4/23/22 Homily: "Stay with us"
Sunday's readings can be found: [HERE]
On the very first Easter day, we find these two disciples literally going in the wrong direction. They head towards Emmaus. There’s nothing wrong with Emmaus, per se, but it’s not Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the center of Jewish religion, culture, and life. The two disciples today journey away from that.
But unbeknownst to them, our Lord draws near to them on that journey, and somewhat effortlessly engages with them in dialogue, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. In that dialogue, he invites them to recall past events that still weight on them at a deep. And they do. They tell Jesus of their hopes and how those hopes were seemingly dashed by the crucifixion and death of Jesus.
Yet in that encounter, they experience a rediscovery of the warmth that had been in their hearts as disciples. Though the history of events haven’t changed, their understanding of it does, as Jesus begins to teach them the truth about the scriptures and how they applied to Jesus. The crucifixion and death of Jesus had been an intellectual and emotional roadblock to them, but slowly they come to understand that Jesus had to undergo those things in order to truly be Christ.
Their feet still carry them to Emmaus, but their hearts turn back towards Jerusalem. They themselves will return fully to Jerusalem when at Emmaus Jesus reveals himself fully in the breaking of the bread. Earlier, they had journeyed away from Jerusalem in the light of day, while shrouded in a spiritual darkness. But now at the end of the day, in the dark of the evening twilight, they are enlightened—spiritually—and eventually rejoin the apostles.
Our passage today recalls an actual historical event. But it serves as an example for us. The experience of the two disciples is a microcosm of the Holy Mass.
Throughout the week, due to our own stubbornness, or inability to understand things, or due to the confusion that often surrounds our assumptions regarding success and failure, glory and shame, victory and defeat, and so on, we can find ourselves going in the wrong direction, spiritually, emotionally, mentally—sometimes even physically.
As with the disciples today, our Lord can draw close to you and me and engage us in dialogue as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. His approach can be so subtle that we might not even realize that he is there with us.
In that encounter, he invites us to recall our own past disappointments and to tell him about them. Our Lord himself always has the interpretive key by which we come to understand the true meaning of history. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. This is most true when our perspective has been enlightened by the light of Christ’s Resurrection.
In the Mass, this journey towards Emmaus is the Liturgy of the Word, during which we listen to words from Sacred Scripture and meditate upon them. We listen to Jesus as he unlocks the scriptures for us. He is the one who presides at every Mass. When the celebrant says, “The Lord be with you,” the response is: “And with your Spirit.” The priest is here in the spirit of Christ. “Where two or three gather in my Name, there am I in the midst of them,” says the Lord.
After the Liturgy of the Word comes the Liturgy of the Eucharist. As with the two disciples at Emmaus, the Lord comes to us here at this altar. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the altar is prepared, gifts from the community are brought forward, bread and wine are blessed and consecrated so that they become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, the very God whom we worship. It’s broken and shared, and we recognize Jesus under the appearance of bread and wine.
After communion and we’re dismissed, we return to where we came from. We go back to our Jerusalem. We go back despite any darkness along the path, because we’ve been enlightened by the Lord who speaks and dines with us. We do so in union with the Church, just as the two disciples today were reunited with the apostles.
Every Sunday, we relive that first Easter Sunday, and our lives begin again. Every Sunday is a new beginning. Every Sunday is another chance to live and to love again. And maybe this time, we can get it right.
Let’s ask our Lord, through the grace of the Mass, that he always enliven that warmth within our hearts and to inspire us to remain with him through the Mass. May the Mass be the beginning of every week. May the Mass always be the starting point to the rest of our lives. May the Mass be our launching point into eternity. May God bless you.
La Cena de Emaús, by Diego Velázquez, c. 1618, painting, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York [Public Domain]