The theme for the readings today is fulfillment. Jesus’ resurrection completes the final piece in the plan of redemption. With the book of the Acts of the Apostles proclaimed between now and Pentecost, we are treated to many miraculous stories of the early Christian journey. Those were radical times to be alive, the work of the Holy Spirit seems to explode from the pages. For the disciples and followers of Jesus, so much had changed in a few short days. Today, we have the beauty of hindsight and can only hear these stories through the lens of 2,000 years+ of Christianity. A legacy of love, sacrifice, and service in faithful dedication to the Gospel message extends to us in modern times.
Peter, who denied Jesus three times, addresses the people unafraid of the consequences. His desire is unquenchable, having received the Holy Spirit. In both the first reading and the Gospel, the history of God’s promise—his faithfulness—is emphasized. Moses, the prophets, the psalms, the ancestors, each one Jesus “breaks open” in their midst. The scene in the Gospel follows directly after the “Road to Emmaus” meeting between the two disciples and Jesus. Instead of continuing to walk away from Jerusalem (and their pain and sadness over the death of Jesus), they turn back to share the good news with the others. They had encountered the Lord!
What must the disciples have felt at seeing Jesus suddenly appear in the room with them? They had abandoned him during his crucifixion. Were they scared or embarrassed to face him? I would have felt uncomfortable in his presence knowing I had left him to suffer alone. Yet, his first words were, “Peace be with you.” And all their fears and anxieties disappeared as again he broke open the scriptures. What wonder, what joy, what utter glorious jubilation. He has risen! He is here! All creation sings out its praise—Alleluia, alleluia.
Yet, in the euphoria of Easter, Jesus breaks open the word among us today. The plan is still in motion, working its way to completion, and we now take up the earthly place of our risen Lord. We are his hands and feet, his heart, his mercy, and his compassion. The time of fulfillment is always upon us.
Mystically, Jesus still suffers in our world. We only need to open the newspaper and read the headlines, open our eyes, and look around—see. The difference for us today is the lens of Christianity; we are a people of hope. In recognizing Jesus in the breaking of the bread, we see hope in his promises. Can we be present to those who suffer today? Yes, we can! Can we vigil with them or relieve their burdens in any way? Yes, we can! We can do all things through the Holy Spirit who inspires us and touches our hearts with the power of the love of Jesus Christ.
May this Easter season fill us with the joy of our risen Lord. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.