April 30, 2017 - Third Sunday of Easter

Acts 2:14, 22-33;
Psalm 16;
1 Peter 1:17-21;
Luke 24:13-35

The story in our Gospel today takes the form of a Mass. Cleopas, who is the brother of St. Joseph and so the uncle of Jesus, and his wife, who is one of the several women in the New Testament named Mary, are walking home after having come to Jerusalem with Jesus for the Passover. Jesus appears. “The Lord be with you.” Cleopas confesses the sin of the people for killing Jesus, and his own sin in failing to believe in the Resurrection. Jesus reads the words of the Scriptures. Then he preaches a homily, explaining how everything points to his death and Resurrection. How wonderful it would be if we could have Jesus preach to us now! Instead, you only have me. When he is done explaining the Scriptures, he takes bread, says the blessing, breaks it, and gives it to them. Jesus is revealed in the breaking of the bread. Then they go and announce the Gospel of the Lord. This is not an accident. Here we have a proof for how the Mass goes all the way back to the Apostles. St. Luke uses very specific words to emphasize how this encounter with Jesus is like the Mass.

Just like in the Mass, Jesus was present even though the disciples could not see him. Jesus is present here, even though he cannot see him. When they reached Emmaus, they stopped for the night. They stop because they are seeking some rest, but Jesus is the true rest for our restless souls. They stop because they cannot see their way any longer in the dark, but Jesus is the Way. They stop because they are afraid of the dark, but Jesus is the Light of the World. They do not understand who they are with. “Their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.” Yet, they do understand that this stranger is able to bring all the events of the past few days into light and they wish to speak with him further and so they beg Jesus to stop with them.

We too, should beg Jesus to stay with us. Our lives are a journey toward heaven. We alternate between doing holy things like going to Mass and praying and doing secular things like work and play. It would be a mistake to think that Jesus is only with us when we are doing the holy things, as if he were just sitting in Church and has nothing to do with what happens outside of these walls. We turn to God throughout the day, but he is always turned toward us. God is just as real when we are watching television as he is when we are praying.

When we stop and take our rest, we should urge Jesus to stay with us. Not because he would otherwise go somewhere else, but because we need to keep in mind that he is here with us. He is on the couch next to you as you watch TV. Sometimes, when you are watching TV, stop for a second and pray. God is always there, but we have to remember sometimes. This is why it is so important to pray at specific times throughout the day. Pray before you eat, pray after you eat, pray before you sleep, pray when you wake up in the morning, pray constantly. And do not let these prayers be just a jumble of mumbled words. As you say the prayer, turn to God in your heart. Remember for a moment who you are and who God is.

Once the disciples recognize Jesus they immediately leave Emmaus for Jerusalem. Before they remembered Jesus, they were afraid. It was not safe to be walking outside after dark, particularly not in an age without flashlights or streetlights. When they recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread, they get up and go back to Jerusalem. They are no longer afraid. They do not wait until morning. They just go. "Perfect love casts out all fear." "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." When we know that we are loved, we are not afraid anymore. It is not like someone who is too drunk or stupid to see the danger. A Christian sees the danger but is not afraid because he who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. This fearlessness is the true mark of Christians. To be willing to die for what you believe in is not uncommon. Many people die for what they believe in: some are good; some are bad; some are just crazy. Martyrs are different. They die without hatred and without fear. They die joyfully because they have come to know a love that is greater than any suffering.

We are not at this time confronted by the challenge of martyrdom. No one right now and right here is going to kill us for faith. But we still face fears. The fear of missing out. We are afraid that if we give ourselves more fully to Jesus and therefore give up things of this world, we are missing out on the fun that the rest of the world is having. The elder brother complains to his father that the prodigal son got to party but he never even got to feast on a goat with his friends. We want to eat our cake and have it too. We are afraid that being Christian means giving up enjoyable parts of life. The father responds to the elder son by reminding him of his love. If we come to know the love of God, we will realize that all the little distractions of the world are worth nothing in comparison. It will be like a man who stops playing a video game because he has fallen in love and his friends make fun of him for being bossed but he says, “You do not understand. I don’t want to play the game anymore. I have something better to do with my time.” Imagine being so in love with God that it wasn’t that you did not sin because he told you not to but because sin just seemed like such a waste of time.