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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Homily 4-20-2014 Easter Sunday - Peter and Paul

Pope Francis calls us to be missionary disciples, saying that every disciple has to be missionary.  In today's readings, we see two examples of such disciples in Saints Peter and Paul (who by the way are the two patrons of the Petrine ministry, since they both died for Christ in the city of Rome).  While these readings speak very powerfully of our Lord's Resurrection,  it might be helpful to reflect on them in their chronological order.  We start, then, in the Gospel, with Our Lord's empty tomb.  Just before today's section, Christ came and spoke to Mary Magdalene, someone who in the eyes of the world is little but is truly great and powerful because of her love for Jesus (seen especially in her faithfulness at the cross).  Mary brings that news to Peter, the Lord's first disciple and the representative leader of the Christian community.  Running to the tomb with the Beloved Disciple (John), Peter goes in the tomb and finds only cloths.  He is baffled, while the other disciple believes.
Then we can flash forward to Peter's Pentecost sermon, his bold proclamation as presented in the Acts of the Apostles.  Something has clearly changed in Peter.  Now he gets it.  What has happened?  The Lord has appeared to Simon, and to the other disciples, has spent 40 days with them, ascended to heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit upon them to drive them forth as witnesses to the Resurrection.
Three things outline the time Jesus spends with them accoring to Luke in Acts: he appears to them, he speaks to them, and he eats with them.  All three of these are essential to strengthening their faith that Jesus' Resurrection is absolutely real, so real that they will eventually speak with the boldness that Peter speaks today, that they will travel the world making disciples of all nations, and that they will all save John suffer death for Christ.  Appearing to them, Jesus shows himself as the same person (the wounds are there) but as now experiencing life on a different pitch (he will no longer die and can walk through walls).  Speaking to them, Jesus supports their faith, prepares them for their mission, and helps them to see the meaning of the scriptures (remember today's Gospel ends with “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”  Eating with them, the Lord binds Himself to them forever, re-affirming the covenant in His Blood that he established at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday.  This is why Peter can proclaim so boldly today.  His words will ring with importance for every time and place, and they are words we should let speak anew to our own heart.
Lastly we have Saint Paul, who today speaks of yeast and “the feast,” referring to the new Passover of Christ, the Lamb of God who has won forgiveness for our sins.  Paul asks, “Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough? Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough.”  Paul is saying that in Christ, who has risen from the dead, we ourselves are also transformed, since we have been united to Him in our Baptism.  The “old yeast” refers to sin and to the ways of the world that is passing away.  Let Jesus make you from scratch!  This is exactly what He did to St. Paul, who was transformed from the great persecutor of the Church into its most powerful witness to the Gentiles.  Jesus did this to 17 people last night at our Easter Vigil, and he did it to all of us through our Baptism.
But what does that mean for us?  This is exactly what the Easter Season is about: living the meaning of the Paschal Triduum more fully.  For the next 50 days, we celebrate our Lord's Resurrection and let Jesus encounter us in three ways, the same three ways that he did with the original disciples.  First, Jesus appears to us in the Christian community, for he said “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  Secondly, Jesus speaks to us in two ways: in our personal prayer lives, for he said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.” and in Sacred Scripture, for the Word of the Lord is none other than Jesus, so that Saint Jerome can say “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”  Finally, the Lord Jesus encounters us from this altar, where the sacrifice of Calvary is represented in the new and eternal covenant as He established at the Last Supper and lived those 40 days before returning to the Father.  In the Eucharist, we receive the Risen Body of our Lord Jesus, indeed that is the only Body of Christ there is to receive.  In this gift, as we are drawn into Him and united to each other through Him, let us beg of him to be witnesses like Saints Peter and Paul.

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