SUNDAY’S READINGS | May 1, 2022
Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor of the Church, and Simon Peter, who denied Jesus three times, both undergo a profound conversion. They arrive at their new and transformed condition, not through self-reflection or the pangs of conscience, nor human persuasions. Rather, they each have a direct encounter with the risen Lord, which in some measure is true of every believing person.
So, to emphasize this point that Christ encounters each of us directly: the reading of Scripture in church and the sermon to follow it, the recitation of the Nicene Creed, the offering of the Prayers of the People, the confession of sin and absolution, and the declaration of the peace of Christ are, all together, a real encounter with the risen Lord in his holy Church. “For where two or more are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matt. 18:20). These words are a dominical and irrefutable promise. Take them to heart! “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Ps. 119:103).
Further, the Holy Communion is our weekly participation in the body and blood of Christ, through which we enter the cross, death, and Resurrection of Christ. “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16). The entire Sunday liturgy, every word of it and every gesture, is directed toward nothing less than a radical and thorough conversion to Christ.
Shortly before his encounter with the risen Lord, Saul of Tarsus was “still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). While on his way to Damascus to arrest any who “belonged to the Way,” a light flashed about him, cast him to the ground, blinded him, and spoke, saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? … I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:4-5). With these words, the risen Lord announces his absolute identification with his disciples. Inasmuch as Saul breathes threat and murder against the disciples, he does so against Jesus. When Saul’s vision is restored after three days, something like scales fall from his eyes, and he sees the risen Lord in the disciples of the Lord. In a real sense, the risen body of the Lord is the Church collectively and all her members individually. Turning to Christ will always mean turning to one another in understanding, forgiveness, compassion, and love.
Simon Peter, who had denied Jesus three times, said to his companions, “I am going fishing” (John 21:3). Although Christ had risen and revealed himself as alive to them, they were drawn back to their former lives almost as if nothing had happened. Earlier, when Peter and the other disciples went to the tomb, found the stone removed, and saw the linen wrappings, they did not announce the event. Rather, as St. John tells us, “the disciples returned to their homes” (John 20:10). Going home and going fishing suggest a regression, a backward drift toward a life in which there never was a Jesus. And this occurs after the Lord appeared to them in the Upper Room! God forbid, but it is possible to know the risen Lord, as we surely do, and yet drift toward a forgetfulness. So, again and again, Jesus will ask, “Do you love me?” And he will say, “Feed my sheep. See me in my disciples and feed my sheep.” In our very midst, the risen Lord stands. Do we see, and do we love?
Look It Up: Psalm 30:1-3
Think About It: You brought me up, O Lord, from death.