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The Disciples of Emmaus



Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Easter

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Tragedies are a common part of the human experience.  The late night knock on the door by a policeman to inform a mother and father that their teenage child was killed in a car accident; the wife who is abandoned by an unfaithful husband; the man who loses his job; people, young and old, that are diagnosed with a fatal illness, these are just some of the tribulations that afflict humanity.  All of these situations cause such personal devastation that people just give up on God and no longer attend church or even pray.

The disciples of Emmaus were devastated by the death of Jesus.  They had come to the conclusion that the new way of life that Jesus had started was finished.  The devastation caused powerful negative feelings to cloud their ability to reason and therefore, they could no longer see clearly.  A deep feeling of discouragement crushed them.  Frustrated and disheartened, they left Jerusalem.

As the two disciples were walking back to Emmaus, the risen Jesus appears to them.  Their minds and hearts clouded by overpowering negative emotions did not allow them to recognize Jesus.

How many times, like the disciples of Emmaus, when tragedy and tribulations occur in our lives, are we so overwhelmed by negative emotions that we are unable to see that Jesus is by our side?  We must understand that even in the darkest moments, even though we may be engulfed by irrational feelings, Jesus is there.  He knows what we are going through.  His hand is still there to lift us up precisely because he is risen and not dead.

My dear friends, many times we do not recognize that Jesus is with us because we seek consolations in the things of this world.  We escape from sadness by seeking comfort in over eating, excessive entertainment, too much work and even sometimes in drugs, alcohol, and illicit pleasures.  The overpowering force of emotions are only repressed by these forms of escapes and we forget that the only one who can heal us is the one who has risen from the dead; i.e., the Lord Jesus Christ.

The encounter that the disciples of Emmaus experience with Jesus, illustrates to us that we will find vitality and strength in Jesus who is really present in the Eucharist:

“and it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.  With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him…” (Luke 24: 30-31).

No matter what happens in our lives, the risen Jesus is always with us.

The Eucharist is the risen Lord.  This is where we can encounter him – in the tabernacle, at Mass, at adoration, during our devout reception of Holy Communion.

Wherever a sanctuary lamp is burning, we can encounter the risen Lord.  He comforts us and strengthens us with his true, real and sacramental presence.

“As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther.  But they urged him, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.’  So he went in to stay with them” (Luke 24: 28 – 29).

It is here, in this Sunday’s gospel narrative, that we see the connection between the Risen Jesus and the Eucharist.

How can we say amen to the words, “The Body of Christ” and “The Blood of Christ” if Jesus did not rise from the dead and ascend into heaven?

The Eucharist is the Risen Jesus.

It is here, in the Eucharist that we encounter the Risen Lord.

The body of Jesus on Easter Sunday is the same Jesus, but his body has been transformed.  The glorified body is still a mystery for us, but what we can understand is that Jesus is Jesus.  He has a body.  He is not mere spirit.  He did not leave his body behind in the grave.  The tomb is empty.  However, his body has been transformed.  The transformation of his body is called the glorified body.

The Eucharist then, is the glorified body of Jesus under the species of bread and wine.  It is here, in the Eucharist that we encounter the Risen Jesus.

What happens when we do not recognize him in the Eucharist?

Is this a mere symbol?  A mere representation?

If we do not recognize him here, in the Eucharist, we can fall into what I call “Voodoo Catholicism.”

What is Voodoo Catholicism?

Popular piety is very beautiful indeed.

However, what is the point of lighting a candle if I do not go to Mass on Sunday and do not live a moral life?

What is the point of going through all of the hoops of a parish CCD program, if I do not attend Mass on Sunday?

What is the point of coming to Church, Sunday after Sunday and I don’t receive communion, never changing what needs to change so that I can receive the Eucharist?

What is the point of not having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior?

Jesus is alive!  Jesus is real!  It is here in the Eucharist that we encounter the Risen Lord!

Every time we receive Holy Communion.  Every time we spend time with our Eucharistic Lord in adoration or in a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, we receive renewed energy to continue on the journey toward eternal life.

Life is not easy.

Find renewed strength, joy and peace in daily Mass and a daily encounter with the Risen Lord in adoration and visits to the Blessed Sacrament.  Center your whole life on the Eucharist and rise to a new life of joy and exuberance.

 Like Pope Francis has said, too many Catholics life their lives like a continual Lent without an Easter.  Too many Catholics look like they just came back from a funeral.

Jesus is alive.  He is risen.  He is with us.  Alleluia.  Leave the discouragement, the sadness, the sloth and the tepidity in the tomb because he is alive and so should we be alive.

Before the Blessed Sacrament we can pray with the words of Saint Padre Pio:

“Stay with me, Lord, if you wish me to be faithful to you.  Stay with me, Lord, for as poor as my soul is, I want it to be a place of consolation for you, a nest of love.

Stay with me, Jesus, for it is getting late and the day is coming to a close and life passes: death, judgment, eternity approaches.  It is necessary to renew my strength, so that I will stop along the way and for that, I need you.  It is getting late and death approaches.  I fear the darkness, the temptations, the dryness, the cross, the sorrows.  O how I need you, my Jesus, in this night of exile.

Stay with me tonight, Jesus, in life with all its danger.  I need you.  I need you.

Let me recognize you as your disciples did at the breaking of the bread, so that the Eucharistic Communion be the light which disperses the darkness, the force which sustains me, the unique joy of my heart.”