Apr162014
The work of DignityUSA on April 16, 2014 could have been sponsored by you. Click here for more information.

April 30, 2006: THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER

Readings: 

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
I John 2:1-5
Luke 24:35-48

One of the difficulties with which modern Scripture scholars deal is the way the authors of the Christian Scriptures interpret the Hebrew Scriptures. These writers usually employ a "prediction/fulfillment" technique, a methodology which, since Pope Pius XII's 1943 encyclical Divinu Afflante Spiritu, has been gradually relegated to the past history of biblical exegesis. Following the Holy Father's lead, we spend our time not so much trying to find predictions of Jesus in Genesis as we do surfacing the sacred authors' original intention in composing their works.

More than 30 years ago, Fr. Raymond Brown disturbed some of my brother priests when he stated, "There are no predictions of Jesus of Nazareth as we know him any-where in the Hebrew Scriptures." Some at that clergy study day quickly challenged the famous Scripture scholar, quoting passages from Isaiah 7 about a virgin giving birth to Emmanuel, and Deutero-Isaiah's fourth song of the suffering servant. In both cases, Brown patiently assured us, the prophets were referring to someone other than Jesus; then in a calm voice he said, "Fathers, if you think there are passages in the Hebrew Scriptures which refer to Jesus, the burden of proving that is on you. I don't have to prove that they don't. The consensus of scholarship is on my side, not yours."

Unfortunately Luke wasn't present for Brown's conference. Without recourse to the discoveries of biblical research over the last 200 years, he and his evangelical predecessors believed Jesus, his suffering, dying and rising could be found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

That's why he doesn't hesitate to have the newly-risen Jesus chide his astonished disciples for their unbelief, proclaiming, "'. . . Everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and psalms had to be fulfilled.' Then he opened their minds to the understanding of the Scriptures. He said to them. 'Thus it is written that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day."

This parallels what Luke has Peter tell the Pentecost crowd in our first reading: "God has brought to fulfillment by this means (Jesus' death and resurrection) what he announced long ago through all the prophets: that his Messiah would suffer."

If these prediction/fulfillment pericopes can't be looked at today as they were 1900 years ago, how do we know Jesus is "the one?" Only by employing the same method our sacred authors chronologically employed. Long before they found the risen Jesus in Scripture, they found him in their lives. Both the author of I John and Luke speak about people "knowing" Jesus. The former states, "The way we can be sure of our knowledge of him is to keep his commandments. Whoever claims, 'I have known him,' without keeping his commandments, is a liar . . . . “Our gospel passage begins with Luke describing the return of the Emmaus disciples.”The recounted . . . how they had come to know Jesus in the breaking of bread."

As I've mentioned many times before, our biblical writers presume we only "know" what we experience. I John teaches that we always experience the risen Jesus among us when we carry out his command to love one another. Luke believes one of the best ways to discover Jesus' presence is to die enough to ourselves to become one body - the body of the risen Jesus - when we participate in the eucharistic breaking of bread.

The writers of the Christian Scriptures turned to the Hebrew Scriptures to help them understand the experience of a lifetime. Some of us, on the other hand, explore the Scriptures in place of exploring our experiences. No wonder we insist on finding Jesus in Scripture. If we haven't found him in our lives, it's our only recourse.