The Risen Lord walks with us - Third Sunday of Easter (A)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > The Risen Lord walks with us - Third Sunday of Easter (A)

We are still living in the afterglow of Easter. Though the world is burdened by the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Church lifts its heart on high in joyful hope because Jesus has risen from the dead. This victory over all that could destroy humanity is not just historical fact but it is a present reality.

Today in the Gospel we are taken back to Easter Sunday. St Luke provides much detail on the experience of two disciples leaving Jerusalem for Emmaus, a seven mile walk we are told - two or three hours in walking time. They are downcast, overwhelmed by the experience of witnessing the death of Jesus. Even though they had been told that some women reported that the tomb was empty and that they had seen a vision of angels saying the Jesus was alive, they were too caught up in their sorrow and disappointment to believe that Jesus had risen.

It can be the case, can’t it, that our difficulties so overwhelm us that we cannot hear words of hope.

A stranger joins them. He engages in conversation by asking them what they are talking about. He listens to their reply. Patiently he receives their confusion and sadness, then speaks and explains the meaning of what had happened.

The Gospel today reminds us of a wonderful truth: that the risen Lord walks with us on our journey in life. We do not recognised him, but he is there accompanying us.

If our hearts are downcast, if our spirits are burdened, if we grapple to understand what is happening around us, He is there, by our side. Accompanying us, he wants to engage with us. He invites us to share our anxieties and confusions. He listens and he responds. He breathes light and truth into our minds. He stirs our hearts to new hope and confidence.
It is so true, isn’t it, it is often only when we look back we can say as the disciples on the road to Emmaus said, “Did not our hearts burn within us as he spoke to us on the road?”

The Christian is one who has an encounter with the risen Christ. This encounter leads to faith. Coming into a living relationship with the risen Lord gives shape and texture to everything else in our life.

Pope Benedict spoke often about this encounter as being at the heart of Christian faith. He said,

"Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction."

Christianity is a faith that grows in the heart as a result of an encounter. This encounter is always deeply individual and personal, like the encounter of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. This encounter changes everything, because we have come into a personal relationship with Christ, the risen Lord.

Christianity cannot be reduced merely to a philosophy or a moral code. It is about a moment in which the living God is met and experienced. Faith is the fruit of an encounter with God.

This Gospel reminds us that risen Lord wants to reveal himself to us. This moment of encounter lights a fire within us. It opens our life to new vistas previously unimagined. Once we have met the risen Christ we see things in a whole new way.

Dante, in the Divine Comedy, after professing his faith to Saint Peter, describes faith as a "spark, which then becomes a burning flame and like a heavenly star within me glimmers". The spark becomes a flame, the flame becomes a heavenly star that glimmers within.

From our first reading today this was the message of Peter on Pentecost morning. St Peter called upon his listeners to believe that Jesus has risen.

Today we take heart in the midst of the uncertainty that grips the world. Those who have encountered the risen Christ are reminded of the great gift of faith that they have received. Those who have not yet known the risen Christ, inspired by the Gospel today, can ask the risen Lord to join them on their journey.

The risen Lord is with us. He walks with us. He listens to our uncertainties. He brings us to faith and so brings light into our darkness.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, April 26, 2020