Homily for the third Sunday of Easter - Year B - Lk. 24:35-48


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"Then the disciples told what had happened on the road, and how Jesus was known to them in the breaking of the bread. As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you!' But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.' And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, 'Have you anything here to eat?' They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.


"Then he said to them, 'These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.' Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.' "





Homily:


"Then the disciples told what had happened on the road, and how Jesus was known to them in the breaking of the bread."


Here we are on the evening of Easter, that day made by the Lord, a day of peace and joy! After having invited the Lord to their table, though they did not know that it was him, the two disciples who were travelling from Jerusalem to Emmaus eventually realized that the stranger who ate with them was indeed Jesus of Nazareth, alive, resurrected! For a notable event occurred: during the meal, the stranger had broken the bread, not in the way it was usually done, but rather in the way Christ did it, such as when he had broken the bread on the eve of his Passion, in the Cenacle. At this sign, the two disciples recognized the risen Christ!


How can it be that the disciples recognized Jesus through his breaking of the bread? Is there a difference between Jesus when he breaks the bread, and someone else who performs the same action? Certainly! For the bread that Jesus breaks is his own Body, present under the species of the bread: "He took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them." (Lk. 24:30) Now, the Body of Christ which is broken is nothing but the sign, of the mystical order, of the communion of all the faithful to Christ and to each other: it is the Eucharistic sign of ecclesial communion in Christ. Saint Paul affirms this when he writes in Corinthians: "The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread." (1 Cor. 10:16-17) So, when Jesus broke the bread on the evening of Easter, he manifested the communion which exists between himself and his disciples. This is why, united with Christ through the Bread of Heaven, the disciples could not fail to recognize him.


"As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you!' But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.' And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, 'Have you anything here to eat?' They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them."


It is in this spirit of communion that Jesus appears to the Eleven gathered together in the Cenacle. But, although prepared by what they were told by the disciples who returned from Emmaus, the Eleven are nonetheless amazed when Jesus suddenly appears to them. He did say to them: "Peace be with you!", but that was not enough to reassure them. They thought they were seeing a spirit! Now, Jesus knows that if his disciples remain in that state and do not become fully convinced of his resurrection, they will never be able to face the trials and persecutions which await them. No, they must be absolutely convinced, to the very depths of their being, that the Jesus they had seen alive and who had then died on the Cross of Calvary had truly returned to life and is forever alive in God his Father. It is necessary, and Jesus knows this, so he will do everything possible to convince them. It is true that it will take some time, but those who are to carry on his mission on earth must firmly believe that he has resurrected and is alive. It is essential. Their only strength is to know that, in Heaven, the risen Jesus awaits them; in order that, through this knowledge, which is a knowledge of love, they themselves might already be resurrected in hope. Only this knowledge, that of eternal life (cf. Jn. 17:3 - see also the second reading for this Sunday: 1 Jn. 2:5), can sustain them in their struggle against Evil.


"Then he said to them, 'These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.' Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.' "


Jesus is the first witness of his resurrection: the fact that he is alive, after having died, is the first of all the proofs of his resurrection. This testimony was observed by all the apostles: united to Christ and to each other, the Eleven were the first witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. But, united to their successors, in a union guaranteed throughout the ages by the broken Bread and the Cup of blessing, the Eleven are still here today, and Simon Peter first among them, to testify to the entire Church and to the whole world that Christ is risen from the dead and that he sits at the right hand of God the Father, awaiting the last Judgement. Passed down from successor to successor, the event of the resurrection of Christ is part of our faith: the Tradition of the Church testifies to it without question.


But along with the Tradition of the Church, there is also the testimony of the Holy Scriptures. Jesus knows to what great extent this testimony is essential for the faith of his disciples: "Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures." For what is written lasts in time without changing; while Tradition is always alive and, without losing what is essential to it, nevertheless transforms itself from age to age. In its permanence, Scripture to some extent reflects the Divinity itself: it is the place from which the Spirit of God allows believers to draw nourishment that is always new and unceasingly vivifying. Scripture always testifies to the resurrection of Christ, but it does so in a manner that is always current and ever more perfect. Thus, when, in the past, the apostles had read the passages in Scripture which speak of the death and resurrection of the Messiah, they had not understood what they read, because they had not yet experienced these things in their lives by coming into contact with the dead and resurrected Jesus. But on the evening of Easter, in an intense and completely new communion with Christ, the apostles understood a little better what the Spirit of God had inspired long before.


Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was most probably present that evening, with the apostles. She too had read the Holy Scriptures. The fullness of grace in her had already enlightened her spirit on many passages from the Word of God. But the events in the life of her Son were even more striking to her spirit and to her whole being - the Resurrection above all. So let us ask her to help us understand a little better the Mystery of the risen Jesus. Let us remain in communion with all the Saints of Heaven and earth, and, in this communion with the Body of Christ, let us ask the Spirit to live in our heart to enlighten us with the Light of the Word of God!