If Our Blessed Lord were to ask you to tell the story of how you came to know Him, what would you say?
That’s an important question for us because our answer shapes the very manner of our lives, or at least it should, and it will especially shape our response to the current crisis. Today’s Gospel is about how two disciples came to know Jesus, but I mean really know Him. “That very day... two of Jesus' disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus” (Luke 24:13). Bishop Robert Barron once pointed out that “this gospel begins with two disciples walking the wrong way.”
It sounds like us. We can go the wrong way in life. We often go the very opposite direction of where God is. But the thing of it is, we can’t flee from the Lord.
These two disciples had known what Jesus taught, but these were just facts. They then knew about the betrayal of Judas, so they ran. They knew about the sufferings that Jesus endured and how the Lord was put to death on a Cross, so they hid. Now, on Sun- day morning, Mary Magdalene comes running in and says the Lord’s body has been taken. “That’s it, we’re out of here!”
Suddenly, as they’re fleeing Jerusalem, the Lord appears and walks with them. They didn’t know it was him. He asked them “what are you talking about?”. They explained how they had put their trust in Jesus, but now he’s dead, and his body is missing. “These men had hoped great things, but God, they said, had disappointed them. Man draws a blueprint and hopes that God in some way will rubber stamp it; disappointment is often due to the triviality of human hopes. Original drawings now had to be torn up - not because they were too great, but because in the eyes of God they were too little” (Fulton Sheen).
That’s when the Lord began to explain all the scriptures to them.
“He showed them all the types and all the rituals and all the ceremonials that were fulfilled in Him. Quoting from Isaiah, He showed the manner of His death and Crucifixion and His Las Words from the Cross; from Daniel, how He was to become the mountain that filled the earth; from Genesis, how the seed of a woman would crush the serpent of evil in human hearts; from Moses, how He would be the brazen serpent that would be lifted up to heal men of evil, and how His side would be the smitten rock from which would come the waters of regeneration; from Isaiah, how He would be Emmanuel, or ‘God with us’; from Micah, how He would be born in Bethlehem; and from many other writings He gave them the key to the mystery of God’s life among men and the purpose of His coming (Fulton Sheen).
As the day was ending, Jesus made like he was going to walk along further and they begged him to stay with them. They sat for dinner. He took bread blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. They ate the bread. “With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight” (Luke 24:31). They came to believe, once they recognized him in the breaking of the bread.
They didn’t just recognize Him, or know His teachings better, they knew Him. It was a “burning in their heart", a recognition that “it is you I long for!”
This Gospel is basically the Holy Mass. A confession that we have gone the wrong way, because of sin. A breaking open of the Scriptures, then as our hearts are prepared by listening to the Word, the Lord comes in our midst, hidden and unrecognizable in the host. During Mass, through the consecrated hands of the priest, Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to his disciples.
After the receiving of Holy Communion, our eyes are opened and we know Him. Then Jesus appears to vanish yet again. Where does he go? He is in you. And like the disciples who fearlessly ran BACK to Jerusalem, despite the threat of arrest and death, we are to go into the world to announce that “The Lord has truly been raised” (Luke 24:34). Currently, the cause of our sadness is our separation from the reception of Holy Communion during the Mass. For some it truly feels like the Lord has vanished.
All we can do is beg the Lord like those two disciples “Stay with us!” Stay with us Lord! And So He does. Though He has vanished from our sight, He remains in us and we in Him. Perhaps this is a time to get to know Him in His Holy Word, in our neighbors (from a safe distance) so that by the time we are ready to receive Him in Holy Communion, and that day does inch ever closer, we can truly say “our hearts were burning within us.”
God bless you all, Father Robert Letona