www.usccb.org (Readings for the Easter Season)
Weekday Readings for Easter Week
Monday: Acts 2:14, Octave of Easter22-23; Matthew 28,8-15
Tuesday: Acts 2, 36-41; John 20,11-18
Wednesday: Acts 3,1-19; Luke 24, 13-35
Thursday: Acts 3,11-36 Luke 24, 35-48
Friday Acts 4,1-12 John 21,1-14
Saturday Acts 4, 13-21 Mark 16,9-15
The weekday readings at Mass for the next 7 weeks of the Easter season come mainly from the Acts of the Apostles and the gospel of John. Read the introductions and commentaries to these books in the New American Bible, available at the US Bishops’ site. (www.usccb.org )
The Acts of the Apostles, which continues St. Luke’s Gospel, is an important reading in the Easter season because it describes how God’s promise of salvation to Israel was brought to the world under the guidance of the Holy Sprit. Acts describes the beginnings of our church and also offers insight into how our church develops today.
From its Jewish Christian origins in Jerusalem the church gradually incorporated the gentiles, non-Jews, and steadily spread throughout the Roman world, eventually reaching Rome itself. The church today is growing globally. Its early growth described in the Acts of the Apostles can help us understand its growth in our time.
“Do not cling to me.” Jesus says to Mary Magdalen in the Easter gospel. His words seem dismissive, but they’re not.
His resurrection was not the same as the resurrection of Lazarus his friend. When Lazarus came from the tomb they took the winding sheets from his body and saw immediately he was the same Lazarus they knew before. No doubt his sisters, Martha and Mary, embraced him and brought him home where he continued his life as before.
Living again, Lazarus did what he always did; he spoke, he ate, he thought as before. On the fateful week Jesus died, he sat at table with him and all recognized him as Lazarus who had died and came from the dark tomb after four days.
Eventually, he died again, as we all must do.
But when Jesus rose from the dead, he took on a new existence. He did not return to his ordinary life and he cannot die again. He was changed and became the first to enter a new life, a new world. He is “the first fruits” of those who die, scripture says; we are meant to follow him.
He goes before us. “Stop holding on to me,” he tells Mary, “for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go tell my brothers, ‘ I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
He does not dismiss Mary; he invites her to follow him.She does not follow him alone; she remains to tell others he is going forward to his God and their God. We will follow him.
We’re slow, like the apostles, to understand the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The two disciples on the way to Emmaus are not the only ones slow to understand–all of them were. Luke says that in the Acts of the Apostles, which we read in the easter season. And we are slow too.
Peter, who preaches to the crowds in Jerusalem at Pentecost, certainly was slow to understand. He speaks forcefully at Pentecost, forty days after the Passover when Jesus died and rose from the dead, but the days before he’s speechless. It took awhile for him and for the others who came up with Jesus from Galilee to learn and be enlightened about this great mystery..
Mark’s accounts of Jesus resurrection appearances, read on the Saturday of Easter week, stresses the unbelief of his disciples. They were not easily persuaded.
It’s the same with us. Each year the Lord refreshes our faith in the resurrection, but it’s not done in a day. Like the disciples, we need time to take it in, and so we have an easter season of forty days.
The disciples also were slow to understand the mission they were to carry out, a mission that was God’s plan, not theirs, a plan that outruns human understanding. A new age had come, the age of the Holy Spirit, and they didn’t understand it. The fiery winds of Pentecost had to move them to go beyond Jerusalem and Galilee to the ends of the earth.
The Holy Spirit also moves us to a mission beyond our understanding. Luke says that in the Acts of the Apostles. “The mission is willed, initiated, impelled and guided by God through the Holy Spirit. God moves ahead of the other characters. At a human level, Luke shows how difficult it is for the church to keep up with God’s action, follow God’s initiative, understand the precedents being established.” (Luke Timothy Johnson, The Acts of the Apostles)
“You judge things as human beings do, not as God does,” Jesus says to Peter elsewhere in the gospel. We see things that way too.
Like the others, Peter is slow to understand God’s plan after Jesus is raised from the dead. He doesn’t see why he must go to Caesaria Maritima to baptize the gentile Cornelius and his household. (Acts 10,1-49) It’s completely unexpected. Only gradually does he embrace a mission to the gentiles and its implications. The other disciples are like him; God’s plan unfolds but they are hardly aware of it.
One thing they all learned quickly, though, as is evident in the Acts of the Apostles. Like Jesus, they would experience the mystery of his cross, and in that experience they find wisdom.
“…forgetting the past and pushing on to what is ahead…”
What is the past? A remembrance of things past. Of what has been. Of what is not now. Of what is no longer today.
What is re-membering? A putting back together of what once was. Of what was once whole. Complete. United. Unified. A re-attachment of “bodily” members currently detached. A body made whole, brought back into health. It is healing. It is “being” fulfilled.
What is to forget? The act of properly re-membering. Beyond elimination. Beyond denial. It is re-valuation. It is re-deeming. Of value. A re-establishment of worth. An instance of humanity made universality worthy once more.
What is worthy? What has value? The future lived presently. Proper hope brought into active being. Knowing ‘now’ is a perpetual tomorrow, lived fully today.
It is tomorrow’s air breathed as we currently speak.
A human being living in heaven.
A human being “knowing” heaven was once, is now, and will be forever.
Worthy is a person “forgetting the past and pushing on to what is ahead…”
Praise be Incarnate Wisdom. Now and forever.