3rd Sunday of Easter Acts of the Apostles 2:14, 22–33; 1 Peter 1:17–21; Luke 24:13–35
Finding Jesus today Jesus is to he found today in the midst of his church in the breaking of the bread.
Regina Riley tells a story that many parents can relate to. For years she had prayed that her two sons would return to the faith.
Then one Sunday morning in church she couldn’t believe her eyes. Her two sons came in and sat across the aisle from her. Her joy and gratitude overflowed.
Afterward she asked her sons what prompted their return to the faith. The younger son told the story.
One Sunday morning, while vacationing in Colorado, they were driving down a mountain road. It was raining cats and dogs.
Suddenly they came upon an old man without an umbrella. He was soaked through and through, and walked with a noticeable limp. Yet he kept trudging doggedly along the road. The brothers stopped and picked him up.
It turned out that the stranger was on his way to Mass at a church three miles down the road. The brothers took him there.
Since the rain was coming down so hard, and since they had nothing better to do, they decided to wait for the stranger to take him home after Mass.
It wasn’t long before the two boys figured they might as well go inside, rather than wait out in the car. As the two brothers listened to the reading of the scriptures and sat through the breaking of the bread, something moved them deeply.
The only way they could later explain it was: You know,Mother, it felt so right. Like getting home after a long, tiring trip. The story of the two brothers, and their encounter with the stranger on the Colorado road, bears a striking resemblance to today’s gospel.
The two disciples traveling along the Emmaus road had once followed Jesus with hope and joy. They truly believed he was sent by God to establish God’s kingdom.
Then came the stormy hours of Good Friday. All their hopes and dreams got smashed into a thousand pieces. Totally disillusioned, they left Jesus in an unmarked tomb and returned to their former ways.
It was against this background that they met the stranger on the Emmaus road on Easter Sunday morning.
The disciples listened to him. They watched him break bread. And something moved them deeply. The stranger was not a stranger at all. It was Jesus. He was alive and risen.
Almost the identical thing happened to the brothers on the Colorado road. There was a time when they followed Jesus closely. They truly believed he was the Son of God, sent by God to redeem the world. Then came the stormy days of adolescence. All their hopes and dreams got smashed into a thousand pieces. Totally disillusioned, they left Jesus behind in an unmarked tomb and went their own way.
It was against this background that they met the stranger on a Colorado road one rainy Sunday morning. He spoke to the brothers about Jesus, not by using words but by his heroic example.
And as they listened, their hearts began to burn within them.
Then during the breaking of the bread in the Church, they discovered the Jesus they had lost. The story of the disciples on the Emmaus road and the story of the brothers on the Colorado road are not unlike our own story.
We too have had stormy periods in our lives when our faith got smashed into a thousand pieces.
During those stormy periods, perhaps we sinned against the Church. Perhaps we became disillusioned with the Church. Perhaps we even left the Church.
But then one day we met someone a stranger perhaps. And it was through the stranger that we found Jesus again, in the midst of his Church, in the breaking of the bread. And so today’s gospel contains an important message for all of us today especially for those still searching for Jesus, or for those who have lost Jesus. Sometimes we hear these people say, I believe in God, and I believe in Jesus, but I don’t believe in the Church.
Whenever we hear this, we should recall another traveler on another road. We should recall Paul on the road to Damascus. The Acts of the Apostles says:
Suddenly a light from the sky flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” he asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you persecute,” the voice said.” Acts of the Apostles 9:3–5
Paul was confused. He hadn’t persecuted Jesus. He had persecuted only his followers.
Then it dawned on Paul. Jesus and his followers were one. Where one was, there was the other. They were like a head and a body. Trying to separate Jesus from his church, the community of his followers, was like trying to separate our own head from our body.
Years later Paul expressed this mystery this way, in his Letter to the Colossians: “Jesus is the head of his body, the Church; he is the source of the body’s life.” Colossians 1:18
If we are to find the risen Jesus today, it will be the way the disciples found him on the road to Emmaus. It will be the way Paul found him on the road to Damascus. it will be the way the two brothers found him on the road in Colorado: in the midst of his Church, in the breaking of the bread. Lord Jesus, look kindly on those who have left you behind for dead in some unmarked tomb. Come to them, as you did to the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Explain to them the scriptures again. Stir up in them the fires of faith that still smoulder in their hearts. Sit down with them at table.
Show yourself to them again, in the midst of your Church, in the breaking of the bread.
Series II 3rd Sunday of Easter Acts of the Apostles 2:14, 22–33; 1 Peter 1:17–21; Luke 24:13–35
The door The Eucharist was previewed at Cana, promised at Capernaum, instituted in Jerusalem, and celebrated at Emmaus. An artist designed a tabernacle door for a church. He divided it into four panels. Then he decorated each panel with a set of symbols that stood for a gospel story that was related to the Eucharist.
The artist decorated the first panel with six water jars. He decorated the second panel with five loaves and two fish. He decorated the third panel with thirteen people seated around a table. And finally, he decorated the fourth panel with three people seated at a table.
The six jars, in the first panel, symbolized the miracle of Cana, where Jesus changed six jars of water into wine. The artist interpreted this miracle as a preview of the Eucharist, when Jesus would change, not water into wine, but wine into his own blood.
The loaves and the fish, in the second panel, symbolized the miracle at Capernaum, where Jesus multiplied these two foods to feed a hungry crowd. After this miracle, Jesus said to the crowd:
“Those who come to me will never be hungry. . . . I am the living bread that came down from heaven. . . . The bread that I will give you is my flesh. . . . Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them to life on the last day.” John 6:35, 51, 54
The artist interpreted the miracle of Capernaum as a promise of the Eucharist.
The thirteen people around a table, in the third panel, symbolized Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper. The artist interpreted the Last Supper as the fulfillment of the promise Jesus made after he multiplied the loaves and the fish.
Finally, the three people seated at a table symbolized the Emmaus supper on Easter Sunday night, where the risen Jesus broke bread and revealed himself to two disciples.
The artist interpreted the Emmaus supper as being the first celebration of the Eucharist, which Jesus instituted at the Last Supper.
And so the artist’s door is an excellent summary of the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper.
It traces the Eucharist from Cana, where it was previewed, to Capernaum, where it was promised, to Jerusalem, where it was instituted, to Emmaus, where it was first celebrated.
Let’s look more closely at the Emmaus supper, which is described in today’s gospel.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem to bear any close resemblance to the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper.
A closer study of it, however, reveals just the opposite. It bears a striking resemblance to the Lord’s Supper as we now celebrate it in each Mass.
Our celebration of the Lord’s Supper divides into four parts, or rites: the Gathering Rite, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and the Dismissal Rite.
We find the same four rites present in the Emmaus supper. The Gathering Rite for the Emmaus supper took place on the road, when Jesus and the two disciples came together and greeted one another.
The Liturgy of the Word took place when Jesus explained the Scriptures to the two disciples.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist took place in the house of one of the disciples. When Jesus “was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.”
Finally, the Dismissal Rite took place when Jesus “vanished from their sight,” and the disciples went forth to bear witness to their encounter with Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Of particular note is the Liturgy of the Eucharist, where Jesus “took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.”
These three actions describe the three major actions of the Liturgy of the Eucharist as we know it today.
The taking of the bread describes the preparation of the gifts.
The blessing of the bread describes the Eucharistic Prayer over the gifts.
The breaking of the bread describes the Communion service.
And so our modern celebration of the Eucharist reflects, in a striking way, the first celebration of the Eucharist at Emmaus.
Ateacher once asked her students which part of the Eucharist or Mass was the most important part.
She was not prepared for the answer one of her students gave. The young man said, “The Dismissal Rite is the most important part of the Mass.”
“Why do you say that?” the teacher asked.
The student replied:
The purpose of the Eucharist is to nourish us with the Word of the Lord and the Body and Blood of the Lord, so that we may go forth to bear witness to the Lord and to bring the kingdom of God into existence.
The student continued:
The Eucharist does not end with the Dismissal Rite. In a sense, it begins with it. We must go forth and proclaim to the world what the disciples of Emmaus did. We must proclaim that Jesus is risen. We must proclaim that Jesus lives on.
The student was absolutely right.
This is the message the world needs to hear. This is the message the world must hear. If we don’t deliver this message to the world, we have failed our mission as Jesus’ followers. In a very true sense, the Dismissal Rite is the most important part of the Mass.
It is this rite that missions us to go forth to tell the world the good news of Easter: Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!
This is the good news of Easter. This is the good news Jesus entrusted to his disciples to preach to the world.
This is the mission each one of us shares in this church today.
Series III 3rd Sunday of Easter Acts of the Apostles 2:14, 22–33; 1 Peter 1:17–21; Luke 24:13–35
Faith companions Being for others what Jesus was for the Emmaus disciples.
Wasn’t it like a fire burning in us when he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us? Luke 24:32
Some time ago, the Wall Street Journal carried an article about the large number of successful young professionals who are returning to church after having stopped out for a while.
The article began by noting that in the past people who had stopped going to church did not feel a need to return until they married, started a family, or were struck with some major tragedy.
Now people at the height of their careers and at the peak of their success are taking another look at religion. These are people who had anticipated that success would bring them happiness. Instead, it left them with an emptiness.
Someone referred to their success this way: “They landed on the moon and now find themselves asking, ‘Is this all there is? There’s got to be more to life than this!’ ” Acase in point is Mary Kay, the head of a Hollywood production company. She left the Church when she left home. She conned herself into believing that religion was no longer relevant for her. But when success came, it didn’t taste the way she thought it would. It left a void; something was missing.
At first, she tried to fill the void by attending lectures by New Age gurus and taking university courses on a variety of spiritual topics. But the emptiness persisted.
Then, one day, she finally admitted to herself that she was separated from her faith. She was no longer walking with Jesus.
But returning to the Church wasn’t easy. She said that it wasn’t until she asked God to forgive her for being away that she felt comfortable going back to church again.
The Wall Street Journal article went on to list other examples of other successful people who have returned to the faith for similar reasons. “Can You Go Back?” by Lisa Miller in The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 1998
The story of these young professionals bears a similarity to the story of the two disciples in today’s Gospel.
They, too, once walked with Jesus. They, too, once talked with Jesus. They, too, once believed he was sent by God to establish God’s Kingdom.
Then came the events of Good Friday! All their hopes and joy got smashed into a thousand pieces. Disillusioned, they left Jesus behind and went their own way.
I t is against this background that they met the “stranger” walking along the road to Emmaus.
They listened to him, as they had once listened to Jesus. They walked with him, as they had once walked with Jesus. They watched him break bread, as they had once watched Jesus break it.
The “stranger” was not a stranger at all. Incredibly, it was Jesus himself. He was not dead; he was risen and alive.
Something very similar happened to the professionals described in the Wall Street Journal.
There was a time when they listened to the words of Jesus in the Liturgy of the Word, as we are doing now.
And there was a time when they watched Jesus break bread in the Liturgy of the Eucharist as we will do in a few minutes.
In other words, there was a time when they, too, walked with Jesus and were filled with hope and joy.
Then came a tragic day when, for some reason, their hopes and dreams got smashed into a thousand pieces.
Crestfallen, they, too, left Jesus behind and went their own way.
And this causes each one of us here in this Church today to reflect.
The stories of the professionals, and of the Emmaus disciples, are not unlike our own story.
There has been a time in our life perhaps several times when our relationship with Jesus got smashed into a thousand pieces.
Perhaps we even stopped walking with Jesus for a while.
But then came a grace-filled day when we met someone a friend, a spouse, or even a stranger.
And through that person’s example Jesus spoke to us again as he spoke to the two Emmaus disciples.
And it was through that person’s example that we returned to church, and our eyes were opened, and we recognized Jesus once again, in the breaking of the bread. Today’s Gospel reminds us that there are many people today like the two Emmaus disciples and the modern, young professionals who are experiencing an emptiness even though they are successful.
Today’s Gospel invites us to be for these people what the “stranger” in the Gospel was for the two Emmaus disciples. And here we need to keep something very important in mind.
If Jesus is to speak through us today to people who no longer walk with him, it will not necessarily be through our words, but through our love, our kindness, and our forgiveness.
For in this world of skepticism, people are not looking primarily for words, but compassion, concern, kindness, and forgiveness. Words can come later.
Let us close with a prayer:
Lord, open our hearts in a way that allows you to speak through us to the people of our day, especially those of us who have become disillusioned.
Surprise us, as you did the two Emmaus disciples. Walk along with us, again, as you walked along with the disciples. Break open the Scriptures for us, as you did for them.
Come into our house and dine with us, as you did with them. Take into your hands our bread.Bless it, break it, and share it.
Heal us of the blindness that keeps us from recognizing you, in the breaking of the bread. M. L.