Pastor’s Column April 29-30, 2017
“He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
Our Gospel reading this weekend is the story of the journey of two of Jesus’s disciples that first Easter morning from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a village seven miles away to the west. We do not know what was so urgent or pressing in their lives that would cause them to walk away from their community at such an important time. Despite having heard what they themselves describe as an astounding report from some women of their group who had gone to Jesus’ tomb early that morning only to find it empty - except for a vision of angels who announced that Jesus was alive; and notwithstanding the fact that some others of their group corroborated the women’s story by going to the tomb and finding things just as they had described, the disciples nevertheless depart, downcast and distraught, as they discussed and debated the things that they had witnessed those past few days.
So it should come as no great surprise that when they encounter the risen Lord along the way they are unable to recognize him. Although they obviously know a lot about Jesus, without faith and the support of the community of believers, those disciples do not really understand who Jesus truly is and cannot have an intimate relationship with him. Sure, they can describe Jesus as a prophet mighty in deed. They are able to give the stranger an account of what had just transpired with respect to Jesus’ crucifixion and death. They can even relate the accounts of the women about the empty tomb and the angels who announced that Jesus was alive. But they are unable to connect the dots. They cannot see the big picture. They can’t see the forest for the trees. On their own they are not able to grasp or comprehend the meaning of it all. The whole situation seemed to have no explanation and they just could not make sense of things. You can almost hear the bewilderment and regret in their sorrowing words, “We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.” As Jesus said, they were slow to believe until he interpreted the Scriptures for them and revealed himself in the breaking of the bread.
And that is why we need the Church. That is why we need to belong to a community of believers in our parish. That is why coming to Mass every Sunday is not something optional but is so vitally important. Every Mass begins with the Liturgy of the Word where we listen to Sacred Scripture and have it opened up and interpreted for us in the homily. Every Mass reaches its apex in the Liturgy of the Eucharist when we come to know Jesus more intimately in the breaking of the bread. And when we receive our Lord’s Body and Blood in Holy Communion when we are in a state of grace, we are transformed and become more like Him. We cannot be a real disciple of Jesus on our own. We cannot truly be Catholic without again and again feeding ourselves at the table of His Word and nourishing ourselves at the table of His Most Holy Eucharist.
Once the disciples’ eyes were opened, despite it being evening, they immediately set out to make the seven mile return journey to Jerusalem to rejoin their companions and share their joy. And when they reached Jerusalem they were greeted with the good news, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” And that is why we gather together here in this church for Mass as we do Sunday after Sunday, not out of obligation or guilt, but to share our experience of Jesus and our joy in His Resurrection so that we can then go out and share Him with the world.