Bill Ayres continues to offer his reflections to help our prayer.
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(Chapter 2:14, 22-33)
Let’s start with a little background for this reading. The Acts of the Apostles, written by Saint Luke is an extension of his Gospel and was written some sixty years after the death of Jesus. Luke was a Gentile convert, so he has Saint Peter especially addressing Jews who were potential converts. He wants them to see the connection between Jesus and King David. Just as God was on David’s side, so “Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God” and “God raised him up.” Finally, “he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured him forth, as you see and hear.”
The point here is that David was loved by God in a special way but with Jesus the connection is so powerful and intimate that the Father gives him the Holy Spirit which Jesus then gives to his followers. Each of us today shares this gift of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Have you ever thought of the Holy Spirit as your life partner? I never learned that through all my years of Catholic school, but later, when I finally “got it,” it changed my life forever. In this frightening time, it is both comforting and empowering to know that the Spirit of God lives within each of us. Many of us now have more “downtime” than before. It can now be a special “Spirit time.”
(Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11)
“Lord, you will show us the path of life.” Do you know what your path of life is? Is it something you have consciously chosen, or is it a path that you stumbled onto? In either case, do you feel that you are on the right path, God’s path for you? If so, stay faithful to the journey. If not, ask the Holy Spirit to show you the way.
A reading from the first letter of Saint Peter
The author says clearly “you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors.” This is a powerful sentence. Jews believed that salvation came from obedience to the Law of Moses. Peter and all the apostles believed that salvation came from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is what we believe as well. Our salvation does not come primarily from observance of the commandments and the laws of the Church, as important as they are. It is a gift given to us by Jesus. We need only to accept the gift and live in the gift of God’s grace and mercy.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke
The Roman Empire was the most powerful force in the history of the world up to that time. Luke is writing to potential converts to this new faith and he wants them to see that faith in the resurrected Christ is now the most powerful force on earth—but a different kind of power, the power of the Holy Spirit given to all during the experience of Pentecost
This is the famous story of the two disciples who meet a stranger on the road to a small town called Emmaus. We know the name of one of the disciples, Cleopas, who tells the story of the risen Christ. It has always been interesting to me that the first people to experience the empty tomb were women and that the men did not believe them. These men are also confused about what really happened, and they do not recognize Jesus until he breaks bread with them. For the early Christians, meeting Jesus in the breaking of the bread was essential. It certainly was a Jewish tradition to break bread together and of course, the most important occasion was when all the apostles were together at the Last Supper.
You and I can come to know Jesus a little more deeply every week in the breaking of the bread at the Eucharist. That does not happen automatically. It is easy to get caught up in the routine of the Mass, but the gift is there every time for us if we can open our hearts and minds to Jesus. It is also a time when we can come to know ourselves on a whole other level and open our hearts to those with whom we share life.
Like the two disciples, we are on a lifelong journey that I believe is a journey into the mystery of God’s all-powerful and all-encompassing love. They had come from Jerusalem and heard the resurrection stories, yet they still could not recognize Jesus until “While he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”
Let us see our weekly Eucharistic experience as a stop on the journey as it was for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, a stop that brings us closer to Jesus and to our truest, most authentic selves. Of course, we have temporarily lost our weekly Eucharist. In the meantime, let us reflect on what, at times perhaps, we have taken for granted. We have met the resurrected Jesus at our celebration of the Eucharist in the breaking of the bread. Let us pray that we will soon have that experience once again.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Image courtesy of www.LumoProject.com and is available at freebibleimages.org.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.