•Acts 3:13-15, 17-19 • 1 John 2:1-5a • Luke 24:35-48•
Scripture Readings: Third Sunday of Easter
We take it for granted and find it relatively easy to affirm that Christ is risen! (Truly he is risen!) It was not so simple for those first century companions of the Risen One. Whatever experience they had, it turned their lives and worldview upside-down! Confusion? Certainly. Even those who produced the written gospels four or five generations later were still confused and tried as we still try to clarify what it means to affirm that Christ is Risen! (Truly he is Risen!)
The final chapter in the gospel of Luke began with the disciple’s astonishment at the empty tomb. This immediately was followed by the encounter along the road to Emmaus. I presume you are well familiar with that story. The two Emmaus travelers returned excitedly to Jerusalem with hearts on fire. They shared their experience with the others, relating how they recognized the Risen One in the breaking of the bread.
Suddenly they were interrupted. They knew their friend Jesus had been crucified and died. Now here he was among them. It seemed too good to be true. “Look, touch me!” he said. “Do you have any food here?” “He took the piece of leftover fish and ate it right in front of them.” This was no ghost or vision. “A ghost does not have muscle or bone like this.”
His intimate friends had no interest in questions of physics or biology. They simply knew Christ is Risen! (Truly he is Risen!) They were convinced he was real. They were confused but convinced that Gracious Mystery we name God had affirmed Jesus, put a stamp of approval on him and his life. In various stories they shared their conviction with us. Now we, like our ancestors in faith, still try to clarify what it means to affirm that Christ is Risen! (Truly he is Risen!)
This leads us right back to the heart and soul of his life and teaching. In the first century the imperial power of Rome was pervasive throughout Palestine. The cross remains a stark reminder that the nonviolent Jesus and his companions experienced and understood the violence all empires need to uphold their power. It was in that dominant culture that the Risen One commissioned his friends and followers to continue his work.
According to Luke, the Risen One stood among his shocked and confused friends, and greeted them. “Peace be with you!” The presence of the Risen One then, and here and now among us, summons us to continue his work. “Shalom/ peace” means wholeness of life for all. Bringing, sharing, awakening “shalom/ peace” was the life work of Jesus of Nazareth, now extended to us.
Christ is Risen! (Truly he is Risen!) In those early post-resurrection years, as the Jesus Community developed, they looked to him as their brother, their hero to be imitated. Still today, if I name myself “Christian,” Jesus the Risen One is the measure of how authentic my professed name is. Every human person, every one of us (you) has the innate capacity to be like Jesus.
Ironically the Church eventually lost its way and embraced the very values against which Jesus had defined himself. Worship replaced imitation. The cross became the banner of the Crusades. Like everyone else in the dominant culture, Christians went off to war.
The II Vatican Council restored the opportunity for all of us to participate in the rite we call “The Sign of Peace.” For a brief moment we accept the call to be the Living Body of Christ; to reach out to others and intentionally commit self to promote peace/ shalom. Please never waste this sacred moment. This is not a time to visit or tell fishing stories. It is a sacred moment offered you to intentionally commit your self to bring the peace of Christ to family, friends, foes, the world.
In his most recent book, James Carroll poses a question. I invite you to ponder it. “If Jesus Christ was not a way to world peace and human brotherhood, then what good was he?” We each carry the answer within us. In that answer we express what it means to affirm that Christ is Risen! (Truly he is Risen!)