3rd Sunday of Easter 2023

Most of us here are of a certain age; we remember before television streaming services or cable. We recall when television was free, and all we needed to pick up a signal was a TV antenna or, in my family’s case, a set of rabbit ears attached to the TV. I was lucky enough to grow up between Providence and Boston so that we could watch stations from both cities. All the Providence stations came in clearly, but some Boston ones were sometimes fuzzy. Channel 7 was tough to get. To get it, you had to get out of your chair and manipulate the antenna’s position just right to get a clear picture on the television. If there was stormy weather or adverse atmospheric conditions, it could be impossible to position the antenna to get a clear signal.


Over the last two weeks and today, the Gospel reading has spoken about how Jesus’ death on the cross caused the apostles to lose focus. They had come to Jerusalem with Jesus to celebrate Passover and experienced Jesus’ triumphant welcome. They believed in their hearts He was the Messiah, and things were about to change. Jesus would cause the Roman oppressors to be cast out, and Israel was to be redeemed. Instead, one of their own betrayed Jesus, and Jesus was arrested, put on trial, and crucified. Jesus’ death caused the apostles to lose their focus.


Then early on the first Easter, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb but found it empty. She ran to tell Peter and the Beloved Disciple, who came to the tomb to see for themselves. Peter and the disciple enter the tomb. Peter doesn’t know what to make of it, but the Beloved Disciple sees and believes. Peter is still out of focus, but the Beloved Disciple believes because his faith antenna is positioned properly to receive faith in the resurrection.


Last week we heard how Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection to help them get appropriately positioned to believe in His resurrection. Last week John’s Gospel told us that Jesus appeared to the disciples closed off in the Upper Room to help them overcome their fear and to reposition themselves so they could believe in His resurrection. Most of them were there except Thomas; Thomas separated himself from the group and was away, maybe trying to sort things out or mourn alone. When Thomas returns, the other apostles try to help him position himself to believe Jesus is alive, but he refuses. He tells them that for him to believe, he must physically examine Jesus’ wounds.


A week later, Jesus returned, and Thomas was there with the other disciples. Jesus wants to help Thomas position himself to believe in the resurrection. Jesus invites Thomas to examine His wounds and position himself so he can come to believe. That isn’t necessary because once Thomas sees Jesus, Thomas comes to believe.


Today, we have another story from Luke’s Gospel about a couple of disciples who have lost focus and need repositioning to believe in the resurrection. Luke tells us they were on the Road to Emmaus. They left the other disciples in Jerusalem and headed out of town. Perhaps they might have been too fearful of staying with the others or were wandering about because they felt so disappointed that Jesus was dead. Luke says they were headed to Emmaus, but Biblical Archeologists have never been able to locate a town called Emmaus that fits Luke’s description, so I believe Luke is saying they were on the road to nowhere. They were so badly out of position that they wandered around, trying to make sense of their loss of hope in Jesus.


Jesus comes to them, but they don’t recognize Him because the shadows of the setting sun block Him out. He asks the disciples what they are discussing, and they tell Him how the death of Jesus has caused them to lose hope. They are focused on the negative and their sense of loss.


Jesus scolds them for feeling disappointed and reviews scripture with them. He helps them to remember what God has taught His people about the role of the Messiah. When the three reach the disciple’s destination, they invite Jesus to share a meal and spend the night. When Jesus breaks the bread, the disciples suddenly feel refocused and are positioned to recognize Jesus. Jesus disappears from sight, and the disciples rush back to Jerusalem to share their experiences and help the others position themselves to believe in the resurrection.


Jesus restores the disciple’s hope. Hope is the result of faith and is a gift from God. If we accept faith, we receive hope. Faith is the belief God exists, wants us to be happy, and has the power to bring us happiness. Hope is faith directed toward the future.


There are three degrees of hope. There is casual hope. Casual hopes might be our hope that the Bruins and Celtics will win their championships, we hope we will have a great vacation, or the weather will get warmer. While casual hopes are important, and we are disappointed when they don’t come to pass, it isn’t the end of the world. We can get over the sadness.


Precious hopes are more critical and affect more essential life phases. A precious hope might be for us to have a happy family life, a successful career, or financial security. They have far more consequences, and disappointment regarding them has more impact, but over time, we learn to deal with the loss of precious hopes.


The highest level of hope is our ultimate hope, and they are the dreams on which we rest our hearts and souls. They are fundamental and of supreme value to us.


When our hopes are well-ordered, it is a mark of maturity, but our problem is that, at times, they get mixed up. We can make our casual hopes seem precious and our precious hopes our ultimate hope. That is the problem for the two disciples. Their hopes are out of order, and they have taken a precious hope for liberation from Roman occupation and made it their ultimate hope. They have set their hearts on an ultimate hope that is too small. God has bigger things in mind for them; God wants to give them the gift of Eternal Life.


With Jesus’ help, the two disciples come to refocus their hopes. After Jesus explained the scriptures to them, they turned from their misordered hopes and turned outward. They offer Jesus hospitality and invite him to share a meal with them. They recognize Jesus and become refocused on what Jesus taught, and they hurry back to Jerusalem to share it with the other disciples so they can refocus too.


What are your hopes? Are they maybe out of sequence too? Have you lost focus on them? How do we get our hopes rightly ordered again? We start with prayer and reading scripture every day. Again, I want to encourage everyone to make time for prayer every day. Set aside ten to fifteen minutes a day to begin and listen to God. Read a few scripture verses, too, maybe starting with the Book of the Acts of the Apostles or one of the gospels. Ask yourself what God is trying to tell you. How is God trying to help you recognize that some of your hopes are out of order? You have to realign them so you can get a better focus on your relationship with God and the hopes and dreams God has for you.


The two Emmaus disciples could recognize Jesus clearly after He shared the breaking of the bread with them. Make sure you participate in Mass every week. If you do, you will also experience a spiritual refocusing and have your hopes reordered so you can share the presence of Jesus Christ with others.


This week take some time to write down your hopes and dreams. How do you classify them? Which ones are casual, which precious, and what are the ultimate ones? Do you believe you and God have organized them in the same way? Which ones need reordering? Do some need to be discarded and replaced with better ones? Will you let God dash some of your hopes so you can be open to better ones? Can you make room for God’s greatest hope for you, the gift of everlasting life?