3rd Sunday of Easter Acts 2:14, 22-23 1 Peter 1:17-21 Luke 24:13-35 EASTER JOY is not the heedless and charming joy of children playing in the sun, but bears the mark of the price paid for it; it bears the marks, that is, of the human living that is the indispensible prelude to it: it is a joy that is battle-scarred, footsore, and travel-weary, and the more real for all that.
Today's first reading has Peter addressing the Jerusalem festival crowds in provocative style, insisting on his hearers' responsibility for Jesus' death, and on the decisive intervention of God that removed the marks of death: "you killed him, but God raised him to life", he says, trailing his coat more than somewhat.
The finger, however, is pointed at us, not at them, who lived in another age and another place. Jesus was commended to, us too, and we have ignored him quite as much as those who knew him in the flesh, and he paid the price for that.
Today's second reading underlines this point: the author of this epistle describes what Jesus has done for us as "paying a ransom"; but the metaphor has a harshness to it: "not paid in anything corruptible, neither in silver nor gold, but in the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain".
We are talking here of violence, and, what is more, undeserved violence. The point to latch on to, though, is that God makes sure that the violence is not the end of the story: "through him you now have faith in God, who raised him from the dead, and gave him glory". Easter means not that there is no pain, but that all pain is in the end redeemed.
And how slow we are to learn this! Today's gospel is the loveliest of all Resurrection narratives, the tale of the two sad disciples trudging to Emmaus. For them, the fact that the terrible price of Good Friday has been paid means that the Jesus story is at an end, and in response to the gentle interrogation of the sympathetic stranger they meet on the road ("their faces downcast"), they pour out all the sadness, not without a flash of anger.
"Are you the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days?", they ask petulantly: and, ironically, they are of course talking to the only person in Jerusalem who does know what has been happening.
So they tell their story, not realising that it is only half a story, because they can only see all the pain, and none of the joy. They have the evidence before them, but dismiss the rumours of an empty tomb as the words of "some women". And Jesus tears them off a strip: "you foolish men!", he says, with a touch of asperity, reproaching them, not that they could see nothing, for they were only too well aware of the dark side, but because of the incompleteness of their vision.
The rest of the journey is taken up with their education, with broadening their vision by way of Scripture; and it was evidently quite a class, because when they reflected on it afterwards, they told each other that their "hearts had burned inside them".
The class did not however take them all the way, for there is a leap of faith that we cannot make alone, but seems occasionally to be given to us. For these two, the leap comes at the Eucharist, "in the breaking of the bread", that privileged moment where Christians ever since have encountered the Risen Lord, in the midst of the ordinariness and the pain of human life.
We too, as we break bread, can ask to have our eyes opened, so that we see beyond the suffering of our human living to the joy that is all round us and ahead of us, beyond the costliness of Good Friday to the adult joy of Easter Sunday.
Then, even if Jesus disappears from sight, travel-stained though we may be, we are in a position to "set out that instant" and spread the good news.
Nicholas King SJ