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Reflection on the Third Sunday of Easter

Posted on April 18, 2021, by Eleanor Craig SL


Acts 3:13-19    1 John 2:1-5    Luke 24:35-48


Sometimes thoughts and prayers just don’t come together to make a good homily. Today is one of those days. After a strong start, what I have to offer are just a few hints and fragments.

 As we listened to this morning’s Gospel, did you find yourself envying the disciples? There they are, secluded with Jesus, as though in a modern-day retreat at Gethsemani or Snowmass, under the guidance of the best of teachers. This retreat is far better than the many talks Jesus had given them during his years of preaching, when he spoke in parables to large unruly crowds. In this small and intimate gathering Jesus tells everything clearly; he lays bare for them the full story of salvation beginning with the prophets. Jesus’ purpose is to allay the disciples’ mistrust, doubt, disbelief; and to bring them up to date with the startling and disorienting changes brought about by his death, but especially by his resurrection. Thomas may have embarrassed himself by blurting out his disbelief, but the truth is that all the disciples need to be convinced.  They want to know that Jesus lives and they want to know what it means. Like them, we want to know that Jesus lives, and want to be able to live securely in that reality. Would that we, too, could have Jesus himself in our midst to teach us.

Like Jesus’ first disciples, we face plenty of challenges to our faith. The amazing reality of Easter Sunday all too quickly fades into Monday morning blandness. The astonishing word that Jesus is alive can get lost in the clamor of TV news and dinner table gossip. And the ever-present, apparently ever-growing injustices in our world challenge the very notion that God’s loving presence can prevail.  

In John’s Epistle we find the assertion that knowing the risen Jesus and living his commandments are intertwined. To have one is to do the other.  Jesus told us himself: I am the Way. John further asserts that living Jesus’ commands, following his Way is to live in the love of God. So, knowing, following and loving weave together in a kind of dance of faith. In this daily dance of following in his Way and loving as he loves, a felt sense of Jesus’ risen presence may awake in us, and we may know that Jesus lives, sometimes.

  • The persistent tenderness of a soup kitchen worker may help us know that the Christ lives in those being served and in the servers. During the years I lived in Kansas City, four and sometimes six of our Community Group cooked weekly at the Catholic Worker house and at an AIDS house. Observing their service and the loving manner of it, I was challenged to see as they saw, that every life is a precious Presence.
  • Thomas Merton wrote of a compelling moment of revelation: “In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. ….There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. …If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time.”
  • When momentarily or in a lasting way we become aware of the Ineffable God in the natural world, when we encounter someone acting in a godly way to transform hurt and pain, to lift up beauty and joy, we have discovered God’s living Christ.

 Luke’s Gospel describes an intimate moment when the disciples are taught by the risen Jesus.  But perhaps the passage is not meant literally. Perhaps the passage is a kind of compressed history of the early decades of the Christian experience. Over time, Jesus’ disciples and their disciples struggled to come to terms with the startling and disorienting challenge to their faith brought about by the resurrection of Jesus. Most certainly their efforts to understand were communal affairs, when they gathered to share Scripture and prayer and a meal, and lift the bread and cup in memory of Jesus. Today’s Gospel reading begins with the final sentence of the Emmaus story.  It reminds us that the touchstone of understanding for the disciples, the way that they recognized the risen Christ, was as he revealed himself time and again in the breaking of the bread. This is a good reminder and a reassurance for us that we do, indeed, have the teacher in our midst.

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Eleanor Craig SL

Eleanor has been a Sister of Loretto since 1963 and an educator since birth. She graduated from two of Loretto's best known St. Louis institutions, Nerinx Hall High School in 1960, and Webster University in 1967. She taught mathematics at Loretto in Kansas City, where her personal passion for adventure history inspired her to develop and lead treks along the historic Oregon Trail. From 1998 to 2010 she created an award-winning program of outdoor adventure along the Western trails for teens who are visually impaired. Eleanor claims to have conducted more wagon trains to the West than the Mountain Men! From 2012 to 2021, Eleanor led a talented staff of archivists and preservationists at the Loretto Heritage Center on the grounds of the Motherhouse. She recently retired, but still serves in the Heritage Center as Loretto Community Historian.