The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
in whom we know the power of redemption,
you stand among us in the shadows of our time.
As we move through every sorrow and trial of this life,
uphold us with knowledge of the final morning
when, in the glorious presence of your risen Son,
we will share in his resurrection,
redeemed and restored to the fullness of life
and forever freed to be your people.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
May your people exult for ever, O God,
in renewed youthfulness of spirit,
so that, rejoicing now in the restored glory of our adoption,
we may look forward in confident hope
to the rejoicing of the day of resurrection.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
Peter said to the people:
“The God of Abraham,
the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus,
whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence
when he had decided to release him.
You denied the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
The author of life you put to death,
but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.
Now I know, brothers,
that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did;
but God has thus brought to fulfillment
what he had announced beforehand
through the mouth of all the prophets,
that his Christ would suffer.
Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 952 “They had everything in common.”1 “Everything the true Christian has is to be regarded as a good possessed in common with everyone else. All Christians should be ready and eager to come to the help of the needy. .. and of their neighbors in want.”2 A Christian is a steward of the Lord’s goods.3
CCC 995 To be a witness to Christ is to be a “witness to his Resurrection,” to “[have eaten and drunk] with him after he rose from the dead.”4 Encounters with the risen Christ characterize the Christian hope of resurrection. We shall rise like Christ, with him, and through him.
CCC 2790 Grammatically, “our” qualifies a reality common to more than one person. There is only one God, and he is recognized as Father by those who, through faith in his only Son, are reborn of him by water and the Spirit.5 The Church is this new communion of God and men. United with the only Son, who has become “the firstborn among many brethren,” she is in communion with one and the same Father in one and the same Holy Spirit.6 In praying “our” Father, each of the baptized is praying in this communion: “The company of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”7
1 Acts 4:32.
2 Roman Catechism 1, 10, 27.
3 Cf. Lk 16:1, 3.
4 Acts 1:22; 10:41; cf. 4:33.
5 Cf. 1 Jn 5:1; Jn 3:5.
6 Rom 8:29; Cf. Eph 4:4-6.
7 Acts 4:32.
In the early days of the Church in Jerusalem the resurrection was the topic of conversation among the friends and enemies of Jesus. The latter did their best to deny the fact, but in vain; the followers of Jesus kept claiming that it was a fact, and worked miracles in proof of that claim. In today’s reading the cure of the cripple-from-birth is one such miracle. Peter worked this miracle ” in the name (that is, the person and power) of Jesus of Nazareth (3: 6), whom the God of the Jews had glorified and had raised from the dead.” If Christ had been an impostor, as the Pharisees and scribes had stated (Mt. 27: 63), God would not have raised him from the dead and glorified him. Before a large gathering in the temple precincts in Jerusalem, Peter makes this claim only a few weeks after Christ’s death on the cross. The people were impressed. In spite of the opposition of their leaders the number of Jews who became followers of Christ increased daily, “the total number of whom had now risen to something like five thousand” (see 4: 4, the same day this miracle took place). This was a large percentage of the inhabitants of Jerusalem at that time.
No true Christian can have the slightest doubt about the fact of the resurrection of Jesus. The growth of the infant Church in Jerusalem and in Gentile lands is sufficient proof of it. Men and women do not attach themselves to one who has failed, nor do they take on a new and demanding form of life without sufficient conviction. Yet, there are men and women who, like the leaders of the Jews, still refuse to open their eyes to the light and who shut their minds against the most convincing evidence. Such people need help. One of the best ways of showing how grateful we are for the true faith is a willingness and eagerness to spread that faith to our fellowman. Christ became man for them too, he died on the cross for their sakes, and God the Father raised him from the dead so that they too may rise in glory one day. As true Christians, and true lovers of Christ, it is our duty to give a helping hand to those brothers of ours who are sorely in need of help.
However, you may say: “What can we do; we are not missionaries nor preachers? We are not theologically equipped to enter into dialog and convince unbelievers.” The fact is, that without becoming missionaries, preachers or theologians every Christian can act as a missionary, or preacher, or theologian without leaving his home and employment and without opening a book. The Christian who prays often and fervently for his fellowman and who lives his Christian life to the full, is a preacher and a missionary wherever he lives and works. In his daily actions he is showing forth Christ. His abounding faith and charity, his unshakable hope in the eternal future which awaits him, will do more to enlighten the mind and will of unbelievers than all the skill of preachers and all the theology of great writers.
Are we not grateful to God and Christ? We are convinced that heaven is the pearl of great price compared with which everything this world has to offer is but as a grain of sand to the desert. We know that God wants all his adopted children in heaven. For that purpose we know that Christ humbled himself even to the death of the cross. We know also that Christ is counting on us to help him to bring them to heaven. Would we refuse him this return for all he has done for us? Would we be true Christians who love God above all things if we did not love our neighbor as ourselves? We want heaven for ourselves; we must want it for them too. Through the grace and mercy of God our prayers and the good example of our Christian lives will be the means of converting many sinners and unbelievers to Christ. He in turn will reward them and us with eternal life.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 438 Jesus’ messianic consecration reveals his divine mission, “for the name ‘Christ’ implies ‘he who anointed’, ‘he who was anointed’ and ‘the very anointing with which he was anointed’. The one who anointed is the Father, the one who was anointed is the Son, and he was anointed with the Spirit who is the anointing.’”1 His eternal messianic consecration was revealed during the time of his earthly life at the moment of his baptism by John, when “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power”, “that he might be revealed to Israel”2 as its Messiah. His works and words will manifest him as “the Holy One of God”.3
CCC 591 Jesus asked the religious authorities of Jerusalem to believe in him because of the Father’s works which he accomplished.4 But such an act of faith must go through a mysterious death to self, for a new “birth from above” under the influence of divine grace.5 Such a demand for conversion in the face of so surprising a fulfillment of the promises6 allows one to understand the Sanhedrin’s tragic misunderstanding of Jesus: they judged that he deserved the death sentence as a blasphemer.7 The members of the Sanhedrin were thus acting at the same time out of “ignorance” and the “hardness” of their “unbelief”.8
CCC 597 The historical complexity of Jesus’ trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles’ calls to conversion after Pentecost.9 Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept “the ignorance” of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders.10 Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd’s cry: “His blood be on us and on our children!”, a formula for ratifying a judicial sentence.11 As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council:
… [N]either all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion. .. [T]he Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture.12
CCC 599 Jesus’ violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but is part of the mystery of God’s plan, as St. Peter explains to the Jews of Jerusalem in his first sermon on Pentecost: “This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.”13 This Biblical language does not mean that those who handed him over were merely passive players in a scenario written in advance by God.14
CCC 600 To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of “predestination”, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace: “In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”15 For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness.16
CCC 601 The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of “the righteous one, my Servant” as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin.17 Citing a confession of faith that he himself had “received”, St. Paul professes that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.”18 In particular Jesus’ redemptive death fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering Servant.19 Indeed Jesus himself explained the meaning of his life and death in the light of God’s suffering Servant.20 After his Resurrection he gave this interpretation of the Scriptures to the disciples at Emmaus, and then to the apostles.21
CCC 612 The cup of the New Covenant, which Jesus anticipated when he offered himself at the Last Supper, is afterwards accepted by him from his Father’s hands in his agony in the garden at Gethsemani,22 making himself “obedient unto death”. Jesus prays: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. ..”23 Thus he expresses the horror that death represented for his human nature. Like ours, his human nature is destined for eternal life; but unlike ours, it is perfectly exempt from sin, the cause of death.24 Above all, his human nature has been assumed by the divine person of the “Author of life”, the “Living One”.25 By accepting in his human will that the Father’s will be done, he accepts his death as redemptive, for “he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”26
CCC 626 Since the “Author of life” who was killed27 is the same “living one [who has] risen”,28 the divine person of the Son of God necessarily continued to possess his human soul and body, separated from each other by death:
By the fact that at Christ’s death his soul was separated from his flesh, his one person is not itself divided into two persons; for the human body and soul of Christ have existed in the same way from the beginning of his earthly existence, in the divine person of the Word; and in death, although separated from each other, both remained with one and the same person of the Word.29
CCC 632 The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was “raised from the dead” presuppose that the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection.30 This was the first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ’s descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.31
CCC 635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”32 Jesus, “the Author of life”, by dying destroyed “him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.”33 Henceforth the risen Christ holds “the keys of Death and Hades”, so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”34
Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. .. He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him – He who is both their God and the son of Eve. .. “I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. .. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.”35
CCC 674 The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by “all Israel”, for “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” in their “unbelief” toward Jesus.36 St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.”37 St. Paul echoes him: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?”38 The “full inclusion” of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of “the full number of the Gentiles”,39 will enable the People of God to achieve “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”, in which “God may be all in all”.40
CCC 1042 At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed:
The Church. .. will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ.41
CCC 2666 But the one name that contains everything is the one that the Son of God received in his incarnation: JESUS. The divine name may not be spoken by human lips, but by assuming our humanity The Word of God hands it over to us and we can invoke it: “Jesus,” “YHWH saves.”42 The name “Jesus” contains all: God and man and the whole economy of creation and salvation. To pray “Jesus” is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him.43
1 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3,18,3: PG 7/1, 934.
2 Acts 10:38; Jn 1:31.
3 Mk 1:24; Jn 6:69; Acts 3:14.
4 Jn 10:36-38.
5 Cf. Jn 3:7; 6:44.
6 Cf. Is 53:1.
7 Cf. Mk 3:6; Mt 26:64-66.
8 Cf. Lk 23 34; Acts 3: 17-18; Mk 3:5; Rom 11:25, 20.
9 Cf. Mk 15:11; Acts 2:23, 36; 3:13-14; 4:10; 5:30; 7:52; 10:39; 13:27-28; I Th 2:14-15.
10 Cf. Lk 23:34; Acts 3:17.
11 Mt 27:25; cf. Acts 5:28; 18:6.
12 NA 4.
13 Acts 2:23.
14 Cf. Acts 3:13.
15 Acts 4:27-28; cf. Ps 2:1-2.
16 Cf. Mt 26:54; Jn 18:36; 19:11; Acts 3:17-18.
17 Is 53:11; cf. 53:12; Jn 8 34-36; Acts 3:14.
18 1 Cor 15:3; cf. also Acts 3:18; 7:52; 13:29; 26:22-23.
19 Cf. Is 53:7-8 and Acts 8:32-35.
20 Cf. Mt 20:28.
21 Cf. Lk 24:25-27, 44-45.
22 Cf. Mt 26:42; Lk 22:20.
23 Phil 2:8; Mt 26:39; cf. Heb 5:7-8.
24 Cf. Rom 5:12; Heb 4:15.
25 Cf. Acts 3:15; Rev 1:17; Jn 1:4; 5:26.
26 1 Pt 224; cf. Mt 26:42.
27 Acts 3:15.
28 Lk 24:5-6.
29 St. John Damascene, De fide orth. 3, 27: PG 94, 1097.
30 Acts 3:15; Rom 8:11; I Cor 15:20; cf. Heb 13:20.
31 Cf. I Pt 3:18-19.
32 Jn 5:25; cf. Mt 12:40; Rom 10:7; Eph 4:9.
33 Heb 2:14-15; cf. Acts 3:15.
34 Rev 1:18; Phil 2:10.
35 Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday: PG 43, 440A, 452C; LH, Holy Saturday, OR.
36 Rom I 1:20-26; cf. Mt 23:39.
37 Acts 3:19-21.
38 Rom 11:15.
39 Rom 11:12, 25; cf. Lk 21:24.
40 Eph 4:13; I Cor 15:28.
41 LG 48; Cf. Acts 3:21; Eph 1:10; Col 1:20; 2 Pet 3:10-13.
42 Cf. Ex 3:14; 33: 19-23; Mt 1:21.
43 Rom 10:13; Acts 2:21; 3:15-16; Gal 2:20.
Ps 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9
(7a) Lord, let your face shine on us.
When I call, answer me, O my just God,
you who relieve me when I am in distress;
have pity on me, and hear my prayer!
Lord, let your face shine on us.
Know that the LORD does wonders for his faithful one;
the LORD will hear me when I call upon him.
Lord, let your face shine on us.
O LORD, let the light of your countenance shine upon us!
You put gladness into my heart.
Lord, let your face shine on us.
As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep,
for you alone, O LORD,
bring security to my dwelling.
Lord, let your face shine on us.
1 Jn 2:1-5a
My children, I am writing this to you
so that you may not commit sin.
But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous one.
He is expiation for our sins,
and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.
The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep
Those who say, “I know him,” but do not keep his commandments
are liars, and the truth is not in them.
But whoever keeps his word,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 519 All Christ’s riches “are for every individual and are everybody’s property.”1 Christ did not live his life for himself but for us, from his Incarnation “for us men and for our salvation” to his death “for our sins” and Resurrection “for our justification”.2 He is still “our advocate with the Father”, who “always lives to make intercession” for us.3 He remains ever “in the presence of God on our behalf, bringing before him all that he lived and suffered for us.”4
CCC 605 At the end of the parable of the lost sheep Jesus recalled that God’s love excludes no one: “So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”5 He affirms that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many”; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us.6 The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.”7
CCC 606 The Son of God, who came down “from heaven, not to do [his] own will, but the will of him who sent [him]”,8 said on coming into the world, “Lo, I have come to do your will, O God.” “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”9 From the first moment of his Incarnation the Son embraces the Father’s plan of divine salvation in his redemptive mission: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.”10 The sacrifice of Jesus “for the sins of the whole world”11 expresses his loving communion with the Father. “The Father loves me, because I lay down my life”, said the Lord, “[for] I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”12
CCC 675 Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.13 The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth14 will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.15
CCC 692 When he proclaims and promises the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus calls him the “Paraclete,” literally, “he who is called to one’s side,” ad-vocatus.16 “Paraclete” is commonly translated by “consoler,” and Jesus is the first consoler.17 The Lord also called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth.”18
CCC 1460 The penance the confessor imposes must take into account the penitent’s personal situation and must seek his spiritual good. It must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed. It can consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear. Such penances help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all. They allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, “provided we suffer with him.”19
The satisfaction that we make for our sins, however, is not so much ours as though it were not done through Jesus Christ. We who can do nothing ourselves, as if just by ourselves, can do all things with the cooperation of “him who strengthens” us. Thus man has nothing of which to boast, but all our boasting is in Christ. .. in whom we make satisfaction by bringing forth “fruits that befit repentance.” These fruits have their efficacy from him, by him they are offered to the Father, and through him they are accepted by the Father.20
CCC 1720 The New Testament uses several expressions to characterize the beatitude to which God calls man:
– the coming of the Kingdom of God;21 – the vision of God: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”22
– entering into the joy of the Lord;23
– entering into God’s rest:24
There we shall rest and see, we shall see and love, we shall love and praise. Behold what will be at the end without end. For what other end do we have, if not to reach the kingdom which has no end?25
CCC 2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners.26 He is “able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”27 The Holy Spirit “himself intercedes for us. .. and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”28
1 John Paul II, RH II.
2 I Cor 15:3; Rom 4:25.
3 I Jn 2:1 Heb 7:25.
4 Heb 9:24.
5 Mt 18:14.
6 Mt 20:28; cf. Rom 5:18-19.
7 Council of Quiercy (853): DS 624; cf. 2 Cor 5:15; I Jn 2:2.
8 Jn 6:38.
9 Heb 10:5-10.
10 Jn 4:34.
11 1 Jn 2:2.
12 Jn 10:17; 14:31.
13 Cf. Lk 18:8; Mt 24:12.
14 Cf. Lk 21:12; Jn 15:19-20.
15 Cf. 2 Th 2:4-12; I Th 5:2-3; 2 Jn 7; I Jn 2:1 8, 22.
16 In 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7.
17 Cf. I Jn 2:1.
18 In 16:13.
19 Rom 8:17; Rom 3:25; 1 Jn 2:1-2; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1690.
20 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1691; cf. Phil 4:13; 1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17; Gal 6:14; Lk 3:8.
21 Cf. Mt 4:17.
22 Mt 5:8; cf. 1 Jn 2; 1 Cor 13:12.
23 Mt 25:21-23.
24 Cf. Heb 4:7-11.
25 St. Augustine, De civ. Dei 22, 30, 5: PL 41,804.
26 Cf. Rom 8:34; 1 Jn 2:1; 1 Tim 2:5-8.
27 Heb 7:25.
28 Rom 8:26-27.
It is a consolation for us to hear the saintly St. John, the beloved disciple, declare that any one of us, even the best of us, can sin. He loved God and fully realized what lengths God has gone to in order to share heaven with us. The very thought of offending God must have been something abhorrent, something detestable. Yet he knew that all Christians had not received as many graces as he had, and he, therefore, understood that their love could grow cold at times and that they could occasionally offend God. Coming from so great a saint as the beloved disciple, this understanding is consoling. He is but reflecting the mind of Christ, his Master, whom he loved so much. John had lived with Jesus for about three years. He saw how kindly he treated sinners.
The Mary Magdalenes of Galilee, the adultress of Jerusalem, the tax-collectors all over Palestine, were all treated with kindness and understanding. If they but asked for forgiveness, even if only indirectly, they were forgiven their sins. In the apostolic circle too, Jesus had been merciful and patient with his worldly-minded disciples. Many months after they had joined him, John himself and his brother James were angling for positions of power (and maybe wealth) in the earthly messianic kingdom which they thought he would set up (Mt. 20: 20). All the Apostles deserted Jesus when he was arrested in Gethsemane. That night Peter denied that he ever knew him. However, when they later realized their faults and repented they were freely forgiven. Even Judas would have been forgiven his act of betrayal had he but repented.
We sinners–and we are all sinners in many ways–are dealing with a forgiving God. What is more we have the forgiving Christ as our Advocate in heaven. Through his passion and cross he has already earned for us the right of forgiveness. On our part all that is needed is the humility to admit that we are sinners and the resolve to turn away from our sins. God and Christ will do the rest. Our Lord has left to his Church his sacrament of mercy. From a delegate empowered by Christ to do so, we can not only receive forgiveness for our sins but a declaration that they are forgiven us. This mercy of God and his divine Son should arouse in us a desire and urge to try to return a little bit of love for all that had been and is being done for our salvation. “Whoever keeps his word,” St. John says, “in him truly the love of God is perfected.” If we strive to keep the laws of God, if we try to live the Christian life, we will have the true love of God in us, we will be moving towards the state of perfection which will be ours in heaven.
Should some over-powering temptation, or some unexpected assault of the enemy make us lapse momentarily, we have the guarantee that God will accept us back, if we but avail ourselves of the means his mercy has placed so easily within our reach – sincere repentance and, where possible and as soon as possible, the placing of our sins at the feet of his representative in the sacrament of penance.
What earthly mother was ever so kind, so patient, so tolerant toward the children of her womb as our God in heaven is tolerant, patient, kind and merciful toward us his weak mortal children?
The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,
and how Jesus was made known to them
in the breaking of bread.
While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.
He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 108 Still, the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book.” Christianity is the religion of the “Word” of God, a word which is “not a written and mute word, but the Word is incarnate and living”.1 If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, “open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures.”2
CCC 112 1. Be especially attentive “to the content and unity of the whole Scripture”. Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.3
The phrase “heart of Christ” can refer to Sacred Scripture, which makes known his heart, closed before the Passion, as the Scripture was obscure. But the Scripture has been opened since the Passion; since those who from then on have understood it, consider and discern in what way the prophecies must be interpreted.4
CCC 572 The Church remains faithful to the interpretation of “all the Scriptures” that Jesus gave both before and after his Passover: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”5 Jesus’ sufferings took their historical, concrete form from the fact that he was “rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes”, who handed “him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified”.6
CCC 601 The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of “the righteous one, my Servant” as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin.7 Citing a confession of faith that he himself had “received”, St. Paul professes that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.”8 In particular Jesus’ redemptive death fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering Servant.9 Indeed Jesus himself explained the meaning of his life and death in the light of God’s suffering Servant.10 After his Resurrection he gave this interpretation of the Scriptures to the disciples at Emmaus, and then to the apostles.11
CCC 627 Christ’s death was a real death in that it put an end to his earthly human existence. But because of the union which the person of the Son retained with his body, his was not a mortal corpse like others, for “it was not possible for death to hold him” 12 13 and therefore “divine power preserved Christ’s body from corruption.” Both of these statements can be said of Christ: “He was cut off out of the land of the living”,14 and “My flesh will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let your Holy One see corruption.”15 Jesus’ resurrection “on the third day” was the sign of this, also because bodily decay was held to begin on the fourth day after death.16
CCC 641 Mary Magdalene and the holy women who came to finish anointing the body of Jesus, which had been buried in haste because the Sabbath began on the evening of Good Friday, were the first to encounter the Risen One.17 Thus the women were the first messengers of Christ’s Resurrection for the apostles themselves.18 They were the next to whom Jesus appears: first Peter, then the Twelve. Peter had been called to strengthen the faith of his brothers,19 and so sees the Risen One before them; it is on the basis of his testimony that the community exclaims: “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”20
CCC 644 Even when faced with the reality of the risen Jesus the disciples are still doubtful, so impossible did the thing seem: they thought they were seeing a ghost. “In their joy they were still disbelieving and still wondering.”21 Thomas will also experience the test of doubt and St. Matthew relates that during the risen Lord’s last appearance in Galilee “some doubted.”22 Therefore the hypothesis that the Resurrection was produced by the apostles’ faith (or credulity) will not hold up. On the contrary their faith in the Resurrection was born, under the action of divine grace, from their direct experience of the reality of the risen Jesus.
CCC 645 By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his Passion.23 Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ’s humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father’s divine realm.24 For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith.25
CCC 652 Christ’s Resurrection is the fulfillment of the promises both of the Old Testament and of Jesus himself during his earthly life.26 The phrase “in accordance with the Scriptures”27 indicates that Christ’s Resurrection fulfilled these predictions.
CCC 702 From the beginning until “the fullness of time,”28 the joint mission of the Father’s Word and Spirit remains hidden, but it is at work. God’s Spirit prepares for the time of the Messiah. Neither is fully revealed but both are already promised, to be watched for and welcomed at their manifestation. So, for this reason, when the Church reads the Old Testament, she searches there for what the Spirit, “who has spoken through the prophets,” wants to tell us about Christ.29
By “prophets” the faith of the Church here understands all whom the Holy Spirit inspired in the composition of the sacred books, both of the Old and the New Testaments. Jewish tradition distinguishes first the Law (the five first books or Pentateuch), then the Prophets (our historical and prophetic books) and finally the Writings (especially the wisdom literature, in particular the Psalms).30
CCC 999 How? Christ is raised with his own body: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself”;31 but he did not return to an earthly life. So, in him, “all of them will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear,” but Christ “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body,” into a “spiritual body”:32
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel. .. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. .. The dead will be raised imperishable. .. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality.33
CCC 1094 It is on this harmony of the two Testaments that the Paschal catechesis of the Lord is built,34 and then, that of the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church. This catechesis unveils what lay hidden under the letter of the Old Testament: the mystery of Christ. It is called “typological” because it reveals the newness of Christ on the basis of the “figures” (types) which announce him in the deeds, words, and symbols of the first covenant. By this re-reading in the Spirit of Truth, starting from Christ, the figures are unveiled.35 Thus the flood and Noah’s ark prefigured salvation by Baptism,36 as did the cloud and the crossing of the Red Sea. Water from the rock was the figure of the spiritual gifts of Christ, and manna in the desert prefigured the Eucharist, “the true bread from heaven.”37
CCC 1329 The Lord’s Supper, because of its connection with the supper which the Lord took with his disciples on the eve of his Passion and because it anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem.38
The Breaking of Bread, because Jesus used this rite, part of a Jewish meat when as master of the table he blessed and distributed the bread,39 above all at the Last Supper.40 It is by this action that his disciples will recognize him after his Resurrection,41 and it is this expression that the first Christians will use to designate their Eucharistic assemblies;42 by doing so they signified that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and form but one body in him.43
The Eucharistic assembly (synaxis), because the Eucharist is celebrated amid the assembly of the faithful, the visible expression of the Church.44
CCC 1347 Is this not the same movement as the Paschal meal of the risen Jesus with his disciples? Walking with them he explained the Scriptures to them; sitting with them at table “he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.”45
CCC 2625 In the first place these are prayers that the faithful hear and read in the Scriptures, but also that they make their own – especially those of the Psalms, in view of their fulfillment in Christ.46 The Holy Spirit, who thus keeps the memory of Christ alive in his Church at prayer, also leads her toward the fullness of truth and inspires new formulations expressing the unfathomable mystery of Christ at work in his Church’s life, sacraments, and mission. These formulations are developed in the great liturgical and spiritual traditions. The forms of prayer revealed in the apostolic and canonical Scriptures remain normative for Christian prayer.
CCC 2763 All the Scriptures – the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms – are fulfilled in Christ.47 The Gospel is this “Good News.” Its first proclamation is summarized by St. Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount;48 the prayer to our Father is at the center of this proclamation. It is in this context that each petition bequeathed to us by the Lord is illuminated:
The Lord’s Prayer is the most perfect of prayers… In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them.49
1 St. Bernard, S. missus est hom. 4, 11: PL 183, 86.
2 Cf. Lk 24:45.
3 Cf. Lk 24:25-27, 44-46.
4 St. Thomas Aquinas, Expos. in Ps. 21, 11; cf. Ps 22:14.
5 Lk 24:26-27,44-45.
6 Mk 8:31; Mt 20:19.
7 Is 53:11; cf. 53:12; Jn 8 34-36; Acts 3:14.
8 1 Cor 15:3; cf. also Acts 3:18; 7:52; 13:29; 26:22-23.
9 Cf. Is 53:7-8 and Acts 8:32-35.
10 Cf. Mt 20:28.
11 Cf. Lk 24:25-27, 44-45.
12 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 51, 3.
13 Acts 2:24.
14 Is 53:8.
15 Acts 2:26-27; cf. Ps 16:9-10.
16 Cf. I Cor 15:4; Lk 24:46; Mt 12:40; Jon 2:1; Hos 6:2; cf. Jn 11:39.
17 Mk 16:1; Lk 24:1; Jn 19:31,42.
18 Cf Lk 24:9-10; Mt 28:9-10; Jn 20:11-18.
19 Cf I Cor 15:5; Lk 22:31-32.
20 Lk 24:34, 36.
21 Lk 24:38-41.
22 Cf Jn 20:24-27; Mt 28:17.
23 Cf. Lk 24:30,39-40, 41-43; Jn 20:20, 27; 21:9,13-15.
24 Cf. Mt 28:9, 16-17; Lk 24:15, 36; Jn 20:14, 17, 19, 26; 21:4.
25 Cf. Mk 16:12; Jn 20:14-16; 21:4, 7.
26 Cf. Mt 28:6; Mk 16:7; Lk 24:6-7, 26-27, 44-48.
27 Cf. I Cor 15:3-4; cf. the Nicene Creed.
28 Gal 4:4.
29 Cf. 2 Cor 3:14; Jn 5:39, 46.
30 Cf. Lk 24:44.
31 Lk 24:39.
32 Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 801; Phil 3:21; 2 Cor 15:44.
33 1 Cor 15:35-37,42,52,53.
34 Cf. DV 14-16; Lk 24:13-49.
35 Cf. 2 Cor 3:14-16.
36 Cf. 1 Pet 3:21.
37 Jn 6:32; cf. 1 Cor 10:1-6.
38 Cf. 1 Cor 11:20; Rev 19:9.
39 Cf. Mt 14:19; 15:36; Mk 8:6, 19.
40 Cf. Mt 26:26; 1 Cor 11:24.
41 Cf. Lk 24:13-35.
42 Cf. Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11.
43 Cf. 1 Cor 10:16-17.
44 Cf. 1 Cor 11:17-34.
45 Cf. Lk 24:13-35.
46 Cf. Lk 24:27, 44.
47 Cf. Lk 24:44.
48 Cf. Mt 5-7.
49 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II, 83, 9.
Our Lord’s glorious resurrection is the crowning miracle of his sojourn on earth among men. It is the foundation and cornerstone of our Christian religion. His death on Calvary proved that he was really human; his resurrection proved he was also divine. During his public life he had claimed to be God. Had that claim been untrue God the Father could not have raised him from the dead. By his death he made atonement for the sins of the world–“he nailed them to the tree of the cross”; by his resurrection he opened the gates of death for all men and made them heirs to the eternal life.
We need hardly delay to prove the fact of the resurrection of Christ, for without it there would have been no Christianity, no Christian Church. In the story of the appearance which precedes today’s Gospel, we are told how two of Christ’s disciples were so depressed and disorientated by his death that they were giving up all interest in the dead Master and were returning home at the first opportunity (the Sabbath, Saturday, had intervened and they could not travel on that day). The Apostles were no better since Good Friday. They had remained behind locked doors for fear of the Jews. They had no hope left. They too would have left Jerusalem that Sunday were it not for the story brought by Mary Magdalene that Christ’s body had been taken from the tomb. When the risen Christ appeared to the ten Apostles (Thomas was absent) they thought he was a ghost, so far were their thoughts from a possible resurrection.
When the truth sank into their minds, however, they became changed men. After Pentecost day they fearlessly proclaimed to the Jews, of whom they had been frightened, that Christ whom those same Jews had crucified, had risen and was now glorified by the Father. Thousands of Jews in Jerusalem had come to believe in Christ, because they were convinced he had risen and was the Messiah and the Son of God, as he claimed to be. The four Evangelists testify to the truth of the resurrection and we have the exceptional witness of St. Paul whose radical change of life can have only one explanation – he saw the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.
Of the fact of the resurrection we can have no doubts; Christianity is inexplicable without it, and Christianity has existed for more than two thousand years. A more important point for consideration today is what this resurrection means to us. “If Christ has not risen,” says St. Paul (1 Cor. 15: 17), “vain is your faith, for you are still in your sins.” But “Christ has risen from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Our faith then is not in vain, for the founder and foundation of our faith is the Word of God who cannot deceive or be deceived, and his resurrection is the guarantee of our resurrection. He is the “first fruits,” the earnest of the full harvest that was to follow after our earthly death. We shall all rise again, in glory if we have been faithful during our time on earth, in a less pleasant state, if we have not followed Christ here below.
Human life has always been the great enigma for philosophers down through the ages. The resurrection of Christ, which causes and guarantees our resurrection, is the one and only explanation of that enigma. If death were the end of man, with all his gifts of intellect and will; if the grave were to enclose forever this noble being whom God has raised above all other earthly creatures and has endowed with super-mundane gifts and aspirations, then indeed man’s sojourn on earth would be an inexplicable enigma. But the gifts God gave to man were not simply to help him to make a precarious living and enjoy a fleeting happiness, interspersed with much sadness, for sixty, seventy or even a hundred years. No, they were intended to last for eternity and to reach their real fruition in eternity.
With St. Paul then, we may well sing out today : “O death where is thy victory, O death where is thy sting? … thanks be to God who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15: 55-57). Yes, Easter time is a time of rejoicing for every true Christian. It is a time for Alleluias, for praising and thanking God. Our happy future is within our reach. Our eternal happiness has been won for us by Christ and is within our grasp, if only we hold fast to the true faith of Christ, taking the rough with the smooth, going through our lesser Gethsemanes and Calvaries as Christ went through his great ones. If we do this we can hopefully await the angel who will roll back the stone from our grave one day, and allow us to enter into the glory of the eternal Easter in heaven.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.
Giving Form to Fellowship
The most beautiful portrayal of the way we are traveling is offered by Luke in the story of the disciples going to Emmaus. This is traveling together with Christ the living Word, who interprets for us the written word, the Bible, and turns that into the path, the path along which our heart starts to burn and thus our eyes are finally opened: Scripture, the true tree of knowledge, opens our eyes for us if at the same time we are eating of Christ, the tree of life. Then we become truly able to see, and then we are truly alive. Three things belong together on this path: the fellowship of the disciples, the Scriptures, and the living presence of Christ. Thus, this journey of the disciples to Emmaus is at the same time a description of the Church – a description of how knowledge that touches on God grows and deepens. This knowledge becomes a fellowship with one another; it ends up with the Breaking of Bread, in which man becomes God’s guest and God becomes man’s host. Christ is not someone we can have for ourselves alone. He leads us, not just to God, but to each other. That is why Christ and the Church belong together, just as the Church and the Bible belong together. Giving actual form to this great fellowship in the concrete individual fellowships of diocese, of parish, of ecclesial movements, is and remains the central task of the Church, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It must become possible to experience this fellowship as a pilgrim fellowship with our cares, with the Word of God, and with Christ, and it has to lead us onward to the gift of the Sacrament.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy. Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy.