The 3rd Sunday of Easter
First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 2:14, 22-33
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-11
Second Reading: 1st Letter of St. Peter 1:17-21
Gospel: According to St. Luke 24:13-35
The road to Emmaus is one that each of us walks every day of our lives. Whether or not we realize it, Jesus is walking with us. Yet because it is so easy for us to focus on the immediacy of all that we are now going through, we might not even know that He is there.
Like those disciples whom Jesus joined along the route from Jerusalem to Emmaus, we too can be in the position where our eyes are “prevented from recognizing Him.” We become like those of whom Jesus spoke when He – quoting Isaiah – told the disciples the purpose of the parables: “They look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.”
In his telling of the story of the journey to Emmaus St. Luke makes sure that we are told exactly why and when the eyes of the disciples were opened and they recognized the Lord: “And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.”
It was only through the Eucharist that they were able to look and see, hear and understand. Luke is, in a very subtle way, arguing for the belief that the only way to be a follower of Jesus is to see Him in His Eucharistic Presence and to actively participate in the Sacred Liturgy.
Centuries later St. Benedict would base Western monasticism – and, by association, all of Western civilization – on the solid foundation of Ora et Labora, Prayer and Work, ensuring that the argument in favor of Labora – the works of justice and charity – at the expense of Ora – the life of prayer, especially the Eucharist – would never adequately reflect the commitment of those who follow Jesus.
My very favorite modern theologian, Cardinal Henri de Lubac, S.J., spilled a lot of ink trying to bring some clarity to the mystery of the Body of Christ. For de Lubac there was a necessary link between the Incarnate Son of God – literally, the Body of Christ – and those who follow in His footsteps and claim Him as the Christ, the Messiah – the Body of Christ known as the Church. That link, without which there is a gap between the divine and the human that no commitment to social justice could ever cross, is the sacramental Body of Christ known as the Eucharist.
When we say “Amen” at the reception of the Eucharist we are proclaiming union with the Incarnate Son of God and with the Church and the world that we hope to transform into the Church through our labora. Certainly our ora can take place anywhere – walking in the park, conversing with a loved one, reading an inspiring book – but none of those encounters with the divine can ever substitute for Christ found in the Eucharist.
Among all of the wonderful gifts of the created universe provided by our loving God there is none more wonderful than the gift of Himself in the Eucharist, and St. Luke again, by the detail given in his story, brings this to light. At the moment that the disciples recognized Jesus, “He vanished from their sight.” To accept and then consume the Eucharist is both to recognize Jesus in the transformed elements of bread and wine as well as to – literally – make them disappear.
How much more relevance does this story have today than ever before? The disappearance of the Eucharist from our lives has brought great sadness to millions of Catholics around the world. Yet we know that this disappearance is only temporary, and we can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The day is coming soon when we will once again be able to freely partake of the Eucharist. We will then not only be called, but compelled, to re-appear back into the world of mundane events utterly changed and ready to continue the journey, both praying and working as members of the Body of Christ.