Homily on the Third Sunday of Easter

Today I want to share with you, on this Third Sunday of Easter, three concepts that will guide us to a better understanding of what we are celebrating today and during the 50 days of Easter.

The first is the heart of the apostles’ message: the «Kerygma». The second is the method and the courage with which this message must be announced, that is, the «Parresia». And the third one that I want to echo in your hearts is the «Metanoia» or conversion, without which there is no salvation.

  • The Kerygma of the Apostles

In the first reading, taken from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we hear the voice of St. Peter, in the context of the day of Pentecost. In the second reading, we also hear Peter, this time writing to the first Christian communities some years later. On both occasions, we find the same exposition of the first apostolic preaching, qualified by two different moments and addressed to two different audiences, but basically the same Good News.

Christ Jesus, the eternal Son of the Father, who came into this world to save us from our sins and condemnation, was rejected by his people who made him die on a cross. They killed him with pagan hands. He who had come to give us life, after working so many signs and miracles on behalf of all, was condemned to death and cast aside because of the evil of our sins and our hardness of heart.

But God did not abandon his Son, and on the third day he raised him from the dead. So death no longer has the last word, and all those who accepted Him and those who now decide to come to Him will receive eternal life in His Name.

All of us who once lived in a sterile way are now, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, called to holiness. We no longer owe any debt to sin. Christ has made us new creatures, has called us out of our darkness, many or few, into a new life in his Light. His redemption has freed us from the absurdity of this world with its vices and sins to raise us to a new experience that can only be had in Christ.

Today you also have that opportunity, today Christ calls you with the voice of his word and with the light of resurrection. Listen today to his voice and do not harden your heart.

This, my dear brothers and sisters, is the Kerygma of the apostles, the first and pure proclamation of the Gospel that must reach every creature, that must not be limited by anything or anyone, that all the baptized are called to share.

  • The Parresia of the missionaries

But this Kerygma can only be announced with courage if we want it to have its effect. The missionary must have the freedom, without any fear, to say and give testimony, in the private and public sphere, of all that he has seen and heard. The good missionary is the one who allows himself to be burned by the fire of Faith, like a torch that never ceases to burn. Or as the prophet Jeremiah would say: «For though I would think no more of you, O Lord, nor speak any more in your name, yet I cannot, for your word is turned within me like a fire that burns in my heart and I cannot contain it» (Jer 20:9).

This Easter proclamation of the Kerygma can only be proclaimed with the same «parresia» of the apostles if we allow ourselves to be anointed or kindled by the Spirit. It was the Spirit who brought the Church out of its cloistered state and gave the apostles the strength to speak without hindrance; it was he who raised up the Prophets of the Old Testament who pointed to Jesus as the Messiah; he who confirmed the faith of St. John the Baptist and who has continued to raise up witnesses and martyrs of Christ (which mean the same thing in Greek) throughout the centuries.

It is the same Spirit who will give you this precious gift of preaching without fear, if you ask for it today with sincerity. So that we can repeat with the Apostle St. Peter: «This Jesus God raised up, and of this we are all witnesses. Taken up into heaven by the power of God, he received from the Father the Holy Spirit promised to him and has communicated him (to all of us), as you are seeing and hearing.»

  • The Metanoia or Epistrepho

And finally the Gospel brings us face to face with two characters, Cleopas and another whose name does not appear, so it could be any of us; characters that tradition has already coined with the name of the Disciples of Emmaus.

Disappointed and hopeless, they come perhaps returning from Jerusalem to their village, Emmaus, discussing everything that has happened and full of sadness at the same time. Jesus, who always takes the initiative, is the one who meets them and goes out to meet them. The road to Emmaus is the road of disappointment and melancholy: the one who was our hope is gone, Jesus the Nazarene is no more, with him was crucified also our faith and all the hope we had placed in him. There is nothing left but to return to our people, to return to our origin without Jesus, for he has died, he has been buried and his story is over for all of us. Although some have said that they have seen him alive, our hearts are sick with hardness and unbelief, with suspicion and distrust.…

My brothers and sisters, harder than the tombstone are the hearts covered by lack of faith. How many times have we had the same temptation, the temptation to return to our old life, to our past without God? How many times have we let our steps be guided by the path of hopelessness, of emptiness of meaning?

That is why the Psalm has sung, «teach me, Lord, the path of life», because I am lost, because sometimes even this life overtakes me, and I need you to come and make my path straight.

As Jesus came to meet them both on the road, he wrote, unbeknownst to them, the best illustration of what conversion means.

Two words we have in Scripture to describe our conversion: the first is «metanoia» which comes from the Greek and means to change the mind, to change our way of thinking and conceiving the world. It is not limited to the mental realm. God wants us to change our hearts above all things. If everything you have learned in the Church or in the Catechism does not go down to the heart, you will be a very learned Christian, you will perhaps be brilliant in doctrine, but if you do not sow it in the soil of the heart, if it does not take root in the soul, you will be only a shell, a covering, a pretty but empty garment.

True conversion involves the mind and the heart. And this is what Jesus provoked in them: they understood the Scriptures that the Master explained to them from Moses to the prophets. But so much light on the Bible would have been of no use if at the end they had not found their hearts transformed. They themselves have said it themselves, «Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and explained the Scriptures to us?»

The second word we find to describe conversion is «epistrepho,» which speaks of a turning or returning. We can literally figure it when we speak of a change of direction in our path, or when going in one direction we encounter something or someone that makes us turn and take another path. All these concepts are found in the story of the Disciples of Emmaus.

Right after the breaking of the bread and the opening of their eyes when they finally recognized Jesus, they changed their path. I would say more, not only did they change the direction of their journey, but they immediately set out on their journey. The encounter with the Living Christ changed what was left of their day and changed their whole life.

We today are these disciples of Emmaus, we are around this Altar Table where in a few moments we are going to celebrate the breaking of the bread. Our eyes may be wide open, but some of us may also be numb or a little blind with unbelief. Jesus is going to make himself present as he did that night that the Gospel told us about, and he is going to break the bread before us with the same intention of changing our lives.

On our part, we must do what the Emmaus disciples did:

  1. Change our minds and hearts and straighten our paths to the end that God wants.

2. To go out with the enthusiasm and the «parresia» proper to those who have met the Living Christ. To go out without fear of our emptiness. Because where there is no Christ, there is really nothing.

3. And finally, to bear witness to this Good News, the «Kerygma», which has changed our lives. If he has changed my life, he will also change yours; if he has made me happy, he can also make you happy. If he has filled my existence with meaning, he can also fill your existence with meaning.

He has already done his part, now everything depends on you. Amen.

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