"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
April 22, 2012: Third Sunday of Easter
• Acts 3:13-19
Overview: Christ is the key to understanding the Bible. In the first reading, Peter explains how God through Christ “has brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets.” Peter’s speech is prompted by the miraculous healing of a crippled man, which utterly amazed those who saw it. He tells the astonished crowds how Jesus is the “holy and righteous one” and “author of life” whom they had put to death, but is now alive! Peter’s discourse reflects a common pattern that contains the essential Gospel message, or kerygma; a pattern that appears several times in the book of Acts.
The second reading from the first letter of John uses language similar to Peter’s to describe Jesus. Raised from the dead and now seated at the right hand of God, Jesus Christ the “righteous one” applies the merits of his death and resurrection to cover our sins and “the sins of the whole world.” The proper response to what Christ has done is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the “obedience of faith.” For the one who responds in faith, “the love of God is truly perfected in him.”
In this week’s Gospel reading, Christ appears unexpectedly to the disciples in the upper room in the evening of that first Easter. Utterly amazed, they thought they were seeing a ghost. He convinced them that he wasn’t a ghost or a figment of their imaginations by eating a piece of baked fish. Afterward, he “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,” explaining how everything “in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms” are fulfilled in him. The “Living Word”—Christ—gives life to the written word. The written word, in turn, bears witness to Christ.
Key verse: “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The Christian faith is not a ‘religion of the book.’ Christianity is the religion of the Word of God, a word which is ‘not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living.’ If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, open our minds to understand the Scriptures” (No. 108).
Benedict XVI: “Let us never forget that when the sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his own word, proclaims the Gospel. If it is to be properly understood, the word of God must be listened to and accepted in a spirit of communion with the Church and with a clear awareness of its unity with the sacrament of the Eucharist” (“Sacramentum Caritatis,” 45).
Life application: Holy Mother Church urges “all the Christian faithful to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ” (“Dei Verbum,” 25). The Liturgy of the Hours, daily Mass, devotional reading, lectio divina and Bible study are some of the many ways we can communicate with Christ as he with us, for “we speak to him when we pray; we hear him when we read the divine sayings” (“Dei Verbum,” 25).
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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