HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR A.
THEME: Boulevard of Broken Dreams.
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
The Gospel this Sunday is about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. While the rest of their grieving brothers and sisters were gathered in Jerusalem, they left and were on their way home to Emmaus. They just did not care about the others anymore. They were deeply frustrated and totally depressed with what happened to Jesus. Their dreams of a bright future, not only for themselves, but also for the entire Jewish nation, have vanished: “We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.”
Incidentally, the village of Emmaus was seven miles northwest of Jerusalem. In other words, they were travelling towards the west, the direction of the setting sun – traditionally symbolic of sorrow and hopelessness. We may as well say they were walking along the street of sorrow, the “boulevard of broken dreams”.
At one point in their journey, however, Jesus joined them. He talked to them along the way. But it is very surprising that they did not recognize him at all. Analyzing the situation more closely, however, it should come as no surprise. There are logical reasons for this.
First, the two disciples did not recognize the Lord because they did not expect him at all. They were sure Jesus was dead. That is why, even the news about the women finding his tomb empty did not have any significance to them. So, they left Jerusalem. For them, Jesus is already out of their lives. Life had to go on without him.
Second, they were walking towards the west, the direction of the setting sun. For some people, this may just be an insignificant symbolism, but for us Christians, we always look towards the east. This is expressed even in our liturgical celebrations. As Pope Benedict XVI pointed out, “a common turning to the east during the Eucharistic prayer remains essential…The Lord is the point of reference. He is the rising sun of history” (The Spirit of the Liturgy, pp. 81, 84). Turning to the east, then, means turning to the Lord. The disciples moving towards the west, therefore, could be symbolically interpreted as turning away from the Lord.
Third, they did not have sufficient knowledge and understanding of Sacred Scriptures. And so they did not really believe the prophecies in the Scriptures, especially those that referred to the resurrection of Jesus. That is why the Lord reprimanded them: “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke.” St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”
Finally, they turned away from the community of believers. And they left “on the first day of the week.” Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. It was the first day of the week, the Day of the Lord. Just when the followers of Jesus were gathered on that day, the two disciples decided to leave. They must have ignored the Lord’s admonition: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.”
These are the reasons why the two disciples were prevented from recognizing the Lord. When they reached Emmaus, they asked Jesus to stay with them and have supper. When he sat down at table, “he took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them. With that, their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.” The breaking of bread was not an ordinary meal or fellowship. Rather, it was a clear reminder of what Jesus did at the Last Supper, when he instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist.
This brings back to mind the treachery of Judas Iscariot. He betrayed the Lord because he failed the test of the Eucharist. He made his final move against the Lord when he left the Last Supper while the Eucharist was being instituted. On the contrary, the disciples at Emmaus recognized the Lord at the “breaking of bread”, or the Eucharist.
RELATED: HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR A.
Indeed, the Eucharist opens the eyes of our faith and transforms us from mere spectators into ardent believers and zealous evangelizers. In the Eucharist, we encounter Jesus, truly alive and present, for we receive his living flesh and blood in Holy Communion. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, “The Blessed Eucharist is the perfect Sacrament of the Lord’s Passion, since It contains Christ Himself and his Passion.”
In the Eucharistic celebration, the Word of God is proclaimed and explained to us, giving us the eternal truths that lead us to salvation. It is Jesus himself who speaks to us in the Scriptures. The two disciples realized this and exclaimed: “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”
In the Eucharist, we turn around and look towards the east, to face the Lord, the rising sun of our salvation. We turn to him for strength and sustenance to continue in this difficult and perilous journey. St. Gaudentius of Brescia said, “This sacrifice is our sustenance on life’s journey; by it we are nourished and supported along the road of life until we depart from this world and make our way to the Lord.”
And finally, in the Eucharist, we are never alone, for Jesus is with us together with his people, the living community of faith. As St. Peter Julian Eymard said, “Our Lord so loved us that he could not separate himself from us, even in his state of glory. The Eucharist is his Incarnation continued, multiplied, perpetuated to the end of time… Jesus Christ is in heaven for the elect; he is in the Most Blessed Sacrament for journeying man.”
Our life in this world is a journey. Along the road, Jesus accompanies us as he has promised: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20). But we have to choose which direction to take: towards Emmaus or towards Jerusalem – towards discouragement and hopelessness, or towards hope and joy in our Risen Lord.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
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