WEDNESDAY IN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Psalm 105:1-4, 6-9
O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wonderful works.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually.
O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones.
He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He is mindful of his covenant forever, of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Jesus rose from the dead at a set point in history, at a time and in a place, but the realization of that resurrection played out slowly, at different times and places and from different points of view, as it became known to His disciples. When a family experiences a birth, a death, an anniversary, the members all come together and tell their side of the story, remembering what happened and what it was like for them. And during the octave of Easter, the family of God comes together to recall the event of Jesus’s resurrection, and read the various accounts of the disciples and witnesses as they experienced this tremendous victory for our salvation from their respective points of view.
Today we read the account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The opposite of Mary Magdalen and Peter and John who went to the tomb seeking Jesus, these disciples seem to be seeking distance from what has happened by leaving Jerusalem for Emmaus, although they can’t keep from talking about it. In a parallel to Mary Magdalen, they also do not recognize Jesus at first. Their eyes are on their loss and sorrow, their bitterly disappointed hope for a redeemer who is now dead. The nearness and greatness of their God is too much for them to take in. And slowly, with each step of the journey, Jesus reveals Himself and His plan for salvation to them. Their journey becomes a liturgy of the word, and, at its end when they invite their new Companion to stay with them, it becomes a liturgy of the Eucharist. And in that sacrament, Jesus’s gift to them before His passion and death, they know Him.
In a way, our reading from the book of Acts is another account of the resurrection, or at least for what Jesus’s resurrection means for His church. Peter and John carry with them the power of the resurrected Christ, whose empty tomb they had run to together. And they make that power present in the life of the crippled man begging at the Beautiful Gate, as they call upon the name of Jesus to heal and make him whole. And this man, now healed, has his own story to tell about his encounter with the risen Christ, and pours forth praise to God.
We too have our own stories to tell about what Christ’s resurrection has meant for us in our lives. We may miss it if we keep our sights set too low. Like the man at the Beautiful Gate, we may be seeking only alms, when God wants to restore our bodies. Like the disciples going to Emmaus, we may be seeking only a change in our current situation when God wants to change this world and the next forever. We may be focused on the plans we have for ourselves, when God wants to give us Himself. But whatever infirmity, disappointed hope, or bitter loss we have to go through in this life, we know that Jesus can redeem and restore us, in this life or the next, because of who He is and what He suffered for our sake.
Today, take some time to reflect on your story, what Jesus’s resurrection has meant from the vantage point of your life. Seek Jesus in His word and the sacrament of the Eucharist, and ask Him to help you see Him and what He is about right now.