By Msgr. Joseph Calise
The Responsibility Statement of Alcoholics Anonymous, the forerunner of the many twelve-step recovery groups that exist today, reads, “I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there. And for that I am responsible.” The simple understanding is that when someone has been blessed with the ability to remain sober, it becomes his or her responsibility to pass that message on.
As a matter of fact, if you read the book, “Alcoholics Anonymous” (usually referred to as The Big Book), you will notice that the first 164 pages are about the disease of alcoholism. In the third edition, this is followed by 43 stories written by recovering alcoholics, which comprise almost 400 pages of passing on the message of what happened to them in the hope of helping someone else. When you witness something special, you spread the word. To be effective, however, you must use more than words. That spirit of sharing with others what has been revealed to us is very operative in the Scriptures today.
Today’s Gospel is the sequel to the Road to Emmaus. The disciples Jesus encountered on the road have gone back to the others and are telling them what happened and how they came to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. While they are still speaking, He appears to them again. Standing in their midst, He uses the greeting, “Peace be with you.” This is the same greeting He spoke in the upper room which is followed by the same gesture. When He recognizes their fear, He shows them His hands and feet, He shows the wounds of the crucifixion to identify that it is really He who stands among them. He assures them that it is not a ghost but their Lord and friend who speaks. Then, He asks what might seem at first to be an odd question, “Have you anything here to eat?” Food is necessary to sustain life. If there is no life, there is no need for food. If Jesus were not fully alive, He would not have taken and eaten the fish they offer Him.
His showing of His wounds and His desire for something to eat are offered as evidence that the crucifixion was real but so was the Resurrection. They are witnessing firsthand that Christ is Risen — not a fear-inspiring ghost but their peace offering Master — and that the promises of Moses, the prophets and the psalms have been fulfilled. The perfect offering has been made, forgiveness of sins is possible and the gates to the kingdom have been opened. They are now witnesses to the miracle of God’s love.
As witnesses, they are instructed that the good news they have come to believe must be preached to all nations. The world is waiting in anticipation for the love they have seen. Gratitude for what has been given them necessitates that the message be spread. Through our reading and hearing the Scriptures, our reception of the Eucharist and our participation in the life of the Church, we witness the same miracle as the apostles in the upper room: We encounter Jesus alive among us. And so we become the witnesses of today. We become the ones responsible for passing on the good news that the prophecies have been fulfilled and the promises have been kept.
In “Walden” in 1854, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Sadly and unnecessarily, that often remains true today. The world needs the Good News. May we who have come to see Christ present among us, joyfully be His witnesses to the world.
Readings for The Third Sunday of Easter
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
Psalm: 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9
1 John 2:1-5a
Msgr. Calise is the pastor of Transfiguration-St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, Maspeth.