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Caution: Putting a Sunday homily on the Website is tricky business. All the viewer has is a written text. A homily, on the other hand, is "an oral event". It may not have been said or heard the way it was written. In addition, a roughly ten-minute homily is part of a roughly one-hour worship event in which God and God's people communicate with each other by means of ritual, symbol, song, proclamation, prayer. Not everything in these homilies is original. As a homilist, I rely on and at times borrow from other homilists and writers who are not properly mentioned in this format. I am often indebted to them.

Father William Marrevee, s.c.j.

3 rd Sunday of Easter A

What a beautiful and real-to-life scene the Gospel presents to us today. It is one of those Resurrection stories trying to give us a taste for how utterly new and astounding the Resurrection of Jesus is. Two disciples of Jesus leave Jerusalem . All they can talk about is their shattered hopes. What a dejected and disillusioned pair! Then a stranger joins them. He asks “What are you discussing?”

They give the stranger an earful. They sum it all up: “We had hoped that he would be the one to redeem Israel .” They obviously had been close to Jesus. What sort of hopes had he aroused in them? That he would be the strong liberator who would free the land from Roman domination and punish the sinners. But his being crucified took care of that. No wonder they wanted to leave Jerusalem behind.

Then the stranger takes over. He has to make them see that they had hoped for the wrong things. They (and we) may have to change their ideas on what to expect from God. God, in fact, may be quite different from what they (and we) think he should be. The stranger hints at that, when he points out “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” A crucified Messiah may not be as far fetched as they (and we) think. In fact, it may be the new story of God. How about getting used to the idea that God “wins by losing”?

It does not fit our schemes. But that is what the reality of Jesus being raised from the dead intends to convey. The two disciples had set their hopes on a Messiah / a Saviour who would conquer enemies. What they have in Jesus is a Messiah who was killed by enemies and who spoke final words, not of conquest, but of forgiveness. They had set their hopes on a Messiah would finally unmask sinners, put them in their place. What they have in Jesus is a Messiah who embraces sinners and gives them new life. What they have in Jesus is a Messiah who conquers sin by compassionate love and who subdues enemies by reconciliation and forgiveness. Imagine! But this is the new Easter story that the stranger tells them. This is the new story of God.

Let go of the old story of power and violence, of destroying enemies. Instead, put your hope in a Jesus who brings peace and forgiveness and who tells us to put away our swords. The new story of God is of a God who prefers to be the victim of violence over being its perpetrator. That is the story of a God who wins by losing. So totally new. That is not to our disadvantage. It is to our benefit.

A journey of shattered hopes becomes one of vision transformed. “We were hoping” must be let go of, so that we can be renewed and excited about a God who walks with us in surprising, often unknown ways. The disciples catch on: “Were not our hearts burning within us…?” They are liberated from fear and disappointment, and instead they become bearers of the power of the Risen One.

And how does the stranger accomplish that transformation? By going through the Scriptures, by breaking the bread and sharing it with them. These are exactly the two actions we engage in when we come together for Sunday Eucharist. We hope and pray that the Stranger (not the preacher) goes through the Scriptures for us and that He (not the priest) will break the bread for us. We hope and pray that we too may come to the point of exclaiming “Are not our hearts burning within us?”

(see John R. Donahue, Hearing the Word of God)


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