We gather this weekend in the joy of the gospel after the solemn celebration of Easter and Divine Mercy Sundays, we also thank God for the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. we thank God for their leadership of the Church over the years. We also remember that the celebration of Easter continues until the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday and then Easter Time ends and the paschal candle is placed near the baptismal font.
After his Resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples several times. This Sunday’s gospel recounts the apparition of Jesus on the evening of Easter to two disciples who were going from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Now, however, their life with Jesus has all come to an abrupt end. For in these past few days Jesus, their beloved Leader and Teacher, has been arrested, tried, sentenced, tortured and killed. Now they are feeling that without his presence, his inspiration and guidance, his support and encouragement, they simply cannot go on. So disappointed and so disillusioned are they about Jesus in fact, that they have even decided to leave the Church, the community of his followers. This is just what they are doing when we catch up with them today. Slowly but surely they are walking away from it all.
Slowly but surely they are putting Jerusalem and the other disciples behind them. They are heading for the village of Emmaus, some seven miles away, to start a new and different way of life. The Emmaus story is the story of the church it is the story of you and me the two disciples represent all of us who claim that we are Christians with all our doubts and disagreements.
We come together in our churches each Sunday in answer to a call, often a quiet murmur from the recesses of our hearts which calls out to us saying come to me you who are weary and overburdened and I will give you rest. We’re searching just as the companions on the road to Emmaus were and they were weary from all that had happened to them. The people of God come together for a purpose and that is to seek God. We work together for God’s kingdom since the kingdom provides unending meaning and purpose: we worship together so we’ll not miss seeing God with us. God comes to us in the Scriptures handed down throughout the ages. The experiences of our faith ancestors in those scriptures give substance and meaning to our lives. In these we find explanation and understanding of events and relationships which have shaped the faith of so many for many years. Our faith is lived out in the real world, the world of family, of work, of recreation, of politics and economics. We don’t live in two separate worlds one spiritual and the other secular.
Those who would have us believe that we can separate our lives into two compartments are mistaken as history has shown. The fellowship we share helps us ask the questions of faith. It is the application of scriptures to the events of our own times that reveal that God is walking with us and maybe even working through us. But it is in the breaking of bread that we recognize the Christ who is already among us on our journey. It is in the sharing of the Bread and the Cup that we are made one with each other and with Christ. Our faith grows and our relationship with God and his called-together-people unites us in bond of love. We are formed into one Body, the Body of Christ. The trip to Emmaus is the journey we make as faithful people of god. We are on this journey in fellowship with one another being led by Jesus who calls out to us to follow him from the Cross of Good Friday as well as from the empty tomb of Easter Sunday.
As we grow in faith, we are led to understand those past events as experienced yet again in our time and place. It is in the breaking of bread, in the hospitality of Jesus, that we recognize Jesus as God’s Son. The Risen Lord uses so much gentleness with us! He doesn’t oblige us to ‘believe’ but He offers us the instruments that enable us to judge based on the measure of our own hearts. As St Augustine extraordinarily wrote in the opening of his Confessions ‘our heart is restless until it rests in you’
(St. Augustine, Conf. 1,1,1:PL32,659-661)
There is still one more detail that calls for our attention and raises many questions: why did the eyes of the disciples open to recognize Jesus whilst they were at table with Him? The Eucharistic context of the Emmaus story is undeniable. The disciples are at table, the Lord is with them; He took the bread and saying the prayer of benediction, broke it. It was during the last action of the breaking of the bread that the companions recognised Jesus. It was not only the action in itself but finally as his friends could see, with their own eyes, and we too see the breaking of the bread with our eyes and hear the word of god and yet so many are slow to believe in the great joy that so many people have in the present as so many had in the past. Pope Francis tells us in the Joy of the Gospel his recent letter to the Church, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ… If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life… At our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mt 14,16; Mk 6:37; Lk 9,13). Pope Francis Apostolic Exhortation « The Joy of the Gospel »
As we recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread may we be joyful agents of conversion of one another and to those who are around us. Bringing the joy of the Gospel and its message to everyone without exception and be the caring face of the Church those who need us wherever they may be.