Through scripture we will know Jesus
As Christians, scripture should be the heart and soul of our lives
April 14, 2002, Third Sunday of Easter
By Fr. Richard Ver Bust
In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter presents the basics of the kerygma or message of good news. It announces that it is the time of the fulfillment of God's promises. It summarizes what Christ did in preaching the kingdom of God and how his ministry ended in his suffering and death. Peter says this all happened according to what the Old Testament said would take place and, therefore, Christ fulfilled what it promised. Finally, Peter calls all to respond to this message by a change of heart and direction and, therefore, to accept Christ.
We learn that Christ performed mighty deeds, wonders and signs that indicated that God was with him. The leaders of the people were responsible for his death in an alliance with the Romans. God gave a sign of approval of his ministry by raising him from the dead. Even that was foretold in the words of the great king David. Peter emphasizes that he and the other disciples are witnesses to the resurrection. God, through Jesus, has sent his Spirit and those who are present have seen signs of this coming of the Spirit.
Our psalm refrain tells us of the trust and confidence of the composer of this song. He speaks of his utter trust in this one God and does so because God has made a covenant with the people of Israel. With confidence and gladness the psalmist sings of his rescue from death through the action of God. The psalm leads us to the teachings from the Letter of Peter. The author reminds us that salvation was won at great cost. He invokes the image of God as Father and tells the reader that because of this relationship with God we also have responsibilities to live as faithful children of our Father. He stresses that all these great events of Easter have happened because God willed it.
The Gospel acclamation builds upon the story of the Gospel and is a prayer that we should say frequently, "Lord Jesus, open the scripture to us, make our hearts burn while you speak to us." This might be our theme song, as Christians, for scripture should be the heart and soul of the Christian life. We hear these words spoken by the two disciples who accompanied Jesus on the way to Emmaus. It is one of the most powerful of all the resurrection stories. Luke told it and filled it with many important theological ideas. Certainly the power of the scriptures and of the breaking of the bread are central.
Emmaus may have been the hometown of these two disciples. It has often been suggested that the two are actually husband and wife. The village, we are told, was about seven miles from Jerusalem, an easy one-day journey. They do not recognize Jesus but they sense that this stranger might be a friend for they tell him that they were hoping that Jesus was really the expected messiah. Unlike the other disciples who are very fearful and, who we heard last week were in a locked room when Jesus appeared, they speak openly of what has happened and even of the rumors that he has risen.
Luke reminds us, as Jesus reminded, that scripture is the key to understanding God's actions. We hear how they recognized him in the act of breaking bread for Luke uses the very words of the Last Supper. The story teaches that it is through scripture that we will know Jesus and we will recognize him in our presence too when we share the Eucharist.
(Fr. Ver Bust holds the title of professor emeritus in religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)