The Third Sunday of Easter A – May 8, 2011 – Easter is a Defining Time
Acts 2:14, 22-23, Psalm 16:1-2,5,7-11, 1 Peter 1:17-21, Luke 24:13-35
A storybook wedding. Devastating tornadoes and floods. A papal beatification. A terrorist killed. These recent major news stories remind us that we live in a world of saints and sinners, where nothing is taken for granted, and where dreams can come true.
These headlines however are subplots to the major story in this church this morning. Some of our young brothers and sisters will be sharing in the Eucharistic banquet for the first time. This sacramental event happily occurs on a day that celebrates motherhood. It also takes place in a month that honors Mary. Pope Benedict said in his sermon at the beatification of John Paul II, she is “the Mother to whom Jesus entrusted each of his disciples and the entire community.”
In today’s gospel we walk with the followers of Jesus who were overwhelmed by his tragic execution. They had hoped he was the one who would save Israel. Puzzled by the empty tomb they wondered what would happen to them next. They did not realize it was Jesus who came up behind them on the path. Only later, during the evening meal, did they come to recognize him in the breaking of the bread, a term used by the early church to describe what we call the Eucharist.
So often, like the disciples, we do not recognize the presence of Christ in our midst because we are either consumed by our own to do lists or distracted by happenings in the world. What we can miss are sacramental moments — mysterious engagements with God — something that society is desperately searching for. Sometimes we forget that in our daily routines the Creator does not abandon us, that the risen Christ still walks among us and that the holy Spirit guides us along the way.
However, these spiritual notions are affected by real current events which can change our attitudes. They wake us up, remind us of who we are and what we are called to do. For example, some of those who lost loved ones in terrorist attacks, or were harmed themselves, are celebrating pride and joy over the death of a callous criminal. Others are able to step back, to pause for a moment, to say there must be alternative, peaceful ways to face such evil. As college student Liz Martinez said about the death of Osama bin Laden, “We should not let this moment define us, but let it inspire us to craft a better definition of ourselves.” 
Good thing Easter lasts for fifty days all the way up to Pentecost. It gives us ample time to reflect on the meaning of our liturgical events and how they help us redefine ourselves. This is what a responsible church community does. Our ritual making puts us in touch with what is mystical and what is real. The proclamation of biblical stories, the taste of good wine and fresh bread, the companionship of families and friends are the holy things that keep us watchful and hopeful in an unpredictable world. They are the reminders of what we do as a people of God and what our perspective on domestic and global issues might be.
Welcoming our children to the table of the Lord on this Mother’s Day is a festive reminder that we are constantly nourished by a God who, like a mother, feeds and cuddles her children. Each time we eat and drink from this holy table we experience the tender embrace of Christ. When we leave the altar bearing Christ we, like Mary the Mother of God , bring comfort and joy to others. These are the acts that define us.
1 “A Defining Moment for Young America” in the Chicago Post-Tribune. http://posttrib.suntimes.com/news/5170791-418/a-defining-moment-for-young-america.html
2 In Eastern Christianity Mary is frequently referred to as “theotokos.” This Greek word means “God bearer.”