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Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter

Third Sunday of Easter

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; 1 John 2:1-5; Luke 24:35-48

Saint John Baptist de LaSalle/Saint Stephen, April 14, 2024

 

Few people that I meet like to talk about death or dying. Death does not seem to fit into our individual life. We do not die. Other people do, and when they do, they simply disappear from our world forever. No one returns from the dead to tell us what life after death is like. Yet we all know that we are going to die, just as we know that there are places in our world where we have never been or ever seen. But neither reality really affects our life or even the way we live.

 

Yes, we write wills, try and decide who gets what we have left, but that does not mean that we own death as a part of who we are. Even people who are clearly near death have great difficulty talking about it. Over the years I have had the privilege of visiting with those who are dying, but for the most part they typically prefer not to talk about their approaching death. They want to talk about possible treatments, their families, even the weather, rather than speak of death.

 

I am just here to be with them, to listen to their thoughts and to give witness to our faith, not to force them to try and speak about the unspeakable; fear is not cured by terror. Jesus celebrated his last supper in a big way, and the resurrection stories are filled with meals that he shared with his disciples and friends.

 

I find these stories very interesting, because we have very few accounts of when, or where, or with whom, Jesus ate and drank before his time to die. So, it is worth thinking about, why is so much attention given to Jesus’ last meal, and why do the resurrection accounts record so many meals?

 

Perhaps there is a connection; maybe the resurrection stories mention meals so often because Jesus made his final supper a sign and promise of his continuing presence. This is exactly what the Emmaus story is all about. Every detail of the story connects this resurrection meal to the Eucharist.

 

It takes place on a Sunday evening, a time when the first Eucharists were celebrated. Two disciples share the Scriptures with a mysterious stranger, who they are only able to recognize in the “breaking of the bread.” These stories of resurrection meals tell us what we often overlook, for they reveal something about the life that follows death. Death is not purely spiritual; far from it, death is quite physical.

 

“He showed them his hands and his feet.” “While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, ‘Have you anything to eat?’” “They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.”

 

Once we leave our Church, we speak about heaven the way we speak about death. Simply because we have so little knowledge about either and we have no experience with what we are talking about.

 

Think about it for a moment. If someone told you they would never die, how could you prove them wrong? Actually, you cannot. Yet we profess belief in heaven, in life after death, because some people experienced, interacted with, a person who came back from the dead.

 

Jesus does not appear among his disciples as a ghost or a spirit, nor does Jesus and his mission simply live on in the hearts of his followers. First, in appearing to his loved ones, Jesus tells us that the relationships we form in this world do not end with death.

 

Second, the world to come does not wipe away the life we know, it transforms it, purifies, and glorifies it, Jesus tells us to count his wounds, to touch them. Heaven has a beating heart, one that started two thousand years ago in the womb of a young girl named Mary. Heaven is our true home, and it is more solid, more real, than the life that precedes it.

 

Does all this make sense? Perhaps only to us who are believers. Talk of the resurrection continues to this day and it refuses to disappear. Some think it might be true, while others think it is not.

 

Is it time for a big meal? Time for the Eucharist?

 

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