Jakarta, 30 April 2017
A Christian Pilgrim
THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD
(A biblical reflection on THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER [YEAR A], 30 April 2017)
Gospel Reading: Luke 24:13-35
First Reading: Acts 2:14,22-33; Psalms: Psalm 16:1-2,7-11; Second Reading: 1 Peter 1:17-21
The Scripture Text
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him. And He said to them, “What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, name Cleopas, answered Him, “Are You the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, ‘Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we had hoped that He was the One to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find His body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” And He said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.
So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So He went in to stay with them. When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:13-35 RSV)
Two of Jesus’ disciples were walking down a road when a stranger approached them and engaged them in a conversation. Later, the disciples managed to persuade the stranger to join them at dinner. During the meal the stranger took bread, blessed it, and gave it to them. Suddenly they realized the stranger was Jesus.
Throughout the history of Christianity, the breaking of the bread has been the most important sign of belief in Jesus. Despite great personal risk (being a Christian in the first century was illegal and was an offense punishable with death), the early Christians gathered at someone’s house before sunrise on the first day of the week to share a meal that included fruits, nuts, cheeses, bread, and wine. In the course of this meal, they read from Scriptures and recalled some of the things Jesus said and did but the most important action occurred when they took the bread, blessed it, and shared it with each other just as Jesus did with His apostles on the night before He died on the cross.
The breaking of the bread soon became a sign of the unity and fellowship of those who followed Jesus. Just as many grains of wheat are used to make flour and many grapes are needed to make wine, many different individuals come together to form the Christian community. Thus, sharing of the one loaf and drinking from the same cup became a visible expression of Christian unity (see Acts 2:41-42).
Historically, Christians haven’t always been as united as they should be. Disagreements over doctrine or discipline have led to splinter groups and factions that compete for converts and donations. In many ways, the unity expressed in the breaking of the bread is not a present day reality, but it is something we must continually strive for.
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, I want to know You more deeply. I want to hear Your voice in Scripture. I want to recognize You in the “breaking of the bread”, to see Your face in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. Come and show me Your ways so that I may have life. Amen.
Jakarta, 28 April 2017
A Christian Pilgrim
BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN AND YET BELIEVE
(A biblical refection on THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER [YEAR A] – 23 April 2017)
[SUNDAY OF DIVINE MERCY]
Gospel Reading: John 20:19-31
First Reading: Acts 24:42-47; Psalms: Psalm 118:2-4,13-15,22-24; Second Reading: 1Peter 1:3-9
The Scripture Text
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any they are retained.”
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But He said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe.”
Eight days later, His disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:19-31 RSV)
Our knowledge is so far from being absolute, and our information so limited, that we have to treat all data with humility. It is precisely with such humility that we must approach the scriptural accounts of Christ’s resurrection, and not with the kind of obstinacy shown by Apostle Thomas, who refused to believe until he had touched the wounds of Christ’s body.
Thomas failed in two ways: he wanted to verify the faith by physical means, and as well he was not prepared to accept what the rest of the Christian community had by now come to believe. However, we should never imagine that, because of visions of the risen Christ which all the Apostles were privileged to experience, the road to faith was an easier one for them than it is for us. Indeed Luke states quite clearly that when Christ, in the Upper Room, had shown them His hands and His feet, “they still thought it was too good to be true”. It was not only Thomas who doubted. They all had to grapple with the question of what really had occurred (see Luke 24:36-41). And their message for us, and that of Mary Magdalene also in her search for the body of Christ, could well be summed up in the inspired words of the prophet Jeremiah: “You will seek Me and find Me; when you seek Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). This risen Lord was no phantom or hallucination, but rather so real that one could touch or cling to Him. The Jesus who had died was in very truth the Christ who had risen again.
At the Last Supper, Christ had said to the Apostles: “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). And in today’s Gospel reading we can see how Christ kept His promise, “then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). For us also, Jesus must be, not a figure in a book, not a memory from the past, but rather a living presence, one who is with us here and now. To those who, like Thomas, would argue that this is making too great a demand on our credulity, Christ replies, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29). Faith is like taking a step in the dark while trusting absolutely in what God is promising to us as the consequence.
The resurrection of Christ was a unique happening that lies beyond all human reasoning or understanding. The writer of “the Letter to the Hebrews) says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…. By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear” (Hebrews 11:1,3). The first chapter of the Book of Genesis tells us that the universe began in a single flashing act of creation.
The resurrection of Christ, of which we are celebrating the octave, is a mystery also. The risen glorified body of the Lord is a new creation. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord. Faith, joy – a faith which leads to and is the cause of joy – that is the message for us today. But there is more. For in our following of Christ, even though we have not as yet passed through the portals of death, we also can become part of this new creation initiated by Christ. We might even begin to speak off a third creation, for by our faith in the saving effect of Christ’s death and resurrection, as Paul tells us, we become something extra (Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:17). We are made children of God Himself. We are no longer slaves, but friends, and so on this day we should ask that we may receive and our joy, like that of the Apostles, may be full (John 16:24).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, pour the living water of the Holy Spirit over my heart, so that I may bear fruit for You. Come, Holy Spirit, and reveal Jesus to my heart today. Let me know the Lord and the power of His resurrection. I want to become a new creation today. Amen.
Jakarta, 21 April 2017 [EASTER OCTAVE: FRIDAY]
A Christian Pilgrim
THEY MUST DECIDE, ONCE AND FOR ALL, BETWEEN THE CHURCH AND FISHING BOAT
(A biblical refection on THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER – April 10, 2016)
Gospel Reading: John 21:1-19
First Reading: Acts 5:27-32,40-41; Psalms: Psalm 30:2-6,11-13; Second Reading: Revelation 5:11-14
After this Jesus revealed Himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and He revealed Himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing.
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it is, for the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after He was raised from the dead.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” A second time He said to him. “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do You love me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are ole, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” (This He said to show by hat death he was to glorify God.) And after this He said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:1-19 RSV)
Jesus was raised in northern Palestine in Galilee, in the agricultural country far removed from the noisy imperial city of Jerusalem in the south (Judea). In recruiting His apostles, He chose Galileans, with the exception of Judas Iscariot, who came from Kerioth in Judea.
Many of these men were called from their fishing boats off the Sea of Galilee. During their three years of apprenticeship they learned to give speeches, manage huge crowds and adjust gradually to an entirely different mode of life. Each morning they would awaken expecting new and fascinating events, orchestrated by their miracle-working Leader.
Together they traveled the entire length of the country, and became familiar with Jerusalem and its massive Temple, protecting stone wall and winding streets. They learned the ways of the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, with their varied political, legal and religious leanings. But always they walked in and were shielded by lengthening shadow of their fearless Master.
When Jesus was captured, they suddenly found themselves frightened and weak. Fear of the volatile Jerusalem mob caused Peter to swear “I do not know the man.” Judas also, pulled more by avarice than loyalty, here decided to end his life in suicide. It was this same city with its vying tensions and frenzied crowds that brought Jesus to His painful death.
Now in today’s Gospel that all seems to be far behind them. The men from Galilee are back on their favorite lake, doing what they did three years earlier – fishing those blue, enchanted waters. It was almost as though they had never left, but the first chapter of Christianity had been written and they had witnessed every move.
Chapter two begins on this warm spring morning with the risen Jesus calling them from the fishing boats for the second time. He invites them to breakfast on the beach with a calm pastoral setting as a background. Here they are asked to make their commitments as leaders of the newly founded Church. Their baptisms have been completed and confirmation day is only a few weeks away. They must decide, once and for all, between the Church and the fishing boat.
We see Peter making his triple profession of love and hear his future fate of crucifixion. The others also pledge their lifelong loyalty to Jesus and once again the abandoned fishing boats are left tied to the piers. Soon they will leave their beloved north country for their fiery Pentecostal confirmation in Jerusalem; then on to their mission – wise, Spirit-filled and beyond intimidation.
Note: Adapted from Rev. James McKarns, GO TELL EVERYONE – A Commentary on the SUNDAY READINGS Cycles A-B-C, Makati, Philippines: 1985, St. Paul Publications, pages 216-217.
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, increase my faith in You and Your power to intervene in my life. Come powerfully, Lord, to deal with the greatest problems that I have right now. Transform them, Lord. Transform me too. And draw me closer to you. Amen.
Jakarta, 7 April 2016
A Christian Pilgrim