The Four Gospels preach that the Lord Jesus Crucified is He Who is Alive from the dead. Jesus is Risen! In the Wednesday Octave Mass of Easter, as in the 3rd Sunday of Easter, the Gospel of the day gives us the Emmaus journey account of a man (Cleophas) and friend walking downcast from out of Jerusalem. The evangelist’s account of this walk describes how a fellow traveler on the road joins along with them and raises some conversation with them, Cleophas says of how he had thought before that the prophet Jesus was their hope, but that He and the dream died in Jerusalem on Friday. He asks the Jewish stranger: ‘How is it that you are not downcast, too? Are you ignorant of who Jesus was, and how His death crushed people’s hopes?’
As Cleophas and companion travel on, the stranger who has joined them shares a different take on the ministry of Christ and its hope born through the suffering. This brilliant man of faith tells them how Jesus was, is, rather, an amazing fulfillment of all the Messianic hopes, meeting all prophecies for a Hebrew to come and be a savior to people Israel and to the world. Cleophas and the other man had probably looked incredulous at the stranger at first, but now after an hour or two’s walk, they are moved by the man’s words, and they invite Him, rather, plead with Him, to stay with them, and really enlighten them, over a meal and a complimentary stay there in Emmaus.
Then they the tell the stranger with them that Jesus had been the One upon whom they had trusted all their hopes to– and He suggests to them that they break bread together and pray. They do so, and all of a sudden, the two men now recognize the stranger who has travelled with them. It is the newly Risen Jesus. “They recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.” This is the summation of the whole story. Then, poof, Jesus goes. They react by going to gather with Jesus’ core faith community, the apostles and Mary, and to share the Good News. They run back to Jerusalem and the Upper Room. When the arrive, they hear joyfully that the Lord Jesus had appeared to Simon Peter too. A community of Jesus Alive is forming now.
These two actions–the journeying with a listening ear and heart—AND the welcome spirit and breaking bread action–are what we do at every Mass. We do the Emmaus story every Sunday! (And even in daily Masses, really.) We do the Emmaus story in holding a Liturgy of the Word and a Liturgy of the Eucharist. Part A is the journey to Emmaus–the Liturgy of the Word. Part B is the gathering at table with the Lord, recognizing Him as our Eucharist in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Have you considered this comparison with this Gospel before? It’s all clearly there. What we do as Catholics in Holy Mass has its model right here in a story from the first Easter day, on the road to Emmaus and in Emmaus.
We listen to the Word of God, taking a Sunday walk with it, and then we break bread with God on High in Christ. The difference is that with us, compared to the gospel persons in today’s account, we know Jesus is alive–or at least we have been told that Jesus rose from the dead. They didn’t.
Yet sometimes, even knowing about the Resurrection, we still might not respond to this joyous Mystery of God, even upon hearing God’s Word, but like the first Emmaus walk and the two disciples, God will plant His Living Word in us, letting our hearts burn with it, touch us, and have us desire it all the more.
Did you know that the town name of Emmaus actually is translated to mean: Yearning desired place. What is your yearning and desired place? Is it the Glory of God? Then you have the burning in you. It calls forth for a response and welcome and it leads to a greater recognition (or even first AHA recognition of Jesus Alive). Will we let the Word lead you to the Wedding Supper union? It is designed to bring you to sup with God, at His table.
We the Church in Holy Mass call Jesus our Redeemer and we pray that the Spirit help us to be moved by Jesus, in Word and Sacrament. The Spirit is given to us to magnify Jesus in our being. Will it create light in the burning desire in our hearts for His Word? Will we then flashed recognition of Our Lord in the breaking of the Bread?
These are deep questions for a people on the move, journeying with the Man from Galilee and heading to the place called Yearning Desire.
Can we be like Cleophas and the other person, all so touched by the Encounter with Jesus, so to become glad and to go seek others in the fold to share it with? That is what our Parish Renewal program hopes to see happen, once people catch this fire.
Cleophas and that other person teach us to be glad like them– Jesus IS Alive and HE is the One to trust!
The children in Religious Ed were with me on Tuesday and Wednesday here in church and I told them that the lamb figure on the middle window in the east section was not just any ordinary lamb walking by. The flag he was carrying was an Easter flag of victory, because, as I explained to them: He is Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, and happy are all called to His supper.
They caught on with recognition that Jesus is the Blessed Son of the Trinity, He is the babe of Christmas, He is the person that all the Good News describes being the best person ever to live on earth, and He is the Lamb of God, seen in the Heavens, too. He is all of that. They caught on to seeing that window anew. And we adults need to catch on to seeing Jesus anew all the time. He is (as our epistle describes) that “unblemished Lamb of Sacrifice” Who is Savior and Mercy to us, to Whom we are all indebted to. Praise His Holy Name.