Homily for the third Sunday of Easter - Year A - Lk. 24:13-35
Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
" That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, «What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?» And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, «Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?» And he said to them, «What things?» And they said to him, «Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see.»
" And he said to them, «O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?» And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
" So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained him, saying, «Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.» So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, «Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?»
" And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, «The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!» Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. "
After his Resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples several times. This Sunday's gospel recounts the apparition of Jesus on the evening of Easter to two disciples who were going from Jerusalem to Emmaus. This episode from the life of the Lord must be placed in relation to another apparition which Jesus, a little later on, lavished on the Apostles gathered together in Galilee, on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias.
Having accomplished the miraculous fishing at the Sea of Tiberias, (cf. Jn. 21:6), Jesus takes Simon Peter aside and asks him three times if he loves him: "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" (Jn. 21:15-17) And Simon Peter replies: "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." (Jn. 21:17) Jesus wants Simon Peter to thus repair, with three professions of love, his triple denial at the moment of the Passion of his Master.
Let us recall what Simon Peter said. After having already twice denied knowing "Jesus of Nazareth" (Mk. 14:67), Simon Peter declares, for the third time: "I do not know this man of whom you speak." (Mk. 14:71) Now, this disowning of Jesus, this denial, is a flagrant lack of love for Jesus. This is why Simon Peter, after Jesus was resurrected, is questioned about his love for the Master.
Now we rejoin the disciples, the pilgrims of Emmaus, as they walk along. Did they deny or recognize Jesus, who walked with them? The evangelist Saint Luke gives us the answer: they "recognized him in the breaking of the bread." (Lk. 24:35) This means that, in order to recognize Jesus, in order to love him with a knowledgeable love, intimate and profound, Jesus must give us the strength and the power to do so, which comes from the broken Bread, the Eucharist!
Was it not the fire of divine love that Jesus spread in the hearts, in the ardor of the intellect, in short, throughout the souls of the disciples who travelled, late in the day, toward Emmaus? "And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, «Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?» " (Lk. 24:31-32)
Eternally, God speaks to himself his Word of Love, who is God, like Him. Eternally, the Father begets his Word of Love in the Holy Spirit. Word of Love! Word and Love: two notions which, in God, join together into this one: Life! Shortly before his death, Jesus prayed to his Father in the following manner: "Father ... this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." (Jn. 17:3) I often cite these words of Jesus to his Father, for they indicate well that the eternal Life to which we are called, by the grace of God, is a life of knowledge, but a knowledge of love, of love of the Father first, but also love of the Son, and thus finally, love of the Holy Spirit!
Now, how better can we participate in the Life of God, if not in and through the Eucharist? Where does the Power of God manifest itself more, indeed exclusively, if not in the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ? This divine Power, this Life of infinite Love draws us to it so much, through the grace and the mercy of God, that not even the knowledge of all the dangers involved could stop a man or woman from giving himself or herself entirely to God, who is so powerful, so loving in his Eucharist!
May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom this episode of the disciples of Emmaus was certainly recounted, and who must have meditated on it many times in her Heart, intercede for us, in order that our faith might be unfailing, thanks to the prayer of Jesus (cf. Lk. 22:32) and to the Strength of the Holy Spirit from Above!