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Third Sunday of Easter (A)

Scriptural Readings: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Psalm 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9; 1 John 2:1-5a; Luke 24:35-48

My dear encountered couples:

Have you ever thought you knew someone really well, and then one day you were surprised to discover something in that person very different from what you were accustomed to? You might have said, “Gosh! I thought I really knew him, but I guess I didn't.” This sort of experience can occur even after we've lived with someone for many years.

The disciples of Jesus probably thought they knew him pretty well. They had spent lots of time with him, listening to what he had to say, observing his actions. They had drawn very close to him in friendship and love. They thought he was meant for greatness. They were right, of course, for he was. But their vision seems to have been limited to earthly greatness in which they were hoping for a part. His death on the cross dashed their hopes to the ground. They were dejected, despondent, and in the paralyzing state of hopelessness. What were they to do?

When Jesus approached and began walking with the two disciples on their way to the village of Emmaus, he gradually and patiently, led them through the Scriptures, explaining the many passages referring to the Messiah, how he had to suffer and die to rescue people from their sins. But his body would not really undergo corruption.

Later, after they had invited Jesus to stay overnight and they were having dinner, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, then gave it to them to eat. In that action they recognized him. They told the apostles they came to know him in the breaking of the bread. Many today believe this is the same or certainly a very similar ritual performed by Jesus at the Last Supper when he took bread and wine and changed it into himself with the invitation to eat and drink.

Through our communion in the Mass we are to arrive at a better recognition and understanding of Jesus. I hope this is so. For we all have far to go in getting to know the real Jesus. Do we not find that when we think we really know someone well that we sort of prevent any possibility of our learning anymore about that person? Especially when living so closely with others for years, we can become blinded to any further revelations of their qualities and characteristics.

Remember what was said of Jesus by people of his own home town of Nazareth when he tried to let them in on special powers of healing and wisdom that he possessed, “Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't Mary known to be his mother? Where did he get all this?” Then we are told by Matthew, “They found him to be too much for them. Jesus said, ‘No prophet is without honor except in his native place, indeed in his own house.’”

Is it possible that we all do this with the people we live with, and to our friends? We fall into a certain expectancy of them. When they deviate from what we expect, it is like we don't see it. We might think of some of our family members and friends as never having the possibility of amounting to anything.

Then someone outside the home remarks, “Joe would make a good priest. Did you ever think of looking into his entering a seminary?” You respond by laughing it off while privately writing Joe off and thinking “You've got to be kidding, Joe is about as dumb as they come and if he goes anywhere it will probably be to jail.”

Or maybe you are so used to mother cooking the meals, cleaning the house, and acting as family driver that when she decides to take some evening classes in computer skills, you respond by remarking, “You can't even tell the difference between a computer and a television set. You'll probably be trying to tune in The Price is Right or Dancing with the Stars”. Or when you find macho dad studying a book entitled “The Art of Growing Pansies and Petunias” you find yourself giggling every time you think about it.

We also might find ourselves falling into the trap of looking upon certain classes of people as capable of only specific abilities and jobs. Even Jesus was a target for this kind of narrow thinking. When the soon to be apostle Nathaniel (whom we know as Bartholomew) heard that Jesus was from Nazareth, his response was, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” He said this because Nazareth had the reputation of a poor town composed of poor people with little or no talent. How wrong that opinion was! And how wrong any of us are to think that any person of a particular nationality, religion, color, or lifestyle is limited by any narrow concepts our minds might possess.

My point today is this: Jesus' earthly background seemed to hold no promise for him becoming anything much. His poor family, the hick town of Nazareth, his opportunity for education - all seemed in the eyes of others to cross his name off the pages of success. Have you done the same thing with members of your own family? Have you categorized your friends in such a way that in your eyes they can never go beyond your prescribed limits of development? Are you yourself living within the prison walls of what others expect of you? If so, I now beg you to realize - this is all so very, very wrong!

Allow others to pursue, grow, and develop as they feel they are led by God. Do not stifle by any attempts of keeping them within your ideas of where they should stay? Advise wisely when you are able. But do not in blindness hinder nor imprison them. And don't let others do it to you. Pray daily to God to discover what he wants you to do. Then do it.

May I again point out: The disciples and the apostles thought they knew Jesus. They didn't. They had much to learn about him before they could recognize the real person and God that he is. So, do I. So, do you. Keep an open mind. Jesus is not exactly the person you think he is. He is much, much more. He is much, much better. Let him reveal this to you as you walk along your road to Emmaus. Then when you stop to rest at the end of your journey, you will recognize the One who remains with you. You will recognize with clear vision, probably for the first time, the real Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

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