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Third Sunday of Easter

April 14, 2024

Today’s Invitation

Today we invite you to explore condemnation and moral authority in the scriptures; return to the gospels as good news, with the help of Fr. Dan Berrigan; and embody liberation instead of dread in the gospels, with the help of the women of the Salvadoran Revolution, and the music of David Benjamin Blower.

Commentary by Abbi Fraser

Third Sunday of Easter

Reading 1

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19

Peter said,
“It is the God of Sarah and Abraham, Rebecca and Isaac,
Leah and Rachel and Jacob, the God of our ancestors,
who has glorified Jesus —
the same Jesus you handed over and then disowned in the presence of Pilate,
after Pilate had decided to release him.
You disowned the Holy and Just One
and asked instead for the release of a murderer.
You put to death the Author of life,
whom God raised from the dead — a fact to which we are witnesses.

“Yet I know, my sisters and brothers, that you acted out of ignorance,
just as your leaders did.
God has brought to fulfillment by this means
what was announced long ago by the prophets: that the Messiah would suffer.
Therefore, reform your lives!
Turn to God, that your sins may be wiped away,
and that God may send a season of refreshment.
Then Our God will send you Jesus, the preordained Messiah,
whom Heaven must keep until the restoration of all things comes,
which God promised through the holy prophets in ancient times.
Moses, for example, said,
‘Our God will raise up a prophet like me for you,
from among your own kinfolk.
You must listen to everything this prophet tells you.
Anyone who does not listen is to be cut off ruthlessly from the people.’
In fact, all the prophets who have ever spoken,
from Samuel onward, have predicted these days.

“You are the heirs of the prophets,
the heirs of the Covenant the Most High made with our ancestors
when God told Sarah and Abraham,
‘In your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed.’
It was for you that God raised up and sent this Jesus,
to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 4

Response: Look on us with kindness, O God.

Answer me when I call, / O God, my defender!
When I was in trouble, /
You came to my help. Be kind to me now, / hear my prayer!
R: Look on us with kindness, O God.

Remember that Our God / has chosen me And hears me / when I call.
R: Look on us with kindness, O God.

Look on us with kindness, O God! / The joy that You give me is much greater
Than the joy of those who have an abundance of grain and wine.
R: Look on us with kindness, O God.

As soon as I lie down, / I peacefully go to sleep.
You alone, my Strength, / keep me perfectly safe.
R: Look on us with kindness, O God.

Reading 2

1 John 2:1-5

My little ones,
I am writing this to keep you from sin.
But if anyone should sin,
we have an Advocate with God —
Jesus Christ, who is just.
Jesus is the full payment for our sins,
and not for our sins only,
but for those of the whole world.
We can be sure that we know God
only by keeping the commandments.
Anyone who says, “I know God,”
and does not keep the commandments
is a liar and refuses to admit the truth.
But when anyone does obey God’s word,
God’s love comes to perfection in that person.


Luke 24:35-48

The disciples recounted what had happened on the road,
and how they had come to know Jesus in the breaking of bread.
While they were still talking about this,
Jesus stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”

In their panic and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost.
Jesus said to them, “Why are you disturbed?
Why do such ideas cross your mind?
Look at my hands and my feet; it is I, really.
Touch me and see — a ghost does not have flesh and bones as I do.”

After saying this, Jesus showed them the wounds.
They were still incredulous for sheer joy and wonder,
so Jesus said to them,
“Do you have anything here to eat?”
After being given a piece of cooked fish,
Jesus ate in their presence.

Then Jesus said to them,
“Remember the words I spoke when I was still with you:
everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets
and psalms had to be fulfilled.”

Then Jesus opened their minds to the understanding of the scriptures, saying,
“That is why the scriptures say
that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.
In the Messiah’s name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins
will be preached to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of all this.”

The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved. 

The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.



Listening to the Prophets

I am sure I am not the only one who read the readings for today and found myself feeling ostracized and filled with dread. It’s a type of ostracization and dread that I have been told to feel time and time again from the institutional Church and various church leaders. All three readings display some sort of moral authority and willingness to judge and condemn, which, put simply, does not make for much of a liberating message – be it in the first reading’s threat of  “ruthlessly being cut off from the people”; the epistles rebuke of being a liar if one were to say “I know God” if they don’t keep each of the commandments perfectly; or the Gospel with Jesus’ suffering for repentance. And yet as I sit further with them, as much as there are parts of scripture that fly in the face of liberation, these readings make me think more about the tradition of faith and the ways in which we have related to the Church, its hierarchy, and authority. 

From Moses to Peter, the Scriptures point to Jesus saying “You must listen to everything this prophet tells you. Anyone who does not listen is to be cut off ruthlessly from the people.”  I often think the American Church ought to listen more to the prophets and, what some would call “The Prophet” of the Christian Scriptures. There is the reality that following the teachings of such prophets often leads to getting cut off from your community – to love one’s neighbor could lead you to ask why the Church at large has supported wars, protected abusers, colonized and crusaded, and continues to support criminalization in exchange for private property…and ultimately could get you cut off from that community that you question. It seems that often members of the institutional Church are more willing to act on these readings advocating condemnation and moral judgment, instead of following Jesus’s call for liberation. These readings are harrowing, and without carefulness can lead people to emphasize and further these oppressive hierarchical forces. 

These readings make clear the way our understanding of words like salvation can lead to misunderstanding the message before us. Theologian and activist Kalie May Hargrove puts it well in saying: 

“Because of its use in theological discussion, we understand salvation to mean the process in which someone gains access to heaven instead of hell. However, the biblical word “σωτηρία” (soteria) denotes a physical rescue, similar to the way we use ‘liberation’” (“Our Language Taught Us to Misinterpret the Bible”).

I am intrigued by the reality that the Church is often, when acting as the moral and scriptural authority, making itself God. Thus, it is the Church’s job and focus to save us from hell, and its own condemnation. Unfortunately, it is often the Church that creates hell for people through ostracization and the resulting loss of relationships. How many families have been torn apart by this moral superiority? How many queer children are torn from their parents? How many people questioning the Church’s relationship to war, unjust laws, history of colonization, and abuse protection are forced to choose between having a relationship with their community or being forcibly excluded from it?

A short exercise with the Psalm could highlight the way this tradition of moral condemnation and the Church as God-Judge is carried out.

So now choose: 

Look on us with kindness, O institutional Church, who, with all its earthly power and wealth, claims to have the gifts of the spirit and the last say in eternal matters?
Look on us with kindness, O God, who spoke of a life and faith that will lead us to oppose anyone who boasts of harm to any neighbor it disagrees with?

Either option will leave one ostracized, so it seems the prophets are right once again. Listen and you will be ruthlessly cut off:

from a community of faithful wanderers, questioners, liberators, and those marginalized from the powers that be if that violent institutional church is chosen…
from a community of the powerful and wealthy, who are increasingly loud and nationalistic in their approach to “being Christians,” but provide a sort of community and comfort and condemn those unaffiliated to the pits of hell.

Commentary by Abbi Fraser

Abbi Fraser spends a lot of time confused and loves asking a lot of questions. Abbi likes talking about God and finds Them most in her friends, protests, and the park.

Engage Catholic Social Teaching

As Daniel Berrigan says, “Rubbishy times create a mountain of rubbishy questions…In such times, key questions of decency, justice, peace, the sharing of the world’s goods, are lost at the bottom of a cosmic dump” (America Is Hard to Find).

When these scriptures are read with a presumption of ultimate truth, one that includes an emphasis on sin and wicked ways, and the rules that keep you away from such un-Godly realities, the panic and fright the disciples felt when a ghostly Jesus joined them for dinner finds us someway too. So, it may be wiser to ask ourselves the question Jesus asked at that moment: “Why do such ideas cross our minds?”

Why is our knee-jerk response to say we cannot rock the boat, to choose the lesser evils, that silence can be nuanced or neutral in fights against oppression? How have we come/been moved to the point where we read the Gospels, literally “Good News,” and get filled with dread? 

And more importantly, can we open our minds to the understanding of Scripture with specific witness to how Scripture is fulfilled in the personhood of Jesus? 

What if, like many queer & liberation theologians, we stopped asking where we fit in the Institutional Church and find our faith in the streets, around the table, in the bars, on the dance floor, in protest, in each other, keeping ourselves from the sin of failing to love? – and with the knowledge that the God of our ancestors was present in those places before, and will continue to be? Making God’s presence known through advocating with one another? 

So let us leave the rubbishy questions, because there are better questions somewhere around the cosmic dump. Let us live the better questions, the ones that lead us toward the community that knows love’s opposition is hate, hate which includes moral condemnation, and is willing to walk firmly in that truth. 


A Community

The Salvadoran women during the Salvadoran Revolution

 (quotes from Renny Golden’s book, The Hour of the Poor, the Hour of Women)

During the Salvadoran Revolution, it’s estimated that more than 8,000 people were disappeared, and more than 75,000 people were killed. While liberating messages could be found from voices inside the Church (like Oscar Romero), many Salvadoran women became bearers of liberation outside of waiting to die to get to heaven. Instead of accepting death as the final word, they bear witness to life even in death and disappearance. Renny Golden writes that the women,

“determine not only the meaning of the loss suffered by the people but they do so as the immediate recipients of such finality. They insist on naming the dead and disappeared. It is a contest the state cannot win. The bearers of life confront the destroyers, refusing to let the dead be anonymous, refusing to allow the mutilated thousands to remain ‘subversives’ and ‘terrorists.’ The mothers carry pictures of their disappeared relatives to attest to a particular violation of the body, a beloved humanity, their child or husband…An often repeated phrase of family or community members of a slain friend is that ‘their death will not be in vain.’ These are not sentimental words but words of an oath. As if they were God or the last revolutionaries of the century, the Salvadorans won’t let the dead die.

When Jesus died, the disciples thought death had won. When He rose, He ate with them, full flesh and bones and human. When Salvadorans were killed by government forces, those forces tried to convince the mothers that they had won through death. Instead, mothers carried their loved ones’ images physically, bringing them back to life from a death that refused to be final. 



“All Things” by David Benjamin Blower 

The tension of exploring tradition, scripture, history, and beyond is God, Creator of all things, and can be pointed to as the source of it all as well. A full image is more complicated, but our questions become better with a fuller God. The God who made all rulers, thrones, and powers is the same God who levels haughty towers. We invite you to question, along with apocalyptic folk artist David Benjamin Blower, what God has created and the ways God has responded, especially if it seems contradictory. 

Song – “All Things” by David Benjamin Blower 

Image of the invisible God
Firstborn o’er creation
For by Him all things were made
On earth and in heaven

Jesus Christ, before all things
Who holds all things together
Reconciles all things to God
And all things to each other

All things seen and things unseen
Rulers, thrones or powers
All these things were made through Him
Who levels haughty towers

Our Messiah, Lord and head
Of the gathered body
We the wondering feet and hands
Serving to Thy glory

Here, God’s fullness, pleased to dwell
In Him, Lord and beginning
Making peace now with the blood
Of His crucifixion

Our Messiah, the first new day
First raised among the fallen
That all things may follow Him
Through death to resurrection