The Church’s celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus continues. For eight days following Easter Sunday the Church asks the faithful to maintain an attitude of attentiveness and festivity. What God has revealed in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead is absolutely extraordinary. The power of God in Christ is greater than the greatest of all worldly powers- greater than the power of death!
It is the same divine power, manifested in the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, that is given to us in the Sacraments of the Church, a power through which God acts to draw us through the experience of death to a new and transformed life.
Where Christ has gone, we will follow. What Christ has become in his Resurrection, so one day we will become. This is the cause of our joy and the reason for our celebration.
Today’s reading from the New Testament book entitled “Acts of the Apostles” describes the apostles doing the very things Christ did. In other words, his mission is continued in their mission. What Christ did, is what his Church is supposed to do.
The Church is not just an institution or club- it is the extension of the Incarnation of God in space and time. It is for this reason that the scriptures describe the Church as the Body of Christ, and this description is not just metaphorical or symbolic, it is meant literally.
Each of the Baptized is meant to be an “alter Christus” or “another Christ” and all the sacraments of the Church and the works of mercy are occasions for us to become ever more like Christ. And this raises an important question: Do we truly know that Lord Jesus?
If we do not, we will not be able to act like him. And if we do not know Christ, and do not act like him, we are frustrating his will and purposes for what the Church is supposed to be and do.
Knowing Christ demands much more of us than simply matriculating through faith-based infrastructure. Nor can we say we know Jesus because we have a vague association with the Church because of the accidents of ethnicity or culture. After all, we are not disciples simply because we know about Jesus- we are supposed to know him as one knows a friend.
The Gospel presents concretely what it is to know Jesus. It means that we have entered into personal relationship with him, been introduced to him in the Scriptures and received his life in the Sacraments of the Church, particularly in the “breaking of the bread” (which is a reference to the Eucharist or the Blessed Sacrament).
This happens to us through the Mass. The Mass is an invitation to a personal relationship with Christ, who we come to know in the proclamation of the Scriptures and through the Blessed Sacrament. This is the privileged way of knowing Jesus and entering into relationship with him.
And so today’s Gospel is not just an account of how eyewitnesses described an encounter with the risen Lord Jesus (it is that but also so much more!) but how the Lord Jesus makes himself known in the Mass- in the Scriptures and the “breaking of the bread”.
As such, attempts to make the Mass into something else frustrate its true purpose. The Mass is not about the community celebrating its values or an occasion for the priest to draw attention to himself. Both diminish the true purpose of the Mass and engender what Pope Francis calls “self reference”. The true reference point for the Mass is not supposed to be ourselves, but the Lord Jesus.
The Mass is meant to be the occasion through which we come to know Christ so that we might become like him.