Homily for the third Easter Sunday

Year A  -  Luke 24:13-35


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"On that same day two of the disciples were walking to Emmaus, a village seven or eight miles from Jerusalem, and were conversing about all these recent events;  and, in the midst of their conversation and discussion, Jesus Himself came and joined them, though they were prevented from recognizing Him.  "What is the subject," He asked them, "on which you are talking so earnestly, as you walk?" And they stood still, looking full of sorrow.  Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered, "Are you a stranger lodging alone in Jerusalem, that you have known nothing of the things that have lately happened in the city?"  "What things?" He asked. "The things about Jesus the Nazarene," they said, "who was a Prophet powerful in work and word before God and all the people;  and how our High Priests and Rulers delivered Him up to be sentenced to death, and crucified Him.  But we were hoping that it was He who was about to ransom Israel. Yes, and moreover it was the day before yesterday that these things happened.  And, besides, some of the women of our company have amazed us. They went to the tomb at daybreak, and, finding that His body was not there, they came and declared to us that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive.  Thereupon some of our party went to the tomb and found things just as the women had said; but Jesus Himself they did not see."

""O dull-witted men," He replied, "with minds so slow to believe all that the Prophets have spoken!  Was there not a necessity for the Christ thus to suffer, and then enter into His glory?"  And, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them the passages in Scripture which refer to Himself.

"When they had come near the village to which they were going, He appeared to be going further.  But they pressed Him to remain with them. "Because," said they, "it is getting towards evening, and the day is nearly over." So He went in to stay with them.  But as soon as He had sat down with them, and had taken the bread and had blessed and broken it, and was handing it to them, their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. But He vanished from them.  "Were not our hearts," they said to one another, "burning within us while He talked to us on the way and explained the Scriptures to us?"

"So they rose and without an hour's delay returned to Jerusalem, and found the Eleven and the rest met together, who said to them, "Yes, it is true: the Master has come back to life. He has been seen by Simon."  Then they related what had happened on the way, and how He had been recognized by them in the breaking of the bread."



Homily:


"On that same day two of the disciples were walking to Emmaus, a village seven or eight miles from Jerusalem, and were conversing about all these recent events."

Todayís gospel takes us back to the evening of the Lordís Resurrection.  On that day when everything that was old tumbled over into the eternal newness of the creation resurrected in Jesus, a significant event took place:  the Lord demonstrated to his disciples, and, through them, to all the Church, the full importance of the sign and the liturgical rite of breaking the bread.  "They related what had happened on the way, and how He had been recognized by them in the breaking of the bread."

The breaking of bread was already a Jewish practice.  But Jesus gave this rite a new and completely unique meaning, one proper to his mission as the Son of God and Savior of the world.  Jesus broke the bread at the time of the Last Supper:  "Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it . . ." (Mt. 26:26  -  cf. Mark 14:22;  Luke 22:19)  The first Christians - that is, the Apostles themselves - under the action of the Holy Spirit, kept this rite of the breaking of bread as that which was going to give its very name to the entire celebration of the Eucharist:  "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." (Acts 2:42)

What is the meaning of this rite of the breaking of bread, and what does it mystically accomplish in the Church?  Before breaking the bread, the priest, acting in the name and in the person of Christ, has consecrated the matter which Jesus himself designated to be used to perpetuate his sacrifice in memorial:  the bread and wine.  Thus, at the moment of the breaking of the bread, Christ is wholly present under both species of the sacrament:  he is present under the species of bread, and he is present under the species of wine.  The priest who then breaks the consecrated host goes so far as to destroy this holy sign under which the Lord is present:  he agrees, in accordance with the very orders of God and the Church, to renounce the very necessary presence of his Savior and Master!

Certainly, we believe that even though the consecrated bread is broken, Christ remains present under the sign of each one of the fragments.  But it is nonetheless true that the primary signification imposes upon our simple mind a feeling of loss and rupture.  This is so true that Saint Thomas Aquinas was careful to consecrate to this topic two stanzas of his sequence on the Holy Sacrament "Lauda Sion":  "When dividing the species, do not hesitate, but remember that he is present in a fragment as well as in the whole.  Only
the sign, and not Christ, is divided, and neither his size nor his state are diminished."

So, before receiving the Body of Christ, before uniting himself to the Bread of Life and resurrecting in Christ, the Christian, along with the priest, must renounce this supreme good:  it is in this very renouncement that he finds and receives from God the reward of the promised eternity!  Thus, the two disciples who were going toward Emmaus had renounced, but in a merely human manner, all that Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah in whom they believed, could have brought them on earth.  Before Jesus explained the meaning of the Scriptures to them and took them from a merely human level to a supernatural and divine level, they reacted like believers who, seeing the priest break the consecrated host, believe that Christ is no longer present among them.  But, after the Lord said to them:  "Was there not a necessity for the Christ thus to suffer, and then enter into His glory?", they received from God the grace to unite their human renouncement to the divine renouncement of Christ.  And in this transformation, the very life of God filled them completely, so that "their eyes were opened and they recognized Him."

"So they rose and without an hour's delay returned to Jerusalem, and found the Eleven and the rest met together, who said to them, "Yes, it is true:  the Master has come back to life. He has been seen by Simon."  Then they related what had happened on the way, and how He had been recognized by them in the breaking of the bread."

The disciples recognized the Lord at the very moment he broke the bread!  Jesus himself said to his disciples, when he prayed his Father:  "This is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3)  Thus, in order to know God and to receive from him eternal life, it is necessary to break bread with Christ, with the Church:  it is necessary to unite our human renouncement to the divine renouncement of Christ, it is necessary to unite ourselves to the Passion of Christ if we want to have a share in his Resurrection!

If we still say to ourselves, with the disciples of Emmaus:  "We were hoping that it was He who was about to ransom Israel," then let us be sure to remember what Jesus said to Pilate:  "My kingship is not of this world." (John 18:36)  Therefore, let us ask Mary, who was present at the foot of the Cross of Calvary, for the grace of a perfect renouncement of ourselves in communion with the renouncement of Christ, so that, in this manner, the Eucharist we celebrate shall truly be for us "the bread which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world." (John 6:33)