The Third Sunday of Easter (A)
Dear brothers and sisters,
As a society, our attention spans sadly continue to get shorter and shorter. Many find it increasingly difficult to remain attentive if something takes more than a few minutes or is not accompanied by lights and sounds. Consequently, towards the middle of a somewhat lengthy passage from the holy Gospels - such as the one just proclaimed to us - some may have found themselves drifting off. I ask your indulgence, then, for a short time more. Call back your thoughts. Open your heart and your mind as we reflect on what it means that the Risen Christ walked for some miles with those two disciples and then seemingly left them.
After his Resurrection from the dead, the four Evangelists record numerous appearances of Jesus to his disciples, each of them different from the others. The differences in the appearances are not contradictions; rather, the encounters are personal and therefore must be different. Even so, we can learn something from each of them, which is why Mother Church presents them to us throughout this season of Easter.
Particularly in the appearance to those two despondent disciples on the road, “one can discern a repeated invitation to overcome incredulity and believe in Christ's Resurrection, since his disciples are called to be witnesses precisely of this extraordinary event.” What is more,
The Resurrection of Christ is central to Christianity. It is a fundamental truth to be reasserted vigorously in every epoch, since to deny it, as has been, and continues to be attempted, or to transform it into a purely spiritual event, is to thwart our very faith. St Paul states: "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" (I Corinthians 15:14).
Those two disciples did not yet understand this. May it never be the same with us!
They unwittingly said to the Lord of Life, “But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). What can this mean except that they no longer had hope? This is why they were leaving Jerusalem. Their hope was gone and where there is no hope there is no faith; where there is no faith there is no love (cf. I Corinthians 13:13). They had nothing left. Yet it was at this very moment that the Lord Jesus approached them.
When the cares of the world come crashing down upon you, as they surely will at some point, do not abandon hope. When it seems the Lord is nowhere to be found and is still in the tomb, do not abandon faith. When it seems all of your best efforts fail, do not abandon love. Say instead, “Keep me, O God, for you in you I take refuge” (Psalm 16:1). Then, follow those words. Take refuge in his Sacred Heart pierced in love for us (cf. John 19:34).
In the midst of their joylessness, Jesus caught up to them and walked beside them. Their eyes did not recognize him because, as Saint Augustine says, “their hearts, you see, needed more thorough instruction.” How often do our own hearts also need more instruction in hope, in faith, or in love? Jesus wishes to teach us, as he taught them, with patience; perhaps this is why he seems to withdraw from us for a time.
He teaches us through the Scriptures, yes, but he teaches us above all through the gift of the Eucharist. Those disciples did not recognize him, you see, when “he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures,” but only when “he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and give it to them” as he had done at the Last Supper (Luke 24:27, 30; cf. Luke 22:19). Why?
Ah yes, brothers and sisters, but where did the Lord wish to be recognized? In the breaking of bread. We’re all right, nothing to worry about – we break bread, and we recognize the Lord. It was for our sake that he didn’t want to be recognized anywhere but there, because we weren’t going to see him in the flesh, and yet were going to eat his flesh. So if you’re a believer, any of you, if you’re not called Christian for nothing, if you don’t come to church pointlessly, if you listen to the Word of God in fear and hope, you may take comfort in the breaking of bread. The Lord’s absence is not absence. Have faith, and the one you cannot see is with you.
It sounds so simple, almost too simple, perhaps. Yet this is the Lord’s will for us; who are we to question it (cf. Job 40:2)?
If we wish to rejoice in the wonder of his Resurrection, let us approach the Eucharistic table in faith, so we might recognize him in the breaking of the break. Let us approach the altar of the Lord in hope, so we might be raised from the dead with him (cf. John 6:54). Let us approach the Eucharistic King in love, saying with the Psalmist, “O Lord, my allotted portion and my cup” (Psalm 16:2). Amen.