This Sunday, Christ Himself comes to renew our hope in Him and in our heavenly Father. After feeling dejected over His perceived failure on the Cross, the disciples’ mourning is turned into joy by none another than Christ Himself, ipse Christus, on the road to Emmaus.
In our First Reading, St Peter, emboldened by the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, stands up and preaches the first public sermon after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. The first Pope in history, the prince of the Apostles, does what the Church has been ceaselessly doing from that day till today: Proclaiming the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
This is the blueprint for evangelisation. It might be the case that you had a profound experience with God at some concrete moment in your life and then came to faith because of it, but if at the very foundation of your belief, of your reason for belief, you do not have Christ’s bodily Resurrection from the dead, you are building your house on a sandy bank and, one way or another, it will fall (cf. Matthew 7:24-27).
This is the centre of St Peter’s sermon. He shows, however, that David himself had foretold the Resurrection of the Messiah, the final Davidic King to come. God showed David this fact and so in Psalm 15 (according to the Greco-Latin tradition) or Psalm 16 (according to the Hebrew tradition), David wrote about it. This is our Responsorial Psalm this Sunday too. St Peter in our First Reading, furthermore, makes the simple case that David could not have been talking about himself since “David himself is dead and buried: his tomb is still with us!”
St Peter, in our Epistle Reading (Second Reading), makes this point very clear. He says, “Through Him you now have faith in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory for that very reason – so that you would have faith and hope in God” (emphasis added).
In our Gospel this Sunday, two of the Lord’s disciples are walking away from Jerusalem on their way to Emmaus, which sat seven miles away from Jerusalem (approximately from Gibraltar to La Alcaidesa as the crow flies).
On the way, Jesus meets them “but something prevented them from recognising Him.” Jesus acts ignorant as to what had occurred in Jerusalem recently and the disciples are shocked at His ignorance: “You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days,” they said with their faces looking downcast. The reason for their mourning, however, is made clear a little further on. It was not because they had lost a friend. It was not because they felt pity on a man who had just suffered the most brutal of deaths — especially being an innocent man. But one of them instead says, “Our own hope had been that He would be the one to set Israel free.” They thought He was the messiah, the Christ, and they now thought that they were mistaken! They were not. They were just mistaken about the nature of the liberation that the Messiah would bring.
Jesus then rebukes their lack of faith and proceeds to explain the Scriptures that concerned Him (this, of course, referring to the Scriptures of the Old Testament). Having now understood these, and later finding out that their hearts burned within them during this explanation (how great is the need for good catechesis!), they pull in to stay the night and they “break bread” (wink, wink) with their unknown acquaintance.
Finally, in this breaking of the bread, they recognise Jesus. Jesus, at this point, is beginning to accustom and prepare His followers to get used to His new mode of presence among them: the Holy Eucharist. But another point stands wide open for us to notice. It was not in the explanation of the Scriptures that they recognised Jesus. They recognised Him when they came to that which the Holy Scriptures prepares us for: The Breaking of the True Bread come down from heaven (cf. John 6:32) — Holy Mass. (Notice how this entire episode provides the general structure of Holy Mass — The Scriptures with their explanation, and then the Breaking of the Bread.)
Holy Mass is the culmination of our entire faith. Everything in the Scriptures or in the Church’s teachings are meant to lead us to a fruitful participation in Holy Mass. This is where our relationships with Jesus are nourished — literally! This is where our Covenant-bond with Him is strengthened. The Covenant is the only thing that binds God to us. The only place that Jesus speaks of it (one time) is in Luke 22:20, “And likewise the chalice after supper, saying, ‘This chalice which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’” This single mention bespeaks it’s magnificent importance.
After the disciples at Emmaus realise that it was the Lord who was with them and is now there with them in the Eucharist, they immediately returned to Jerusalem to tell the brethren. This is what true faith does to us! It makes us turn right around to go and tell others about what has happened:
“They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.”
May we too be propelled by our recognition of Jesus in the breaking of the Bread to go out and share the Good News — the Gospel!
But remember, what we share is not a feeling, not anything subjective “so deep that I cannot explain.” Jesus Christ, the Son of God, suffered, died and was buried, and on the third day, He rose from the dead to save me from my sins and free me (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 164). That’s why I believe.
See you next week on Seeking the Word!
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