Luke’s Resurrection Symphony in 4 Movements

A reflection on the Scriptures for   Third Sunday of Easter, Year B – April 19, 2015 by Fr. Thomas Rosica:

I often consider Chapter 24 of Luke’s Gospel to be a Resurrection Symphony in four brilliant movements.

The first movement is the story of the women at the tomb, which ends with Peter’s visit to the tomb to check it (verses 1-12). The second movement tells the great story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, culminating in their learning that the Lord had also appeared to Peter (verses 13-35). The third movement is the appearance of the Lord to his disciples at a meal, ending with their commissioning by Jesus (verses 36-49). And the fourth movement — Jesus’ ascension into heaven (verses 50-52).

EmmausThe most well-known of these stories is the Emmaus episode that begins in verse 13. It serves as a transition between the events of the Passion and discovery of the tomb and the appearance tradition. It is different from the other resurrection appearances because the Lord disappears at the moment of recognition. The Emmaus narrative (24:13-35) serves as a bridge between the empty tomb (24:1-12) and Jesus’ self-revelation to his apostles (24:36ff.) immediately following the Emmaus disciples’ meal, their recognition of Jesus, and hasty return to Jerusalem.

Cleopas and his companion are going away from the locality where the decisive events have happened, toward a little village of no significance. They did not believe the message of the Resurrection, due to the scandal of the cross. Puzzled and discouraged, they are unable to see any liberation in the death, the empty tomb, or the message about the appearances of Jesus to the others. In their eyes, either the mission of Jesus had entirely failed, or else they, themselves, had been badly deceived in their expectations about Jesus.

As the two downtrodden disciples journeyed with Jesus on that Emmaus road, their hearts began to gradually catch fire within them as they came to understand with their minds the truth about the suffering Messiah. At the meal in Emmaus, they experienced the power of the Resurrection in their hearts. The solution to the problem of these two disciples was not a perfectly logical answer.

Emmaus at the synod

The most frequently quoted Gospel story at the October 2008 synod on the Word of God was undoubtedly Luke’s account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13:35). Cited by cardinals, bishops, experts and special guests in many of the presentations coming from every corner of the earth, the Emmaus story proved once again to be a great model or paradigm for catechesis, teaching, Bible study and above all for Christian living.

The journey motif of the Emmaus story (and one can say of the entire synod on the Word of God) is not only a matter of the distance between Jerusalem and Emmaus, but also of the painful and gradual journey of words that must descend from the head to the heart; of a coming to faith, and a return to a proper relationship with the stranger who is none other than Jesus the Lord.

Eating and drinking with Jesus

The Gospel for the Third Sunday of Easter (Year B) is the continuation of the Emmaus story — how God always leads people into an experience of community and table fellowship (Luke 24:36-48). There are several aspects of the story — the appearance of Jesus among the startled and frightened disciples (verses 36-43) and the words about the fulfillment of Scripture and commissioning of the disciples (verses 44-48). Many elements that were present in the Emmaus story are made more explicit. The Lukan stories also represent the Risen Lord as the One who receives hospitality and food from the disciples. Only after the disciples have extended an invitation to the Stranger to remain with them is it possible for full recognition to take place. They were unable to fully recognize him on the road, but they did recognize him in the breaking of the bread.

TableFellowshipTable fellowship reveals the depth of humanity. The touching, human scene of Jesus taking bread and fish and eating it with his disciples drives home the fact that ghosts don’t eat — humans do — and it reassures the disciples that the Risen Lord is truly in their midst. No theological or dogmatic assertion will prove this to them. Rather, the striking humanity of Jesus, at table, will finally convince them that he is alive.

In spite of the testimony from the women and the two travelers, the disciples still could not believe their eyes when Jesus appeared before them. Only Jesus could validate the experience and supply its proper understanding. Jesus would first prove their experience was no hoax. Like the appearance to Thomas in John’s Gospel, Jesus showed his wounds and challenged his followers to “touch” him. The experience of the Risen Lord was tactile. Jesus has substance, unlike a ghost. Unlike John 20, Jesus showed his followers his hands and feet (not his hands and side). Luke inferred that Jesus had been nailed in his feet.

Today’s passage also parallels John 21 with the subject of the cooked fish. In John 21:9-14, Jesus was cooking the fish. In Luke, the disciples gave Jesus the cooked fish to eat. If Luke 13:35-48 is combined with the narrative from the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), both stories involved the breaking of bread (Luke 24:30, 35 and John 21:13). The most notable narratives with the blessing of bread and fish were the multiplication of the loaves and fishes (Mark 6:30-44, 8:1-9; Matthew 14.13-21, Matthew 15.32-39; Luke 9.10-17; John 6.1-14). A meal that featured fish and bread was common around the Sea of Galilee and in Jerusalem. Such meals were a regular part of life on the road with Jesus and his followers.

The real heart of the story, however, is not the meal but the quality of the appearance or vision. Jesus appeared as a living, solid form. The Holy and Divine could be found in the tangible. Holiness was not only a matter of ecstasy, touching the transcendent, while leaving the world behind. God reached his people through his creation, not in spite of it. This insight became the foundation of the Church’s self-awareness as the Body of Christ. It also grounded worship in the Church as sacramental. The believer encounters the Risen Christ through the bodily senses. His followers saw, touched, and heard the Risen One. We see, hear, and touch Christ today through the sacraments, through shared witness and service to others.

The Eucharist is a summary of Jesus’ life, a call to lay down one’s life for others. The breaking of bread is also a powerful sign of unity. When we break bread, it is a means of sharing in the body of Christ. Paul says, “Because there is one bread … we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (I Corinthians 10:16-17).

It is not only that the person sharing the cup and the broken bread establishes a union with Christ: A further union is established through the “partaking” of the same loaf — the union between all the members of the celebrating community. The unity expressed here is not just a matter of human conviviality; it is a gift given in the breaking of bread, a sharing in the body of Christ. The Eucharist makes the members of the body celebrate their oneness, a oneness experienced on three levels: one in Christ, one with each other, and one in service to the world.

The sacramental encounter of young people with Christ

Allow me to share a final thought with you about eating and drinking with Jesus.

During the synod on the Word of God, one of the memorable interventions was made by Salesian Father Pascual Chávez Villanueva, president of the Union of Superiors-General and Rector of the Salesian Society of St. John Bosco. Father Pascual, whose Salesian Congregation has a special charism for working with young people, offered the Emmaus story as model of bringing the Word of God closer to the world of youth. He drew our attention to the fact that young people today share very few things with the two disciples on the road but perhaps nothing as much as the frustration of their dreams, the fatigue in their faith and the disenchantment in discipleship.

“Young people need a Church that meets them there where they are. Arriving to Emmaus, the disciples still did not recognize the person of Jesus. What Jesus was unable to do in accompanying them, conversing with them, interpreting the Word of God, he accomplished with the Eucharistic gesture. An education in faith which forgets or postpones the sacramental encounter of young people with Christ, is not a secure, efficient way to find him.”

Those final words have remained with me. How do we teach young people the importance of the sacraments in their own lives? How do we provide opportunities for young people to encounter Christ? Do we not open the door to this importance and foster such encounters by beginning with simple table fellowship with young people?

It is often the very ordinary moments of table fellowship that bring about the realization that we are human, loving, loveable and genuinely interested in others, their tribulations, their hopes and their futures. Table fellowship does indeed reveal the depth of humanity, and the depth of compassion. It is a springboard to adult faith, and to a living encounter with the Risen Lord who wishes to share his own life with us each day. Stay with us, Lord!


For Mini-Reflection from today’s Gospel:

From today’s Gospel reading:

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them….

You are witnesses of these things.

Reflection:

Being Christians in the world asks a lot from us. We need help and we get it from our God who opens our minds “to understand the Scriptures” and feeds us with the body and blood of our risen Christ at this Eucharist.

So we ask ourselves:

  • What does it cost me to be a Christian in my world each day?
  • What are my chief sources of nourishment for daily nourishment and support?

Archbishop Chaput and other Religious Leaders Decry SEPTA Anti-Islamic AdsReligiousLeadersOfGreaterPhilaReligious Leaders Council of Greater Philadelphia

Statement on Anti-Islamic Advertising Campaign  Adopted on October 14, 2014; April 7, 2015

In September, a New Hampshire-based group known as “The American Freedom Defense Initiative” (AFDI) sought to purchase advertising space on SEPTA as part of a campaign that AFDI has pursued in transit systems in several major cities across the country, including New York City, Washington, and San Francisco.  SEPTA declined, due to the derogatory and hurtful nature of the messages. On March 11, 2015 the courts ruled that SEPTA must accept the ads. The four-week ad run began on April 2 and will appear on 84 SEPTA buses.

While we affirm the constitutional protection of free speech, that does not diminish our condemnation of irresponsible speech.  The language used in these proposed advertisements is distorted, prejudicial, and inflames hatred.

It was our hope as religious leaders that hate-filled messages would not be carried throughout the neighborhoods of Philadelphia on the sides of SEPTA buses, trolleys, and subways.  We condemn inflammatory messages that serve to divide, stigmatize, and incite prejudice.  We will continue to reject attempts to stereotype any tradition or community.  Working as spiritual leaders and working with the members of the diverse faith and ethnic communities within Philadelphia, our challenge and our hope is to strengthen the ties among all communities to improve the quality of life.

The Religious Leaders Council calls on the greater Philadelphia community to join us in opposing intolerance and building trust and understanding.

The Religious Leaders Council, founded and staffed by the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, represents more than 30 religious traditions and denominations within our community.  It is led by Co-Conveners Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Rabbi David Straus, Imam Anwar Muhaimin and Bishop Claire Schenot Burkat.

Mark your calendars to attend WMOF – Philadelphia (including the Papal visit): September 22 -27, 2015 

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George Weigel reflects on the Significance of the World Meeting of Families – 2015

From First Things, “America’s Most Influential Journal of Religion and Public Life”

(First Things is published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life, an interreligious, nonpartisan research and educational 501(c)(3) organization. The Institute was founded in 1990 by Richard John Neuhaus and his colleagues to confront the ideology of secularism, which insists that the public square must be “naked,” and that faith has no place in shaping the public conversation or in shaping public policy.)

The World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this September should be more than a vast Catholic “gathering of the clans” around Pope Francis—and so should the months between now and then. If the Church in the United States takes this opportunity seriously, these months of preparation will be a time when Catholics ponder the full, rich meaning of marriage and the family: human goods whose glory is brought into clearest focus by the Gospel. Parents, teachers and pastors all share the responsibility for seizing this opportunity, which comes at a moment when marriage and the family are crumbling in our culture and society.Now, thanks to a fine mini-catechism prepared by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Pontifical Council for the Family, we’ve been given a basic resource with which to do months of preparatory catechesis on marriage and the family—and preachers have been offered reliable material for shaping homilies on these great themes between now and September.Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive (Our Sunday Visitor) begins by reminding us that the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage and the family is not composed of “positions” or “policies,” a widespread misunderstanding today. Rather, the Church’s teaching about marriage and the family are expressions of the basic truths of Christian faith: God, who brought the world into being, loves us; the divine love is most powerfully displayed in God’s son, Jesus Christ; friendship with Jesus brings us into the communion of the Church, which is a foretaste of the communion with God for which we are destined; our basic task as Christians is to offer others the gift we have been given—friendship with the Lord, which we do both by witness and by proposal. Or as St. Augustine so memorably put it in the “Confessions,” we have been made for God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in the divine embrace.Nothing falls outside of God’s creative and redeeming purposes, which include our being created male and female, the complementarity and fruitfulness built into our being created male and female, and the permanence of marriage, which is a sign of God’s own covenant fidelity. God is a communion of loving Persons—thus married love, St. John Paul II taught, is an icon of the interior life of the Holy Trinity. God keeps his promises; thus the promise-keepers among us who live the covenant of marriage bear witness to that divine promise-keeping by their own fidelity.In light of all this, the Christian idea of chastity comes into clearer focus. In the Catholic view of things, chastity is not a dreary string of prohibitions but a matter of loving-with-integrity: loving rather than “using;” loving another for himself or herself. The sexual temptations that the Church says “No” to are the implications of a higher, nobler, more compelling “Yes”— yes to the integrity of love, yes to love understood as the gift of oneself to another, yes to the family as the fruit of love, and yes to the family as the school where we first learn to love. “Yes” is the basic Catholic stance toward sexuality, marriage and the family. We should witness to that “Yes” with a joyful heart, recognizing that the example of joyful Catholic families is the best gift we can offer a world marked today by the glorification of self-absorption.In a pontificate that has reminded us continuously of our responsibilities to the poor, for whom God has a special care, preparations for the World Meeting of Families are also an opportunity to remind our society that stable marriages and families are the most effective anti-poverty program in the world. As demographer Nicholas Eberstadt wrote recently, “the flight from the family most assuredly comes at the expense of the vulnerable young”—especially low-income children, who are more vulnerable to the toxic effects of family breakdown. That’s not Catholic carping; that’s basic social science data.The Catholic idea of marriage and the family is a gift for the whole world. Catholics should give that gift away, profligately, in the months ahead.George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Weigel’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver.

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World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015 Appoints ESM Productions as Event Producer for Papal Events on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Philadelphia anticipates two million visitors for Pope Francis’ visit

Philadelphia, PA (April 7, 2015) – World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015 today announced the appointment of ESM Productions, a premier, full-service event production company specializing in the planning and execution of high-profile events, as the event producer for the September 2015 Papal events being held on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. ESM Productions will be responsible for managing and executing all facets of the two closing events for the Eighth World Meeting of Families in which Pope Francis will be in attendance. The closing events include the Festival of Families, an intercultural celebration of family life around the world, to be held on Saturday, September 26, and a Papal Mass to be held on Sunday, September 27.

ESM Productions brings more than 25 years of experience to the World Meeting of Families-Philadelphia 2015. The firm specializes in a concept-to-completion approach for live events, design and new media production.

Led by President and Co-Founder, Scott Mirkin – one of America’s most successful event producers – ESM has produced some of the highest-profile, large-scale events across the nation including presidential events, historic gatherings, music variety television, and festivals. In Philadelphia alone, ESM Productions has played an integral role in various events held on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and throughout the city. This experience makes them uniquely qualified to execute the greatly anticipated World Meeting of Families Papal events on the Parkway.

“In under seven months, Pope Francis will be standing on the iconic Benjamin Franklin Parkway overlooking the millions who come together to share in this once-in-a-lifetime moment,” said Donna Crilley Farrell, executive director of the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015. “It will truly be the largest event in Philadelphia’s modern history and to ensure its flawless success, we enlisted the top tier talents of Scott Mirkin and ESM Productions. With an extensive resume of high-profile event execution, there is no doubt in my mind that ESM will deliver an outstanding experience for every single person on the Parkway.”

Co-sponsored by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the World Meeting of Families is a triennial global event that seeks to strengthen the sacred bonds of family across the globe and highlight its intrinsic value to the good of society. This international gathering will welcome Pope Francis to the United States for the first time in his Papacy. Being held in the United States for the first time ever, the official theme for the 2015 World Meeting of Families is “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”

“Being tasked with the responsibility to plan and execute the Papal events on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the 2015 World Meeting of Families is an absolute honor and privilege,” said Mr. Mirkin. “When Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in Philadelphia’s Logan Circle in 1979, it was an event unlike any the city had ever seen and one that people still talk about with reverence and affection to this day. Now, 35 years later, Philadelphia will once again welcome and embrace the Holy Father, and ESM Productions is fully committed to producing two inspiring events that every Philadelphian will be proud of – and that every visitor in attendance will never forget.”

For more information regarding the World Meeting of Families 2015, please visit www.WorldMeeting2015.org. 

You can also engage the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia on Facebook (World Meeting of Families 2015) (Encuentro Mundial de las Familias – Filadelfia 2015), Twitter (@WMF2015) (@WMF2015ES) and Instagram (WMF2015).

About ESM Productions

ESM Productions is a nationally recognized live event, design and media production company in Philadelphia, PA. ESM has been at the helm of some of the highest profile events in the United States. From concept to completion, ESM delivers results on stage, on screen and online.

About World Meetings of Families

Beginning with 1994, The Year of the Family, the Pontifical Council for the Family has been responsible for organizing the World Meetings of Families in Rome (1994); Rio de Janeiro (1997); Rome (2000); Manila (2003); Valencia (2006); Mexico City (2009); Milan (2012); and now, Philadelphia (2015).  Since its inception by Saint John Paul II, the World Meeting of Families has sought to strengthen the sacred bonds of family across the globe.

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Click here to view the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015 “Schedule at a Glance”.