Grace to you!
On this third Sunday of Easter, we reflect on the fifth appearance of Jesus to his disciples after his resurrection. The event is described in the Gospel of Luke 24: 35-48. The Gospel of John 20:19-23 reports the same story with a few other details, such as when the Lord gave the apostles the power to forgive sins.
Here is the setting: Cleopas and another person whose name was not given, hurried back from Emmaus after Jesus had appeared to them and had a long conversation with them. They hear the disciples share the news that Jesus appeared to many people, including Simon. They shared their own story too, relating how they recognized Jesus by the breaking of bread (a pointer to the Eucharist). (Lk 24:35).
They were still sharing their joy when the Lord Jesus appeared to all of them. Read how the Gospel of Luke describes the event: “As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to You.” (Lk 24:36).
This visit of the Lord is unique in many ways. It has so many details that are fascinating. How the Lord encouraged the apostles not to doubt what they have seen. How he showed them his hands and feet that were pierced and asked them to touch him.
It narrates also how the Lord proved he was alive and not simply a ghost, and how he asked the disciples for physical food. They gave him a piece of baked fish, which he ate in their sight; how he finally opened their minds to understand the deeper biblical truth that he is alive indeed and that he is the fulfilment of the prophesies in the Old Testament. He is the reparation for our sins and the sins of the world (1 Jn 2:2). In him and through him, many receive divine forgiveness. He also told them they are to bear witness to all they have seen.
The Lord’s visit and his message of peace must have been a source of inspiration. The Lord comes at the right time and he joins in our conversation at the perfect time.
He is in our midst to confirm our faith and our testimony about him. He encourages us and frees us from fear and doubt.
The Lord may not appear in physical form anymore as he did to the first witnesses. He can if he chooses to do so. However, he has chosen to appear to us in everyday life through the normal events of life.
I see Christ every day when I have the privilege of breaking the bread, celebrating the Eucharist. In the Eucharist I see his face and welcome his real presence. He speaks and smiles and cuddles me. Sometimes, I startle for joy, but many times I’m speechless at the warmth of his love.
I hear him through the pages of Scripture. In it he maps out for me the way and grace of fullness of life.
I see him when I go to confession. I hear his words through the mouth of his priest that remind me that my sins are forgiven. “Do not be afraid.” “Go in peace….”
I see him in the people I meet in the workplace, at home, on the streets and at recreational centers. I hear his voice whisper to me what I should do when I see the sick, the poor, the despairing immigrant, the marginalized, those in prison, the suffering and the depressed.
I hear him loud and clear as I enjoy my meal with friends; and then, suddenly, I feel the need to act to provide a good meal for someone who doesn’t have the same privilege I have.
I see Jesus in our midst every day. I hear his voice. I gaze on his face. My neighbor is a signpost of the face of Jesus closest to me.
On this third week of Easter, I pray we see the Risen Lord in our midst, in the everyday life. May we celebrate each moment as a touch of his presence.
Pray: Open my eyes Lord, to see you and listen to you speak to me in the ordinary events of life so that I can be an audacious witness of your love. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Third Sunday of Easter B: Act 3:13-15, 17-19; 1 Jn 2:1-5A; Lk 24:35-48]
Grace to you and Happy Easter!
The Greeks of ancient times were remarkable in their search for knowledge. Centuries before the modern mind could pride itself in liberal thought and beliefs, it was already part of their culture. Athens was the hub of that culture. Areopagus was the stage upon which the best of human innovative ideas rallied in Athens.
The Athenians cherished Freedom of expression. It was granted to all, babblers or the articulate. No one was silenced in the public forum, not even one with news as strange to them as the resurrection. Anyone who thought he had something to say, especially what has not been said before, had the full attention of the curious Greeks.
Saint Paul found himself in Athens on the hill, Areopagus, where Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and other great Greek philosophers had sold their ideas to the people. He was actually brought to the stage by others who heard him speak about “some deity.” “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities,” some of them said (See. Acts 17:18).
From Paul we learn how to engage a culture and how not to engage a culture in terms of evangelization. Paul began by acknowledging the religious sense of the native people. “I see you are very religious.” Always a good strategy to adopt if we want to evangelize others, especially those who belong to another tradition or religion—begin with what is good in their culture.
For the best of Greek minds, belief in the supernatural was taken for granted. Their quest for more meaning in religion was not as to whether God exists but what type of god. Since they weren’t sure, their accommodating spirit made space for even an “unknown god.”
They gave room to accommodate their limitations. They didn’t want to miss anything. Observe that it was all about them searching for God. Paul comes with totally different news, and evangelizers should pay attention to it. One of the radical things about Christianity is that it is not humanity’s search for God, but God’s reaching out to humans. From the call of Abraham through the Prophets and the fullest of Divine Revelation in Christ, it was all about God drawing us to himself.
This news was different to the Athenians; more so, the news about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The latter they could not grasp at all. Hence, they invited Paul to come again on the next Sabbath.
In terms of evangelization, remaining at the level of what is common to the people (an understanding of God that doesn’t draw us to the deeper reality of God’s revelation of himself to us) isn’t the wisest tactic. It’s spiritually crippling. To walk and run, grow into spiritual maturity, we need to learn that faith is belief in what God did and is doing for us, not what we are doing for God. It’s being part of God’s plan even if it’s mind-blowing, as the Resurrection was to the Athenians. I will show you, starting tomorrow, who makes the faith come alive. To preempt, it’s the Holy Spirit.
Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, give me grace to appreciate your love for me for which I can have a relationship with you. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Easter Weekday 6: Acts 17:15, 22-18:1; John 16:12-15]
Grace to you and Happy Easter!
Waiting rooms at heart hospitals are one of the most anxious places to be. As families and friends wait for the news of the diagnostics after a heart attack, the dominant moods are nothing to be desired. Ominous faces. Sad looks. Depressing spirits. Long silences.
“Is she going to be okay?” “Is everything going to be all right?” Questions fly back and forth, while some who may not have prayed in a long time dust their bibles, rosaries or other religious items and struggle to lift their hearts in prayers. Overall, waiting for the news after a heart attack is always tense.
Why is it the case? One of the reasons may be the gripping power of the sudden end of life and the fear that the worst could happen. Not even the stoics, those ancient philosophers who act as if they had no emotions, could stand the shock of hopelessness before the power of death or sudden change in the health situation for a loved one.
Suppose, the cardiologist comes with good news, “We caught it in time and after a few surgeries, she will be okay.” Faces are brightened and smiles take the stage. If the news isn’t so good, the doctor says, “It’s a rare case, I will advise you to keep hope alive while we do our best.”
You will observe family and friends holding on to different sources of hope. Providentially, a fellow patient walks out of the clinic after his routine check-up and observes the sullen faces of the family. He decides to find out what is going on. At first, nobody would talk, but when they realized he had been a heart attack survivor, they opened up to him.
He seemed more positive than the picture of the dooms day the family is painting. Gradually, he takes up the entire discussion, explaining that he is a survivor. “I have been there before. I survived it.” He goes on and on with details of how his case was so complicated, but by sheer hope, trust in God and the expertise of the doctors, he lives to tell. He had eight surgeries in the process.
Suddenly the faces of the listening family members brighten up. The witness of this survivor was reassuring. At least they know, first hand, that it’s possible their family member can survive this.
As you think about the story, which I have seen over and over again in real life-situations, reflect on the Gospel of John 14:1-6. Jesus reassures his disciples: “Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1).
The disciples were worried he was leaving them. They were worried he predicted the betrayals against him. They were worried of what will become of their hope in his messiaship. They were worried about so many other things, just as many of us are worried about health, food, the bills, the future, etc.
The ultimate answer to human worries comes from the one who has been there before us, and has come back to tell us the Good News. The answer is faith in God, faith in Jesus. Believing in God, and his Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life is journeying on the wings of providence triumphantly through the gallows of worries. There is sufficient room for us in God, where we can rest.
God Love you. God Bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Friday Easter Week 4: Act 13:26-33; Jn 14:1-6]
Grace to you and Happy Easter
Do you want to know how the early Church handled the issue of discrimination? Read Acts of the Apostles chapters 10 to 15. There you will find how the Christian mission is one that knocks down the walls of hostility among people, providing opportunities for true reconciliation with God.
As St. Paul said, “Christ has broken down the walls of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).
Let me share a portion of the story. It has to do with the bold action that Peter, the leader of the Church, the first Pope, took in response to God’s call for universal mission against those who thought Christianity was a tribal religion. We find the story in Acts 10 but Peter used it as a defense against discrimination in Acts 11:1-18.
It’s the famous story of the vision God showed Peter of unclean animals, asking him to kill and eat. Peter objected on religious grounds: “I have never eaten anything unclean.”
God replied, “You shall not call unclean what I have cleaned” (see Acts 11:9).
Peter understood the message when three men from Caesarea came, asking him to visit the family of Cornelius, a gentile’s household. (Jews then wanted nothing to do with the gentiles.) He didn’t hesitate and went with them. There, in Cornelius’s house, the Holy Spirit descended on the people, the gentiles, as he did the disciples on the day of Pentecost. Peter understood they were equally chosen as “we were” though they weren’t Jews.
This story sheds light on the universal mission of Christianity. It, equally, reveals how we should relate to each other as believers. Many times, we carry our tribal, ethnic or cultural sentiments into our worship of God. Many times we do not allow the Holy Spirit to break the walls of hostility between us. However, whenever we do, there is much healing and peace.
There is freedom in “Color blindness.” I do not mean the medical situation of vision problems, but being really blind to the color of people’s skin. It saves us from a lot of anxiety and stress. Relating with each other as God’s children is the way Jesus has called us to live.
Once I finished ministering to a group of people. A woman walked up to me and said, “God has used you to heal me of the wounds of hate which I have carried for years. A black man abused my daughter and I have since developed deep-seated hatred for people of color, and shudder wherever I see a black man. As I came in for this seminar and as the talks went on, it was like God was renewing my heart, bringing healing to the wounds. Thanks for being the agent of my healing.”
She hugged me, while still in tears.
I bet she had never shaken the hands of a black man after the terrible thing that happened to her daughter, let alone having a prolonged, sobbing hug. God bless her. I pray for healing for all in similar situations.
There is freedom in breaking the walls. This is not simply about racial discrimination. It’s also about all forms of discrimination, tribal, ethnic, cultural and political that cause hostility among us.
May this message bring us much peace and freedom, as we live the Christian message of freedom for all— repentance, reconciliation available for all in Christ, the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for many.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Monday, Easter Week 4: Acts 11”1-18; John 10:1-10]
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.