Christianity now considered barren, fruitless soil, incapable of generating meaning” ~ Pope Francis

Then, starting with Moses, and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself (v. 27)

“The reader of the Bible must raise himself from the story to the mystery” ~ St. Gregory the Great

But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them (v. 29)

“If you wish to recognize the Saviour then detain a guest. For, at Emmaus, hospitality restored what unbelief had taken away. By the practice of hospitality, we come to the knowledge of Christ” ~ St. Augustine

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight (v. 31)

“See here the power and effect of the Eucharist. It opens and illumines the eyes of the mind to know Jesus and to enter into heavenly and divine mysteries” ~ Cornelius A Lapide

 32 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?” 33 So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem

Notice that the two disciples are not at all upset at the loss (again) of their leader. In fact, they are anxious to tell the apostles of their discovery. They have discovered Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist! The person-to-person physical presence of a visible Jesus is no longer necessary because He is indeed risen and is present in the word and in the sacrament.

Therefore the wings of fire are the flames of the divine Scriptur ~ Isaac, or the Soul 8.77.

Be on fire with the fervor of charity, in order to differentiate yourselves from demons. This fervor whirls you upward, takes you upward, lifts you up to heaven. Whatever vexations you suffer on earth, however much the enemy may humiliate Christian hearts and press them downward, the fervor of love seeks the heights ~ Augustine, Sermon 234.3.

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