Friday, June 21, 2024

Homilies

God's Word and the Eucharist
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M.
/ Categories: Homilies

God's Word and the Eucharist

Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter

The Gospel for today is taken from the twenty-fourth chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel. It records one of the appearance stories which is, perhaps, one of the most beloved and one of the most detailed in all four Gospels. There is much that could be said about this Gospel reading. I am going to try and make several points without droning on forever.

First of all, the evangelist makes it very clear that these two disciples of Jesus were disappointed. They had witnessed many of the miracles that Jesus worked during his lifetime and had come to hope that he was the one who would set Israel free. In other words, they thought that he was the Messiah. However, the stories that they have heard that very morning proved to be too much for them. Some women had gone to the tomb and found that it was empty and that they had seen a vision of angels. St. Luke also includes the detail that symbolically shows how disappointed they were. They were going home to Emmaus which lies east of Jerusalem. In other words, they were literally walking into the darkness. The sun sets in the west and rises in the east. We also know from the Gospel that this took place in the evening. Darkness has always been a symbol of hopelessness in the Gospels.

Secondly, the evangelist tells us that as they walked along with Jesus, he interpreted for them every passage of Scripture which referred to the Messiah, referred, in fact, to him. By the time he had finished, they had reached the end of their journey, and he acted as if he was going to continue on the road. They invited him in to their home and their table.

Thirdly, though they had not recognized him while they were walking with him, they did recognize him as they sat together for the evening meal. They recognized him in the breaking of the bread. Once their eyes were opened and they recognized him, he disappeared. Realizing what had just happened, they immediately retraced their steps back to Jerusalem where they recounted their experience to the other disciples.

While they were still speaking, Jesus appeared to all of them, greeted them with peace, showed them his hands and his feet, and asked for something to eat. Despite all of this evidence of who he really was, the Gospel tells us that they were still incredulous, that they still did not believe although they were filled with joy and wonder.

What happens when we come to Mass on Sunday? The Mass is divided into two parts: The Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. After we read from the Scriptures, we listen to a homily which is supposed to interpret the passages that we have read. After we have concluded the Liturgy of the Word, we move on to the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In other words, this reading from the Gospel of St. Luke not only tells us a story of how Jesus appeared to his disciples, it also tells us how they came to recognize Jesus through their liturgy, through their celebration of the Eucharist. The liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council endeavored to return our celebration of the Mass to this twofold structure. The Catholic faith, indeed, every Christian faith is founded on the Scriptures.

The Second Vatican Council also taught us that Jesus is truly present under the appearances of bread and wine in the Eucharist, and that Jesus is also truly present in the Word of God. When we listen to the Scriptures and when we receive Communion, we are doubly blessed with the presence of God in our lives. Unlike the disciples, we have never seen Jesus in the flesh; but our faith teaches us that Jesus is present in our midst whenever we gather in his love to listen to the Scriptures and to celebrate the Eucharist. What a blessing we all possess! How good God has been to us! Let us respond with love and gratitude to the God who has lavished his love upon us.

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