Psalm 116:1-14; Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 1 Peter 1:17-25; Luke 24:13-35
Simple, The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me… I believed, even when I spoke, “I am greatly afflicted”; I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.” What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. (vv. 6, 10-14).
“The simple” of today’s psalmody, are Christ with his catechized church in whom his word abides to, “hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:21b).
St. Luke’s Easter reportage is different from the other Evangelists; and yet each intends the same Resurrection teaching: that the church know and believe the man Jesus to be her Lord and God, first fruit of the new creation.
With the death of Jesus, the Evangelists begin to lose interest in an earthly chronology so that Easter Readings possess a certain timeless quality.
Crucifixion and Resurrection becomes the apex of all history with the result that with forgiveness and the HS, heaven’s eternity joins time and space in the life of the church; human simplicity with God is being restored as “in the beginning” (Jn. 1:1).
That said, each Evangelist, under impulse of the HS, appeals to different audiences with his gospel agenda:
St. Mark’s Easter Vigil Reading provoked abject terror in the women at the grave on angelic news it no long held Jesus’ body (Mk. 16:1-8). Later Mark would supplement his abrupt ending by having Jesus appear to disciples, nevertheless upbraiding the apostolic unbelief (v. 14);
In St. Matthew’s account, Jesus appears to the women sighted to bear the Resurrection news to Jesus’ “brothers” (Mt. 28:10);
In St. John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene recognizing Jesus at the grave attempted to worship him. Jesus prevented her physical worship; rather directed her to tell the “brothers” he was ascending to “[their] Father” (Jn. 20:17). After Jesus had ascended to the Father he then appeared to the Apostles, engaging them in a meal and delivering to them the HS for their apostolic Office.
John’s immediate agenda is Jesus’ physical union with the Father for a re-union, after his absence of “a little while” (16:17-19), with his “brothers” for the church’s unity. The church confesses “apostolicity” in believing the witness of them who directly handled the resurrected and ascended flesh of God’s incarnate Word (cf. 1 Jn. 1:1-3).
As for St. Luke’s celebratory Ascension forty days later, St. John takes it up in his Apocalypse (Rev. 4-6) when under Jesus’ rule, world chronology is subsumed into heaven’s eternality.
But St. Luke has a different primary audience; rather he marginalizes the women’s recognition (Lk. 24:10-11). It is in the Emmaus encounter of today’s Gospel that Luke intends the Apostles to comprehend the pattern of Jesus’ on-going Eucharistic presence with his church; again, her apostolic Eucharistic meal of Holy Thursday.
Jesus engaged the Emmaus disciples on the road, departing the “brothers”. At first, Jesus restrained recognition, inquiring of his Passion; then he taught the meaning of all Scripture; a Christology apart from which no one can know the simplicity of God’s revelation to man.
On the road the disciple’s hearts “burned” at the teaching. Hearing God’s word in Truth and Spirit, they put aside old, errant rabbinical understandings; their ears were being opened. They heard Scripture anew in the new creation then coming into being.
Cross and Resurrection inform past and future in absolute terms; earth’s history is not infinitely cyclical as pagans think, it has beginning and end; time and eternity in unity of God’s will from “the foundation” (1 Pet. 1:20).
This is what the Psalmist meant, “The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me… I believed even when I spoke, “I am greatly afflicted”; I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.”
The man who discerns Scripture in simplicity from the One who teaches Israel, the voice of the HS, is the repentant man and woman living by faith in the promises of God.
On the day of Pentecost, concluding the church’s first Easter season, Peter represents the simple man of Jesus’ church, unpacking Scripture, as Jesus did on the Emmaus road: Christ crucified, resurrected, and present with new Israel. Peter’s simple Sermon catechized “sophisticated” temple Jews in the complexity of their worship, yet ignorant of its singular meaning in Christ whom they put to death.
This mission outreach in the power of the HS resulted in broken and burning hearts; 3,000 “sons and daughters of Torah” came to Christian Baptism in the HS for repentance and forgiveness.
Simplicity is at the heart of the church’s catholic mission, providing in time and space a place where men and women gather hear heaven’s eternal word of sacramental communion with the living God.
Early on, the church designated worship leading to a baptismal unified witness, “mass of the catechumens”. The church in holding her singular apostolic faith, reaches fullness in her “mass of the Sacrament of the Altar”. Thus, the church’s Eucharist, our sacrifice of Thanksgiving in Christ, is not a communion of buddies, friends, or relatives toward whom we have natural affection or other feelings.
Rather our Holy Communion participates with a new family, the Lord declares “brothers” who handle with his Apostles the same ascended flesh; a simple confession certain of our end to the Father.
The church teaches all Scripture heard in the simplicity of God’s absolute love through the man Jesus, alone crucified. The cross and Resurrection is God’s grace, righteousness, and mercy (Ps. 116:5). By the church’s Truth, we discern “liars” (v. 11) who teach “another Jesus and different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4) that robs love’s certainty by faith alone.
We have no other Jesus than he, who by word opens eyes to see him in the breaking of the Holy Communion’s loaf; the crucified Lamb of God to whom we “pay our vows” in Thanksgiving to God in the congregation; lifting our Eucharistic “Cup of salvation” (Ps. 116:13a), liturgically faithful every Lord’s Day, Feast, and Festival.
Last Sunday Jesus exhorted Thomas, to abide in his flesh’s Eucharistic fidelity, his church’s scandalous food (see Sermon, 2nd Sunday of Easter). Today he blesses the same ascension worship in word and Sacrament, to know him beyond visibility of time and space; but in heaven that recognizes Jesus the crucified, resurrected, and ascended man. Amen.