Christ is the key to interpreting Scripture – Third Sunday of Easter

The Resurrected Christ by Bramantino (1490)

Central idea and Doctrine: Christ is the key to interpreting all Scripture. Practical application: Praying the Psalms in the light of Christ.

To view Lectionary 47 click here.

Central idea: Christ is the key to interpreting all Scripture.

Reading 1 Acts 3:13-15, 17-19

Peter said to the people:
“The God of Abraham,
the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus,
whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence
when he had decided to release him.
You denied the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
The author of life you put to death,
but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.
Now I know, brothers,

that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did;
but God has thus brought to fulfillment
what he had announced beforehand
through the mouth of all the prophets,
that his Christ would suffer.
Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”

  • Peter’s proclamation to his fellow Jews after he healed the crippled beggar is exactly what the Resurrected Lord told his disciples to declare: “that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
  • Peter also gave the most charitable interpretation as to why his people and their leaders “put to death” “the author of life.” It was out of “ignorance.” So, if they accept that explanation, they can easily be enlightened and receive the truth, repent, be converted, and be liberated from sin.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9

R. Lord, let your face shine on us or Alleluia

When I call, answer me, O my just God,
you who relieve me when I am in distress;
have pity on me, and hear my prayer!

Know that the LORD does wonders for his faithful one;
the LORD will hear me when I call upon him.

O LORD, let the light of your countenance shine upon us!
You put gladness into my heart.

As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep,
for you alone, O LORD,
bring security to my dwelling.

  • “Peace be with you” was the first thing the Risen Lord said to his disciples who were in hiding.
  • Followers of Christ now can have relief from distress, gladness of heart, and peaceful sleep. By Christ’s overcoming sin and death, his followers are now secure, provided they are faithful to him.

Reading 2 1 Jn 2:1-5a

My children, I am writing this to you
so that you may not commit sin.
But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous one.
He is expiation for our sins,
and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.
The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep
his commandments.
Those who say, “I know him,” but do not keep his commandments
are liars, and the truth is not in them.
But whoever keeps his word,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.

  • Thanks be to God that through the Passion of Christ we have forgiveness for our sins if we repent of them.
  • As St. John teaches, this “we” who can receive “expiation for our sins” is not just you and I but “the whole world.”
  • I think it is true that the process of the Christian life is one of gradual transformation. Motivated and guided by “the love of God,” we struggle to “keep his word.” In this way we move from sin, to less sin, to (after death) no sin. This is how we are “truly perfected.”
  • This “love of God” is both God’s love for us in sending his Son and our love for God as we learn to “keep his word.”

Alleluia Cf. Lk 24:32

Lord Jesus, open the Scriptures to us;
make our hearts burn while you speak to us.

  • Our hearts can burn while reading the Old Testament Scriptures because they speak about and are fulfilled by Jesus Christ, the Lord.
  • We can properly understand the Old Testament in the light of Christ’s fullness of revelation.

Gospel Lk 24:35-48

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,
and how Jesus was made known to them
in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”

  • The Person of Jesus Christ, now reunited with his glorified human body, appeared to His at first terrified and then joyous disciples.
  • The Lord spoke to them in a manner they could understand, asking them questions even though he knew the answers. He knew why they were afraid and he knew they had something there to eat.
  • He gave them a job to do. It was a task that we might easily overlook. Overshadowing it was their Great Commission to evangelize all nations. But this project he assigned them was to “reread,” so-to-speak, salvation history. He gave them the key to understanding this history. The key was that he fulfilled everything written about him in the Old Testament Scriptures and that what the Scriptures said was, “Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
  • This was a task they carried out.
    • For example, witness how often the four evangelists point out that some event in Christ’s life was foreshadowed in the Old Testament. Or look at the Epistle to the Hebrews.
    • This project was carried on especially by the Church Fathers. These great theologians of the first centuries did this through their literal and then allegorical, moral, and anagogical reading of the sacred writings.
    • Reading the Scriptures in the light of Christ is still is a task for every generation of Christians. So it is also our task today.

Doctrine: Christ is the key to interpreting all Scripture

  • The Epistle to the Hebrews begins, “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets;but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.” (Heb 1:1-3)
  • Commenting on Hebrews, St. Augustine writes, “You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables; for he is not subject to time” (CCC 102; in Ps.103,4,1: PL 37,1378; cf. Ps 104; Jn 1:1).
    • This “he who was in the beginning God with God” is Christ.
    • Perhaps a way to understand this single Word (or “Utterance”) communicated through all the sacred writers is by making an analogy with God’s simplicity.
      • In his nature, God is simple, with no parts, even though we may distinguish various attributes, like goodness, truth, immensity, perfection, and omnipotence. And though God is simple, he is the source of an infinite variety of created beings.
      • Similarly, in his nature God speaks only one Word. But when spoken to various men, in a variety of situation, over the course of millennia, it has been recorded in many different ways, but always with an underlying unity.
  • The Catechism summarizes Augustine’s reading of Hebrews in this way: “Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely” (CCC 102).
    • In other words, both the Old and New Testaments reveal only Jesus Christ. This Divine Person, the Word of God, is everything that God wants to express to man.
  • Not only is only one Word actually spoken in all of Divine Revelation, “All the Scriptures – the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms – are fulfilled in Christ” and this fulfillment is thoroughly “Good News” (CCC 2763).
  • What is this fulfillment? “The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of ‘the righteous one, my Servant’ as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin” (CCC 601).
    • Christ frees man from sin through His death.
  • “Citing a confession of faith that he himself had ‘received’, St. Paul professes that ‘Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures’” (CCC 601).
    • That is, His death for our sins was testified by the Old Testament scriptures.
  • “In particular Jesus’ redemptive death fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering Servant. Indeed Jesus himself explained the meaning of his life and death in the light of God’s suffering Servant. After his Resurrection he gave this interpretation of the Scriptures to the disciples at Emmaus, and then to the apostles” (CCC 601).
  • Thus, the heart of evangelization and catechesis is Christ. “To catechize is ‘to reveal in the Person of Christ the whole of God’s eternal design reaching fulfillment in that Person’” (CCC 426).
  • So, in catechesis, “Christ, the Incarnate Word and Son of God, . . . is taught – everything else is taught with reference to him – and it is Christ alone who teaches – anyone else teaches to the extent that he is Christ’s spokesman” (CCC 427).

Practical application: Praying the Psalms in the light of Christ

  • Each time we attend Holy Mass we participate in the reciting or singing of a responsorial psalm.
  • The text of the responsorial psalm is either partially or fully drawn from one of David’s psalms or comes from some other song-like Biblical text that has been divided into stanzas.
  • These responsorial psalms are a good way that we can dialogue with Our Lord using His own words. One way we can do this is to see Christ praying this psalm himself. A second way is for us to make this psalm our own prayer to the Blessed Trinity.
  • For example, let’s take just one stanza from today’s responsorial psalm:

When I call, answer me, O my just God,
you who relieve me when I am in distress;
have pity on me, and hear my prayer!

  • We can contemplate Our Lord praying these very words in the Garden of Gethsemane. We can be with him at that time, realizing how alone he was with even his specially-picked disciples not able to keep vigil with him to comfort him.
  • We can also apply this stanza to our own lives. The “distress” due to which we call on God for aid is whatever particular distress we are experiencing.

*          *          *

The Catechetical Directory offers the following Catechism points and themes for the Third Sunday of Easter (this outline has explored the third):

  • CCC 1346-1347: the Eucharist and the experience of the disciples at Emmaus
  • CCC 642-644, 857, 995-996: the apostles and disciples as witnesses of the Resurrection
  • CCC 102, 601, 426-429, 2763: Christ the key to interpreting all Scripture
  • CCC 519, 662, 1137: Christ, our Advocate in heaven
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