3rd Sunday of Easter

     

     In today’s gospel, we encounter two followers of Jesus who are leaving the city of Jerusalem three days after they watched from a distance as Jesus died a criminal’s death on the cross. As they left the city dejected because they had believed Jesus, followed Him and gave up everything for Him hoping He was the long awaited Messiah only to find out that He had seemingly been a failure. As they walked Jesus joined them, although they did not recognize Him. As Jesus journeyed with the two disciples, using the teachings of scripture, He once again reminded them of the necessity of His passion, death, and resurrection. Yet the scriptures were not enough to open the eyes of these two disciples to the presence of Jesus in their midst. For it was not until they invited Him in and He broke the bread, it was not until He celebrated the Eucharist with them, that they came to recognize who He was and they immediately returned to share that good news with the other disciples.

     Friends, I dare say all of us are those two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Each of us walking the path of the Christian life are searching for an encounter with Jesus Christ. Like those two disciples it can be so easy for us to become so focused on the bad news of our current situation, that we miss the Good News, Himself, walking this journey with us. Like those two disciples, we can get so focused on our problems that we miss the many signs of God’s presence around us. Did you notice when the disciples first recognized Jesus? Was it not only after they stopped worrying about themselves and decided to care for the apparent stranger walking with them, by inviting Him in for the night? While they may not have understood all of the scriptures, they remembered Jesus teaching “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me,”[1] and Jesus took advantage of this slight glimmer of faith to reveal Him to us. While Jesus is always knocking at the door of our heart, He only enters once we invite Him in, but once we invite Him in, He changes our lives forever.

     You know, if we look closely at how Jesus revealed Himself in today’s gospel, we will recognize that He does so in the same structure at the Mass we have gathered here today to celebrate. Notice that Jesus joined the disciples, broke open the Word of God with them, shared the Eucharist with them and then they went off to share that Good News with others. As we gather today for Mass do we not hear God’s word proclaimed to us? Will we not partake of the Eucharist, and will we not be sent out to share this Good News with our community?

     Today’s gospel is clear; it is simply impossible to walk the Christian path without participating in the Eucharist, for today’s gospel shows us that “listening to the Word is the beginning of recognition and communion in the breaking of bread perfects it.”[2] While “the Church is not the Word: She is the place where the Word dwells and in which it dwells,”[3] and so if we truly want to be a biblical people, as the Christian life calls us to be, we must live within the Church, we must participate in the Mass. Since “a faith-filled understanding of Scripture, must always refer back to the liturgy”[4] anyone who takes the scriptures seriously will be inspired to participate in the Mass.

     All of us are like those two disciples on the road to Emmaus. All of us, through the different joys and struggles of life, are searching for Christ. Yet so often like those two disciples, we get so focused on ourselves that we miss God standing in our midst. The challenge for each of us is to open ourselves in an ever new way to our participation in the Mass, where in the twofold table of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we are drawn outwardly from ourselves and built up in faith, hope, and charity. So friends, keep marching down the Christian path but don’t do it simply with the map of Scripture. No march down the Christian path with Jesus as your guide by not only listening to Him but also receiving Him at in the Eucharist. For when the Mass is a part of our weekly or even daily spiritual journey we can walk the Christian path with confidence that no matter how dreary things may seem, this path leads to an eternal encounter with the risen Lord.

[1] Mt 25:40

[2] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011.  Pg 303.

[3] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. Pg 23.

[4] Pope Benedict XVI. Post-Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini. Boston: Pauline Books (2010). Pg 86.

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