Sunday, April 19, 2020

THE MOST AMAZING DAY

I don't remember when I first noticed the readings for Easter Wednesday particularly, but it was probably quite a few years ago.  I often went to Mass almost every day, and I tried to go throughout the Octave of Easter.  But one particular year, I noticed that the first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, described the healing of a man crippled from birth by Peter.  A later verse identifies this man as being over 40 years old, and when I first read it, I was in that age group.  Imagine being crippled your whole life, being carried and placed at the gate of the temple called "the Beautiful Gate" to beg for alms in order to live.  He asked for alms from Peter and John, who were heading into the temple to pray.  Peter told him to look at them and then said, "'I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.'  Peter then took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong. He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God." I love to imagine this man, crippled all his life, and now not only walking but jumping and praising God in the temple.  What a blessing for this man, and for all the people who saw him, recognized him as the poor crippled beggar, and were "filled with amazement and astonishment at what had happened to him."
The Gospel for this day narrates the story of the two disciples who were headed to Emmaus, leaving Jerusalem after all their hopes and dreams were crushed by the crucifixion of the one whom they had thought was the Messiah. Fr. Chuck Gallagher, who founded World Wide Marriage Encounter, held that the two disciples were Cleopas and his wife, and I have since heard that maintained as a possibility by a priest from our parish who has a PhD in Biblical studies, as well as by Bishop Robert Barron in his homily for Easter Wednesday this year.
In any event, the two were conversing and debating about everything that had happened when Jesus, whom they did not recognize, drew near, asked them what they were discussing, and then explained to them everything in the Scriptures that referred to him and why he needed to suffer and thus enter into his glory.  When they persuaded him to stay with them, he "took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them." Their eyes were opened as he vanished from their sight, but they said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?"
How much like a loving married couple that sounds to me!  And they immediately went back to the community of the disciples instead of scattering to Emmaus, where they all were sharing their experiences of the risen Lord.
Yes, the solemnity of Easter is the most important feast day of the entire Church year, but for me the Wednesday in the Octave of Easter, brings together the many manifestations of the significance of the Resurrection of the Lord, so that we too can leap and jump and celebrate the joy that overflows as our hearts burn within us as he speaks to us on the way, even sheltered in our homes or working to alleviate the pandemic that rages around us.

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