TOWARD OF HOMILY FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER
The disciples going to Emmaus on that First Easter are typical of us and that is why God speaks to us today of them and has done so for his people for almost 2000 years. What ties us to them is the same Eucharist with the same risen Lord. But there is more to it. A rereading and a rereading again and again will bring the many elements home for us. Today we look at one segment of the faith story that, I believe, will open our eyes to our life in Christ just as he open their eyes years ago.
Let us review briefly the sequence of events. The two disciples, long followers of Jesus, were losing hope so they left the group and headed back home. A stranger joined them on their journey and engaged in conversation with them. They told him what was in their hearts and how dejected they were. He egged them on to give the whole story. They thought they did but the stranger chimed in and chided them for not understanding the events of the day in the light of the God’s word, spoken to the Jewish community for centuries. Taken back by this they still followed their Jewish hospitality and invited him to stay with them as the sun was going down. This hospitality included supper and continued conversation with him. The stranger surprises them again by breaking bread in the very familiar way of Jesus of Nazareth. By this they recognized that it was same Jesus, who they were told was raised from the dead by the Father. He disappeared and they make the unusual journey at that time of day to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus to the other disciples.
It is easy to recognize the Eucharistic references in what happened. And the first Christians would have seen the connection also. What you may have missed is that, just as at Mass, there is God’s word and Sacrament in that order. In the minds of the disciples it took the second part to help them realize the first part. This is what I want you to pay attention to. In our terms, the real presence of Jesus under the forms of Bread and Wine make us aware more of the real presence of Christ in God’s word. So the great tradition of the Catholic Church that what we have at the table of the Lord is the real Body and Blood of Christ. At the table of the Word we also have the same real Christ. He is really present in both and we venerate and reverence what he says just as we reverence the spiritual nourishment he gives us in going to Communion. This is an excellent example of God working in us by word and deed together. The disciples of Emmaus at the breaking of bread realized that what the Stranger was saying was true and they were rightfully chided by him for their ignorance. On the other hand the Divine Stranger was teaching them about the Messiah and his mission to suffer. So the Jesus, whose Body and Blood they shared, was truly the Messiah/Christ and his Body and Blood was the fulfillment of God’s promise from of old that he would be with his people forever — death could not stop it. The sacred food is Covenant food from the one Table of the Lord from which they were served the word of God and the Sacrament.
So this very day we are being called by God to be more aware of the greatness of what we do at Mass. It has become more acute because of the restrictions placed on us in loving concern for others during this pandemic. But just as the hope of the disciples of Emmaus was restored by their encounter with the risen Christ, so is our hope of returning the Table of the Lord together with the body of Christ, the Church. So when we go to Mass again we shall go with the understanding of the scriptures which the Divine Stranger will provide and with the deeper faith in Christ’s Body and Blood as the renewal of the Covenant. It’s coming soon, we will find out this week.