One of the most helpful concepts to enter our religious thought and vocabulary in the mid-’60s was “salvation history.” It dovetailed with the happenings of Vatican II, helping us understand we were part of an ongoing process by which God, through Jesus, was saving the world. Scripture was emphasized more than ever. In those writings we surface the beginnings of that history. So it was only logical when our new Lectionary came out in 1970 that the first of the weekend readings was usually from the Hebrew scriptures. If nothing else, those rarely heard passages helped us place Jesus more firmly in his historical, Jewish environment, an essential element in understanding God’s actions on our behalf throughout history.
I can’t overemphasize the importance of the first verse of today’s Gospel pericope: “The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
The Sunday after Easter always has the same Gospel, one we should hear at least once a year.
It’s more than just a narrative about Thomas’ initial lack of faith in Jesus’ resurrection and his eventual conversion to that essential Christian belief. As in all Gospel empty tomb and post-Resurrection appearances, John the evangelist provides us with serious insights and implications of that Resurrection. This event isn’t just something that once happened to someone else, giving credibility to his teachings and lifestyle. If we’re imitators of Jesus, it affects the very core of our own lives.
No liturgy is more important or more ancient than the celebration of the Easter Vigil. One hint of its age is that seven of its nine readings are from the Hebrew scriptures.
Scholars presume it took the early church a couple centuries before it placed the Christian scriptures on the same “inspired” level as the Hebrew scriptures. Before then, the community revolved much of its faith understanding around the writings that had inspired the historical Jesus: the collection we once called the “Old Testament.”
Few of us form our images of Jesus’ passion and death from the four Gospel narratives. Most of us shape them from pious devotions, the Stations of the Cross, Holy Week homilies, or, for us older folk, from the old Tre Ore (Three Hour) Good Friday service. Encouraged to zero in on the suffering and pain our sins caused the Son of God, we’re led not only to experience deep sorrow for those sins, but also to resolve never to commit them again. Nothing wrong with such a process, but it isn’t what our four evangelists intend us to take from their Passion narratives.
Two weeks into the new year, the sacred texts alert us yet again to the fact that we do not create our own lives or futures, regardless of our penchant for planning and organization. We are called into being, called to serve and called into the unknown future by a God who knows and loves us and never departs from us. Our response to God is constituted in what we do with all the divine calls that punctuate our days and nights with possibility.