Believing in the Heart

3rd Sunday of Easter

Acts 2: 14; 22-33; 1 Pet 1: 17-21; Lk 24: 13-35

Deacon Larry Brockman

So, do you believe in your hearts?  Because that’s what today’s readings are all about.  

Now I am sure that if I ask all of you if you believe in Jesus Christ and the Resurrection; your all going to tell me “yes”.  But let’s take a closer look at today’s Gospel to see about believing in the heart.   

Jesus is walking along with Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus.  Not recognizing him, they tell Jesus about all the mighty deeds and words that Jesus did. Yet even so, they say that Jesus was betrayed, crucified, died, and buried.  Then they proceed to tell him that some of the women went to the tomb that very morning and found it empty. The women were told by an angel that Jesus was not there but was Risen.  Instead of being happy and joyous, they are confused and despondent.   

So, Jesus says to them: “Oh. How foolish you are, slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke.”  Yes, “Slow of heart”.   

These disciples of Jesus presumably had followed him in his ministry.  They had heard all of this before.  Jesus had been very open to his disciples about who he was, what would happen to him, and that it would all unfold according to the scriptures.  They heard it before, they knew it, they kind of believed it too.  Else they wouldn’t have talked about how mighty Jesus’ words and deeds were.  But they didn’t believe it in their hearts.   

So, they believed; but they didn’t believe.  They didn’t believe in their hearts because they were distracted.  They were distracted by the events taking place in the world and the magnitude of the cultural establishment.  Despite everything Jesus had said, they still believed that death was death; because that’s what everyone’s experience was.  And even the testimony of the “women in their group” about what the angel said couldn’t penetrate that.  They didn’t connect the dots because reality was more relevant than Jesus message about the Kingdom.  The Kingdom of God is, after all, beyond worldly reality.   

About 6 weeks ago, I was participating as a Deacon in a Funeral Mass.  Before Mass, a group of us were gathered in the back of the Church while the family assembled in the front.  The deceased was the 104 year old Aunt of a friend of mine, who lost her husband within weeks of when Jane died.  She had told me the lady was her favorite Aunt.   

Well, I remarked to the priest and some of the Parish Staff Members that I wasn’t sure I wanted to live to 104 because with each year, I was less and less nimble; and the list of chronic ailments was growing. 

Then one of the staff members said to me: “Yes but consider the alternative.”  Really, consider the alternative.  This is a perfect example of how someone can believe, and yet not believe in their heart. 

Now if you follow the daily readings, then you know that today’s reading from Acts shows a dramatic change in the Disciples behavior.  In this week’s readings, the Apostles were summoned by the Jewish Leaders twice and told not to preach about “That Name”.  And yet, the 40 days of the post Resurrection Jesus had converted these men.  They didn’t care any more what the Jewish Leaders thought or what they might do to them.  They were fearless; because they were now believing in their hearts in the Resurrection.  Peter’s speech clearly demonstrated that as he calls Jesus’ persecutors, the Jewish Leaders, “lawless men”.  

How can we come to really believe in our hearts like these men did?  After all, we are not first-hand witnesses, but rather, we are called to listen to the Gospel and accept everything on faith some 2000 years later.   

When Jesus accepts Cleopas’ invitation to stay with him and share a meal, he does something truly remarkable.  He repeats his actions from the last Supper by taking bread, blessing it, breaking it, and giving it to the others.  It is then, and only then, that they recognize him.  And instantly, he is gone.    

I remarked last week about “the breaking of bread”.  Here again we hear Cleopas and his companion return to Jerusalem   And describe that Jesus was not made known to them until  “the breaking of bread”.   

Well, we all have this same experience available to us.  That is what Communion is all about.  We can’t see Jesus; we can’t feel Jesus in worldly terms.  But he is really present in the Eucharist, in the breaking of bread; and not only that, His ethereal presence will help us to understand and internalize our faith in our hearts.  This experience is available to us each time we attend Mass.   

Life is God’s most precious gift to each of us as individuals.  The world tells us that eventually we will die, and that is it.  The world acts as if “that is it” when someone dies.  But you know what, as Christians, we should believe in our hearts.  After all, consider the alternative!


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