Third Sunday of Easter – Year A – April 26, 2020
Acts 2:14a, 22 -33; Ps 16; 1 Peter 1:17 to 21; Luke 24:13-35
Acts 19:1 b- 7; Ps 106; Heb 9:11-15; Jn 1:29-34
The Lamb of God is food for us
The episode of the two disciples of Emmaus is very well known and I like it very much because it is also the story of each one of us. Furthermore, the structure of this story is the same one as in the Eucharistic celebration. What does Jesus do? He becomes a companion on the road for the two disciples who from fugitives become pilgrims making the inn of Emmaus a “sanctuary” in which Christ, after having spoken to them along the way about the Law and the Prophets (they are the first readings of the Bible), explains his Passion and at the table breaks the Bread.
It is at the breaking of the bread that the eyes finally open and they see that Jesus’ words become bread of real life. Even today we meet the Lord, like every person, and we recognize him through what he has done, through the Word that explains it to us, and through change and the experience that takes place in us, namely, that we ourselves rise by meeting the Risen One.
Does your heart change? Does your life change? Do your eyes change? Does your way of seeing reality change? Does your way of feeling and living change? Are you going from sadness to joy? From selfishness to love? From stealing bread to sharing bread? From running away to walking towards the others? From fighting to getting along? This is the resurrection, the true miracle. Before we were like the dead idols we adored – as we read in the Psalm -, now we become like the Living One because through the Word we meet the Living One.
Now let us briefly see the path that the disciples of Emmaus have traveled.
- The road from Jerusalem to Jerusalem going through Emmaus.
The Gospel of St. Luke is framed by the narration of two facts: the annunciation of the angel to Mary at the beginning and the encounter of Jesus with the two disciples of Emmaus at the end.
The first is like a preface that explains what will happen by listening to the Gospel: the Word is incarnate in us as it is embodied in the Virgin Mary.
The second is the conclusion which summarizes what has happened to those who have “read” the Gospel listening to the Word carefully and following it with perseverance: they become children in the Son of God who breaks the bread of life with us and for us.
Throughout the liturgical year, especially during Holy Week and at Easter, the Lord walks with us, explains the Scriptures and makes us understand this mystery: everything speaks of Him. This should ignite our hearts so that our eyes can be opened. The Lord is with us showing us the true way. Today we recognize His presence as the two disciples recognized Jesus in the breaking of bread. Cleopas and the other disciple, of whom the Gospel does not tell the name and who may represent each one of us, recognized the Messiah and remembered the times when He had broken the bread. This breaking of bread reminds us of the first Mass celebrated in the context of the Last Supper where the Savior broke the bread and, doing so, anticipated his dead and his Resurrection giving himself to his disciples.
Jesus breaks the bread with us and for us, is present with us in the Eucharist, gives himself to us and opens our hearts.
In the Eucharist, in the meeting with His Word, we too can meet and get to know Jesus, in the twofold Table of the Word and of the consecrated Bread and Wine.
The Word has ignited the hearts of the disciples, the Bread opens their eyes. They recognized him in the breaking of the bread. The sign of recognition of Jesus is his broken Body, life handed to nurture life. The life of Jesus has been a continuous passionate surrender. To the cross and from the cross.
The Word and the Bread changed the direction of the journey of the two disciples. The night was not any more an objection to the journey and they immediately left their shelter, the inn at Emmaus, and returned to Jerusalem where the community of the apostles welcomed them into the communion and confirmed them in the faith reborn from the encounter with the Risen One.
Every Sunday the Christian community relives the Passover of the Lord and collects from the Savior his testament of love for the Father and of service to others, especially with the Holy Mass, whose first name was ” fractio panis” (” splitting ” of the Bread of new Life ) .
Thanks to this “breaking of bread”, which is not only a prayer but an act of God and of the Church, the human existence acquires an Eucharist dimension because it combines the human effort to the charity of God who welcomes us as children in the Son. He welcomes us because He was and is forever the Father rich in mercy.
To the two disciples of Emmaus Jesus explained the Scriptures (fractio Verbis = sharing of the Word), then broke the bread (fractio Panis = sharing of the bread) and shared Life (fractio Vitae = sharing of the new and, therefore, everlasting Life). Today He does the same for us. Let us imitate these two disciples and we will not stop being pilgrims of the Infinite.
- From wayfarers to pilgrims.
I think that it is also fair to say that St. Luke has constructed the story of the two disciples of Emmaus around the image of the journey.
First, a journey that runs away from Jerusalem, from the events of the passion and from the memory of Jesus. We could say that it is a journey from hope to disappointment (“We had hoped that he would be the one to redeem Israel), a path loaded with sadness (“They stopped, looking downcast “).
Then – after the walk with the Unknown – a journey back from disappointment to hope: “They set out at once and returned to Jerusalem.”
The reversal is due to the new interpretation of the events that the stranger had suggested. The events were the same as before (the cross and the empty tomb), but now they are read with the heart, the mind, and new eyes.
At this point, I think, an especially important question arises: “How do we recognize the Lord walking with us?”
The eyes of the two disciples of Emmaus, who had listened with emotion to the explanation of Jesus about his passion and death, were opened when Jesus, accepting the invitation to be with them, sat down at the table and made four moves ( He took the bread, thanked , broke it and distributed it ) .
These acts take us back to the Eucharistic meal, to the earthly life of Jesus (a life given as broken bread) and to the cross that is the fulfillment of that life.
These same gestures take also forward to the life of the Church and to the time when Christians will continue to “break bread.” The breaking of bread is thus a recapitulatory gesture in which are concentrated, overlapping, the three stages of the existence of Jesus: the earthly Jesus, the Risen Lord and the Lord now present in the community. The breaking of bread, that is the dedication, is always the recognizable mode of the presence of the Lord. It is the mode of the Crucified, the Risen Lord and the Lord glorious present in the Church. This is the trait that makes us recognize the Lord Jesus
Therefore, we must repeat the journey of the two disciples.
First, we must recognize that we need someone to guide us towards light and truth and that this someone is the same Jesus who is the traveling companion of the two disciples in their lives marked, at that time, by discouragement and disappointment.
Secondly, we need to come together, and it is Jesus himself that gives us the opportunity to do it with another spirit and in another context, the one of the celebration of the Eucharist. It is Jesus who breaks the bread, and the two disciples recognize the Lord and reinterpret their experience of joy felt only few hours earlier with the Unknown One, who made their heart burn while He catechized them and taught them to look at life under the sign of hope and joy without end.
Third, we, disciples of today, need, like the first disciples, to bring to others what we have seen with the eyes of faith: Jesus himself. Following the example of the disciples of Emmaus lest us feel the urgency to leave without delay to report what we have experienced, the joy and the faith that we feel in meeting the Risen Christ in the Eucharist (but also in the other sacraments ) , in the Sacred Scripture and in the Christian Community . “To be able to recognize Him in the poor it takes an angelic purity” (Mother Teresa of Calcutta).
We must not forget that the first to bring to the others the message of Christ’s resurrection were the women. They, the first in love, by going to the tomb early in the morning were the first in faith.
The “feminine genius“, lived by them in a mature way, allowed them to “see far “, beyond appearances, and to “guess” and “see with the eyes and heart “. In the consecrated Virgins this feminine genius is also expressed in a constant listening to the Word that is then guarded, believed, practiced, and announced. With their virginity they are completely at the disposal of Evangelization, Brides of Christ in the service of the Gospel.
For Augustine (Sermon 235, 2-3)
Luke’s account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus dramatically demonstrates the centrality of the Eucharist to the Church’s life. It is here, in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, that the Risen One has chosen to be recognised and received. The Eucharist is our Emmaus, our encounter with the Crucified and Risen One:
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 we were going to eat his flesh. So if you’re a believer, any of you, if you’re not called a 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 an absence. Have faith, and the one you cannot see is with you.
From the first apology in defense of the Christians by Saint Justin, martyr (Cap. 66-67: PB 6, 427-431) The celebration of the eucharist
No one may share the eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ. We do not consume the eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Savior became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the prayer of thanksgiving. The apostles, in their recollections, which are called gospels, handed down to us what Jesus commanded them to do. They tell us that he took bread, gave thanks and said: Do this in memory of me. This is my body. In the same way he took the cup, he gave thanks and said: This is my blood. The Lord gave this command to them alone. Ever since then we have constantly reminded one another of these things. The rich among us help the poor and we are always united. For all that we receive we praise the Creator of the universe through his Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit. On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members, whether they live in the city or the outlying districts. The recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray. On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The president offers prayers and gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give assent by saying, “Amen.” The eucharist is distributed, everyone present communicates, and the deacons take it to those who are absent. The wealthy, if they wish, may make a contribution, and they themselves decide the amount. The collection is placed in the custody of the president, who uses it to help the orphans and widows and all who for any reason are in distress, whether because they are sick, in prison, or away from home. In a word, he takes care of all who are in need. We hold our common assembly on Sunday because it is the first day of the week, the day on which God put darkness and chaos to flight and created the world, and because on that same day our savior Jesus Christ rose from the dead. For he was crucified on Friday and on Sunday he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught them the things that we have passed on for your consideration.