22 April 2023

Homily - The Third Sunday of Easter - 23 April 2023

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.”[1] 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.”[2] 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?

Detail, The Disciples Recognize Jesus, Prayer Book of Anne de Bretagne, MS M 50, f. 8r

Saint Augustine comes to our rescue here with an answer. He says:

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.[3]

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.

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Regina Caeli Address, 30 April 2006.

[2] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 232.3.

[3] Ibid., Sermon 235.2-3.

09 April 2023

Homily - Easter Sunday - On seeing the visible Lord

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord

The Mass of Easter Day

Dear brothers and sisters,

We have gathered this Easter morning at the altar of the Lord because we have heard from others that “Jesus the crucified … has been raised just as he said” (Matthew 28:5-6). Do we ourselves know this to be true?

We have gathered this Easter morning at the altar of the Lord because we, too, want to encounter the Risen Christ, whom “God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible” (Acts 10:40). But if the Lord Jesus has indeed risen from the grave, if he is visible in his human flesh, why is it we do not seem to see him? The answer is simple: we are not looking correctly.

We have gathered this Easter morning at the altar of the Lord to encounter the One whom death could not hold, to look upon “love’s risen body.”[1] (cf. Acts 2:24). What do I mean?

Detail, The Last Judgment, Jugement et des XV signes, MS Arsenal 3516, fol. 15v

Our Master and Teacher offered himself as the Paschal Victim at the Last supper and commanded his Apostles to “do this in memory of me;” he offered himself as the Lamb of God to the Father on our behalf to take away the sins of the world (Luke 22:19; cf. John 1:29). The word which is translated as “do” also means to make sacrifice.[2] When the Lord Jesus commands the Apostles to “do this in memory of me,” what sacrifice is it they are commanded to offer if not the very same sacrifice Jesus offers?

Jesus does not simply offer bread and wine to the Father; there would be no need for a priesthood if this were all he offered. He offered something more: he offered himself, his Body and his Blood. From ancient days, “the Church has regarded Christ’s command to the apostles to ‘do this’ as their ordination to his priesthood of the new covenant.”[3] The Apostles handed on this priesthood to certain other men, who likewise handed it on to other men down to the present day (cf. II Timothy 1:6).

Because Jesus “died once for all,” his priests do you not sacrifice him again when they offer his Body and Blood to the Father; rather, they re-present the very same sacrifice Christ offered on the Cross on Good Friday, an offering of self that Christ Jesus has never – and will never – take back (Hebrews 7:27). “The consecration by the priest which effects the sacrifice is, more precisely, the visible manifestation of an eternal act,” the eternal offering of the Paschal Victim.[4]

There is, then, a very great mystery to be discerned in the celebration of the Eucharist and, indeed, in each of the Sacraments. Pope Saint Gregory the Great put it this way: “What was visible in the life of the Savior has passed over into the Sacraments.”[5] To put it another way, if we want to encounter the Risen Lord, we need only look to his Sacraments.

At each celebration of the Mass there is a double consecration, first of the bread into the Body of Christ and then, immediately afterwards and separately, of the wine into the Blood of Christ by the power of the words of Jesus. Why? Have you ever wondered why both are not consecrated at the same time?

On the one hand, the double consecration highlights the symbolic meaning of ordinary bread and wine. Contained in each is “the mystery of death and resurrection,” for “in order to become bread and wine, the wheat and grapes have undergone a sort of ‘passion’: the grain has been ground and grapes pressed, but both, after this ‘death,’ are ‘brought to life’ again in a more noble form, bread and wine.”[6]

On the other hand – and more importantly – the double consecration reveals part of what has passed over into the Sacraments of the life of Jesus. The consecration of the bread and then of the wine “constitute the immolation of the victim, whose blood, the vehicle of life, is drained from its body.”[7] To put it perhaps more simply, the double consecration reveals to us the mystery of Good Friday: the separation of his soul from his human body, which is to say the mystery of his Death.

Just before the reception of Holy Communion, a simple action takes place, one which may often go unnoticed because it is done so quietly: the priest breaks off a piece of the host and places it into the chalice. This is done while the priest quietly says, “May this mingling of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it.”[8]

These words and this gesture also convey a very great mystery: “the mixing of the host, that is to say His body, with the wine, which is His blood, necessarily signifies the reunion of His soul (the blood) with His body, and therefore the resuscitation of the being.”[9] To put it perhaps more simply, the comingling of the Body and Blood of Christ reveals to us the mystery of Easter: the reunion of the soul of Christ with his human body, which is to say the mystery of his Resurrection from the dead and triumph over the grave.

If, then, we wish to encounter the visible Christ risen from the dead, we need only approach his altar. We must “think of what is above, not of what is on earth,” that is, we must look with the eyes of faith and not with those of the body (Colossians 3:2). If we do, we will encounter Christ because every celebration of the Sacraments is an encounter with him for what was visible in his life has passed over into them. This is why have gathered this Easter morning at the altar of the Lord.

If we look upon the Holy Eucharist with the eyes of faith, we, too, will see love’s risen body and become witnesses to the truth of his Resurrection. This is why “we are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!”[10] Amen. Alleluia!

[1] R.S. Thomas, “The Answer.”

[2] Cf. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., The Eucharist: A Bible Study Guide for Catholics (Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Inc., 2013), 38.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Jean Hani, The Divine Liturgy: Insights into its Mystery (Kettering, Ohio: Angelico Press, 2016), 34.

[5] Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Sermon 74.2.

[6] Jean Hani, The Divine Liturgy, 59.

[7] Ibid., 69.

[8] The Order of Mass, 129.

[9] Jean Hani, The Divine Liturgy, 72.

[10] Pope Saint John Paul II, Angelus Address, 30 November 1986.