An Encounter with the Risen Christ - Third Sunday of Easter (A)

Decrease font size
Increase font size
Print this page
Home > Archbishop > Homilies > An Encounter with the Risen Christ - Third Sunday of Easter (A)

In the first reading of the Mass today we have the account of the first proclamation of the Christian Gospel. It occurred on Pentecost day when St Peter went out on the balcony of the Upper Room and preached to the crowds who had gathered outside. The New Testament tells us unashamedly that the disciples who the Lord counted upon to be the foundation for his Church were confused and afraid concerning his suffering and death. And even after meeting the risen Lord they were still not in any position to take on the mission he was to entrust to them.

According to the Lord’s instruction to them at the Ascension they continued to meet in the Upper Room where they had celebrated the Last Supper. The risen Jesus had told them to wait there until they were “clothed with power from on high”. Then on Pentecost day the Holy Spirit came down upon them in a most wondrous fashion and they were all extraordinarily transformed. They were filled with new confidence and zeal. St Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, then sallied forth and addressed the assembled crowd. Thus began the great story of the Church, taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

What was St Peter’s message? In other words, what is the key message the church proclaims to the world?
To give this question further focus, we could ask what was the heart of the message of Jesus? We know it well: the Kingdom of God is close at hand, repent and believe. In other words Jesus declared that the action of God in now taking place, and he urged people to turn from their evil ways and believe in what God is doing.

With this in mind what does St Peter preach? We could summarise it as – “this man Jesus whom you crucified has risen from the dead”. We notice here firstly that the focus of the message is on Jesus himself. He is the content of the message. Secondly, we note that what is proclaimed about him is his resurrection.

Let us consider this further.

Christianity is about the action of God in history, more particularly about what God did through Jesus’s death and resurrection. Christianity is not just a code of conduct or some sort of philosophy of life. Christianity centres on a person. Jesus is the absolute heart of Christian faith.
Pope Benedict captured this very clearly when he said, "Christianity is not a new philosophy or new morality. We are Christians only if we encounter Christ... Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we really become Christians... Therefore, let us pray to the Lord to enlighten us, so that, in our world, he will grant us the encounter with his presence, and thus give us a lively faith, an open heart, and great charity for all, capable of renewing the world." (Vatican City, Sept. 3, 2008)

Pope Benedict in this statement offers a further insight into what our Catholic faith is about. He says that it is not only about Christ, but more particularly about an “encounter” with Christ.

The Gospel today helps us understand this. As the two disciples were walking out of Jerusalem downcast because all their hopes and aspirations were lost in the light of the crucifixion of Jesus, a stranger joins them along the way. He engages in conversation with them though they do not know who he is. This stranger has one intention – he wants to bring them to understand the meaning of what the death and resurrection is about. Then they discover who he is at the breaking of the bread.

They had an encounter, a personal encounter, with the risen Christ. 

What is important for us is that Christ not only wants us to believe that he rose from the dead, but he wants us to experience his presence in our lives. What he did for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus he wants to do for us.
How can this happen? Firstly, we have to say that such an encounter has not occurred to all the disciples. Of course, the Lord appeared to the Twelve, but there would have been many others who did not have this privileged experience.  It was clearly a special grace given to these two. Just as Jesus appeared on a number of occasions after his Resurrection, but did not, for example, appear to the whole of the people living in Jerusalem, so such encounters are special graces given to a few. At the same time, however, we should not exclude the possibility that each of us can receive some grace like this, or some moment when the risen Christ touches our lives.

The key to knowing the risen Jesus more personally is simply to desire to know him. This can be expressed in a simple prayer: “Lord, reveal yourself to me. I want to know you more.” These disciples were clearly men who believed in Christ and were shattered by his death. They were men of faith who wanted to follow Jesus. The risen Lord came to help them in their faith. They, in their turn, became proclaimers of the resurrection as they returned joyfully to Jerusalem. Those who have a deep personal experience of Christ want to proclaim this to the world. Such an experience is not just a private gift, but a grace given that it may be in turn an inspiration to a life of proclamation of the risen Christ.

My brothers and sisters, the risen Lord wants us to experience him as risen. He wants of faith to be enlivened by this experience. Let us ask the risen Lord to reveal himself to us.

Let us conclude by listening to the words of Pope Benedict again,
"Christianity is not a new philosophy or new morality. We are Christians only if we encounter Christ... Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we really become Christians... Therefore, let us pray to the Lord to enlighten us, so that, in our world, he will grant us the encounter with his presence, and thus give us a lively faith, an open heart, and great charity for all, capable of renewing the world."

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, May 3, 2014