April 23 – Third Sunday of Easter

The road to Emmaus is a beautiful story about a journey of faith—a journey that we all know very well. 

It begins with two disciples walking alongside their Master.  Although initially filled with hope, they struggle to understand the reality of the suffering and the cross that they have encountered.  Jesus points to their foolishness, not only because they failed to understand his teaching and prophecy, but also because they chose to ignore the women in their own group who proclaimed that the tomb was empty and that Jesus was alive!  Imagine: if you were one of the disciples who had followed Jesus closely for several years, and you heard that he was alive, wouldn’t you stick around in Jerusalem to search for Him? Why walk away defeated as if Jesus never existed?

Yet we so often do that very thing—when we sin, we live as if Jesus were not risen! Thus, our Mass begins with a similar scenario where we call to mind all of the times where we have lived as if Jesus were not risen: “Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!”

Sufficiently reproached, we then humbly listen to Jesus who proceeds to open up the Scriptures for us in the liturgy of the word: the Old Testament and Psalms lay the foundation, and the letters and the Gospel bring it all to fulfillment in Jesus Christ.  Just as Jesus revealed to the two disciples that he was indeed the flawless continuation of God’s love affair with humanity, so too does the first part of the Mass immerse us in that same story.  “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” Please, God, that my homilies do much the same for you!  That they complete the liturgy of the word by leading our hearts into a burning desire for the Lord!

But that’s not all. As the journey continues, the disciples plead with Jesus, “Stay with us!”  Jesus heeds their request, and begins to do something he had done when feeding the thousands, when instituting the Eucharist, and which would be repeated in his Church for millennia to come: he took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them… In this simple but iconic gesture, Jesus was recognized for who he truly was. It was and continues to be in the breaking of the bread that our eyes are opened to see him!  With hearts on fire, we are to go forth like the disciples proclaiming that, YES, “The Lord has truly been raised!”

The road to Emmaus is our road through the Mass.  Let us enter the Mass with great hope, with our hearts open to his word, recognize our Lord’s presence in the Eucharistic breaking of the bread, and go forth into the world proclaiming that Jesus is truly risen!

Father Michael