Reflection on the Readings at Mass for the 3rd Sunday of Easter – Year A. The Liturgical Sense of the Scriptures Podcast, by Catholic Author and Theologian David L. Gray.
The Liturgy of the Catholic Mass is Unique, Exceptional, and Extraordinarily Transformative
For the Third Sunday of Easter, we have received a collection of readings that point to one of the most profound truths about our faith; that Our Lord Jesus Christ’s life with us was a singular, unique, exceptional, and extraordinarily transformative event. There was no one like him and nor will there ever be, because everything that our Eternal Father needed to communicate to us through His Son had been spoken and there would never need to be another sacrifice for the redemption of our sins. Related to this profound truth is also this profound reality; that, because the liturgy communicates the fullness of Christ Jesus, the liturgy, therefore is also a unique, exceptional, and extraordinarily transformative event.
At Pentecost, after the Apostles had been filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, there was some confusion amongst some of them, concerning how this be that they were from different nations and different tongues but were able to understand each other. The text from Acts 2:10-13 states, “They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, “What does this mean?” But others said, scoffing, “They have had too much new wine.” This is where today’s First Reading from Acts 2:14, 22-33 picks up saying, “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them, “You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.” Unfortunately, the reading for today skips over Peter’s attempt at humor in the next verse where he says, “These people are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.” In other words, say what you want about us followers of Jesus, but we don’t get drunk in the morning. But you had to know there was someone in the crowd who yelled back at Peter, saying, ‘It’s 5 o’clock somewhere in the world.’ But the First Reading picks back up with Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost in verse 22, with Peter still speaking in raised voice, saying, “Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it.” Peter then goes on to point to how the earthly kingship of David has been fulfilled in the eternal kingship of his descendant, Jesus of Nazareth.
The first thing to notice about Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost is how he uses the prophecies of Joel and David to communicate to his hearer how the coming of Christ was singular, unique, exceptional, and extraordinarily transformative. There may have never been a more impactful sermon in all of Christian history than this one. The second thing to notice about it was how bad Peter’s tone was. Peter would be crucified on social media today for speaking like this. Not only was he speaking in a raised voice, but he is directly speaking at people, saying ‘you Jews, you Israelites – you are the ones who used lawless men to crucify Jesus.’ The text in verse 37 then says, “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?” Here, Peter could have calmed down and changed his tone and told them to just be good persons and to treat others like you want to be treated or could have invited them to the R.C.I.A. program they were holding Wednesdays in the upper room for more information, but no, he is inspired by the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sins, saying, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.” The next verses tell us that Peter had testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation,” and that those who accepted Peter’s message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.
I find that is the correct response to whenever we do not water down how singular, unique, exceptional, and extraordinarily transformative our faith is, because we were given this faith directly from the hand of God. It is hard to imagine why we go through such imaginative attempts to water down something so good as this. We are more concerned today about our tone than we are about the truth.
Today’s Second Reading from First Peter 1:17-21 continues the theme of exhorting of how Christ Jesus and our religion is singular, unique, exceptional, and extraordinarily transformative. Here the author; most likely the Apostle Peter, exhorts us to believe that one motivation for us to conduct ourselves in reverence is because we should have an awareness of the fact that we were ransomed by Christ from our futile life that we were living heretofore; a futile life that was handed onto us by our ancestors, and that we were ransomed from that life not by our own works or material possession of our own, such as silver or gold, “but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb,” who was “known before the foundation of the world but revealed in the final time for you.”
Luke is the only Gospel which contains the narrative about Jesus encountering two of His disciples traveling to Emmaus, and that is our Gospel Reading for today, from 24:13-35. There are so many different topics we could converse about in this narrative, but sticking with the theme of this collection of readings, let us focus on the transformative moment. Recall back in the first reading when after they heard Peter’s Sermon, “they were cut to the heart.” Now, while Jesus sat with them at table, the text says, “he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and with that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. 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?” The hearers at Pentecost were cut to the heart after hearing Peter opening the Scriptures, and now these two disciple’s hearts were burning after Jesus opened the Scriptures. Those whose hearts were cut went on to be Baptized, and these two disciples whose hearts were burning went to share their testimony with the disciples. Both of these accounts sound like extraordinarily transformative encounters. We should also note her how the journey to Emmaus was very liturgical. There were Scriptural readings, a homily by Jesus to the disciples, a prayer and blessings, a type of communion meal, and a dismissal.
Truly our faith, our religion, and our liturgy truly communicate all of Jesus Christ, the Word of the God in the flesh, who will come again in the flesh, and who comes to us daily in flesh and blood under the guise of bread and wine. There is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about the fact that our faith, religion, and liturgy is so unique, exceptional, and extraordinarily transformative, because they are that way because our redeemer, Christ Jesus is same, yet he is also singular. Therefore, let us not be shy or hesitant about being like Saint Peter in this way and sharing this truth in our words and in the example of our life.
This is just one way how the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the liturgy.