2017-04-26 08:28:00

III Sunday of Easter - 30th April 2017

(Acts 2:14, 22-33 1 Pt 1:17-21, Lk 24:13-35)  

It takes the signal nine hours to get to earth. In 1972, NASA launched an exploratory space probe called Pioneer 10. The mission of Pioneer 10 was to fly to Jupiter, take pictures of the planet and moons and send back data about the atmosphere, magnetic field, and radiation belts. Many scientists did not think this would be possible, because they feared that the probe would be destroyed in the asteroid belt, and up to this point, no probe had made it past Mars. But, Pioneer 10 completed its mission in November of 1973, and continued to travel into space. By 1997, the probe had traveled six billion miles from the sun. In spite of the great distance, scientists are still able to pick up radio signals from the probe that they can decipher. What is more remarkable is that these signals are sent by an 8‑watt transmitter, which is only as powerful as a night light, and it takes the signal nine hours to get to earth. It is always amazing to me that a generation that takes for granted the wonders of science is so quick to dismiss the power and the purpose of the Creator who set it all in motion in the first place. God is alive. God is personal. God cares about us and God desires to reveal Himself to us just as Christ revealed himself to those two disciples on the road to Emmaus, as described in today’s gospel.  

Introduction : Our Scripture lessons for today have one common, encouraging theme: No matter what happens in our lives, the risen Jesus is always with us.  God is near to those who seek Him and who want to live in His presence, doing His will.  The Emmaus incident is the story of a God who will not leave us alone when we are hurt and disappointed. As Francis Thompson put it, He is The Hound of Heaven Who relentlessly follows us when we try to escape from His love.   The message of today’s Scripture readings is that the followers of Jesus are to maintain contact with their risen Lord through the Eucharist and the Bible.  The readings also remind us that our belief in Jesus’ presence in the consecrated Bread and Wine should help us to understand better his presence in the Bible and in the believing and worshipping community.  Putting the two appearances (to the Emmaus disciples and to Peter), together, it is clear that the risen Jesus wants Peter to act as spokesman for him and that the faithful who seek to follow Jesus should seek his company in the Eucharist and the Bible under the direction of Peter and his successors.  

The first reading (Acts 2: 14, 22, 23) is taken from the beginning of Peter's first public proclamation about Jesus and how God raised Jesus from death, thus fulfilling the Messianic prophecies about the promised descendant of David.  The reading is taken from the first and the longest of Peter's five discourses preserved in the Acts of the Apostles.  During his speech, Peter refers to Israel's beloved King David, quoting Psalm 16 (ascribed to David), and asserts that David, "foresaw and spoke of the Resurrection of the Christ." Today's reading tries to describe a time before the earliest Christians realized that God was calling them to embrace all people. At this stage, they acted as though they were the only ones to have caught on to the Messianic identity of Jesus, and their goal was only to convince others of what they had realized.

 The second reading (1 Peter 1: 17-21):  Peter exhorts the early Christians to place their Faith and Hope in God Who has saved them through the precious Blood of His Son and Who has raised Jesus from the dead.  Peter repeats the assertion made in Acts that Jesus' death and Resurrection was part of God's plan from all eternity.  Hence, Jesus' sufferings and subsequent glorification by God should serve to center the Christian's Faith and Hope in God Who has accepted those sufferings as an act of Redemption for all mankind. From this reassuring truth, Christians should sense God's providence in their own situation and the whole of their lives, and should understand the place of their present struggles in broader history.  The root of our Faith must be the Resurrection of Jesus, and Peter argues that it is essential for everyone in the Christian community to have the experience of the risen Jesus in his or her life.

Exegesis: Luke's Emmaus Gospel is a beautiful, theological dramatization of one of the encounters of the disciples with their risen Lord during those wonder-filled days after the discovery of the empty tomb (Mk 16:12-13). It is the story of how on Easter Sunday two disciples of Jesus, discouraged and devastated, set out on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus -- a distance of about seven miles -- and were met by a Stranger going along the same road.  They began to speak to Him about all that had occurred in the Holy City during the previous week.  Most probably, Cleopas and his companion were husband and wife, residents of Emmaus and disciples of Jesus who had witnessed His crucifixion and burial.  The two disciples chose to leave Jerusalem on the third day after the death of Jesus – the very day they had received news that the tomb was empty.  They were “prevented” from recognizing the Stranger, Jesus, perhaps partly by preoccupation with their own disappointment and problems. As they journeyed on, Jesus showed them how the Scriptures had foretold all that He had done and suffered, including his death and its purpose.  His coming to them and walking alongside of them illustrates the truth that the road to Emmaus is a road of companionship with Jesus Who desires to walk with each of us.  "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). The incident further illustrates that Jesus is with us even when we do not recognize him.    

Encounters with God:  The Old Testament describes how the Chosen People encountered God in unexpected ways.  Gen 18:1-15 describes how Abraham, at Mamre, entertained angels unaware. Running from his troubles, Jacob laid his head on a stone while he slept and saw a stairway to Heaven.   He is presented as wrestling all night with a manifestation of God in the flesh.  Moses turned aside from his flock of sheep to see why a bush would burn and not be consumed and heard the Voice of God from it.  Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up in the Temple.  Saul of Tarsus met Jesus on the road to Damascus, and Jesus got Saul's attention by knocking him to the ground and striking him blind.  God’s Self-disclosure to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus was unexpected, but in a radically different way from the encounters mentioned above.

Invitation accepted: The custom then required that Cleopas and his companion invite Jesus to dinner.  Hence, they invited Jesus for a night’s rest in their house--and Jesus accepted the invitation.  During the meal, when Jesus broke the bread and gave it to them, the disciples realized that this stranger was Jesus, the risen Christ, and Jesus immediately vanished.  Later they said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us when he opened up the Scriptures to us?”  Since they could not keep the Good News to themselves, the Emmaus disciples walked back seven miles to Jerusalem to share their story with the other disciples.  The Fathers of the Church note how well the details of this Emmaus episode match our process of coming to faith in Jesus Christ.  First, there are questions and a search for answers.  Then comes a moment of discovery when our eyes are opened and our hearts within begin to burn with longing.  Finally there is the desire to tell the story to all who will listen. 

Liturgical setting: Luke’s Gospel, written toward the end of the first century, was mainly meant for Christians who had not witnessed Christ in the flesh.  Luke tells us that we can meet and experience the risen Lord through the reading and interpretation of Scripture (v. 27), and the “Breaking of the Bread,” as the Lord's Supper (vv. 30-31) was known then.  The story of the encounter on the Emmaus Road is presented in a liturgical fashion using liturgical language such as the commentary: "he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them" (v 30); "the Lord has risen indeed" (v. 34).  Thus, the risen Christ is revealed through the telling of the story, the interpretation of Scripture, and the Breaking of the Bread.  Jesus began revealing himself through the Scriptures (vv. 25-27) and completed the revelation through the Eucharist (vv. 30-31).  This means that Christ still reveals himself to us through Word and Sacrament.  The word "companion" derives from two Latin words, "cum" meaning "together with," and "panis" which means "bread," implying that companionship is the result especially of eating together, breaking bread together, something which is at the heart of the Eucharist.

Lessons from Emmaus:  Luke’s Emmaus story teaches us that (1) Jesus' death and Resurrection fit God's purpose as revealed in the Scriptures; (2) the risen Jesus is present in the Word of God and especially in the Breaking of the Bread; 3) suffering is necessary for the Messiah "to enter into his glory;" and 4) we have a risen Savior, One Who personally walks with us in our daily paths, talks with us through His Word and with Whom we can talk through prayer.  He is the One Who opens our minds to understand and respond to His Word.  (The bishops at the Second Vatican Council recorded these compelling words which are still deeply relevant to the Church today: 'The Church has always venerated the Divine Scriptures just as it venerates the Body of the Lord, since from the table both of the Word of God and of the Body of Christ it unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the Bread of Life. It has always regarded the Scriptures together with sacred tradition as the supreme rule of Faith, and will ever do so” (Dei Verbum 21). Jesus is with us and is concerned about us and provides for us regardless of what life may bring. Further, the Father, as Jesus’ request, has given us the Holy Spirit so that we may teach others about Him.  Let us, therefore, with the perception of His presence, walk with Jesus, talk with Him, depend on Him, worship Him, and tell others about Him.

Life messages: 1) Jesus meets us on our Emmaus Road.  The risen Lord meets us on the road to our Emmaus in the ordinary experiences of our lives and in the places to which we retreat when life is too much for us.  We, too, have hopes and dreams about better health, healing, financial security and family relationships.  These dreams often get shattered.  The story promises us, however, that Jesus will come to us in unfamiliar guises to support and strengthen us when we least expect our risen Lord.  Emmaus moments come to us when we meet the risen Christ on our life’s journey through rough times. 

2) The road to Emmaus is a road of companionship. Jesus, now freed from the space-time limits of his earthly life, is present in our midst and wants to be our Friend.  The risen Lord desires that we walk with Him and with one another: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.  For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:2-3).    He wants to join us in our travels of life: “I am a Companion of all who fear You, and of those who keep Your precepts” (Psalms 119:63).  “Where two or three are gathered in My Name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20).
3) We meet Jesus daily in our life’s journey. The Church instructs us to hear Jesus on a daily basis through the faithful reading of, and meditation on, the Bible and to experience him through our participation in the Eucharistic celebration where Jesus gives himself to us, through our personal and family prayers and through our family meals.  When we meet our risen Lord through the Word of God, we commune with him.  We renew our relationship with Jesus through prayer. These two meetings will enable us to meet the risen Jesus living in all the people we meet and to do them humble, loving and selfless service.
4) Do our hearts burn when we listen to the Risen Lord in the Bible?  Christ comes to us most clearly in the Word.  Our tradition teaches us that the reading of the Scriptures, the study of the Scriptures and the proclamation of the message of the Scriptures are the primary ways in which we meet God.  Vatican II (Dei Verbum 21) tells us that Jesus is to be equally venerated in the Eucharist and in the Bible.  Therefore, we need to study the Bible, learn the Bible, memorize the Bible and meditate on the word of God.  We know that Christ lives in the Bible, and so we need to spend time in the Bible to have a deep, intimate, loving, caring, long-term relationship with Jesus Christ.  We know we are to brush our teeth every day.  Likewise, we are to read the Bible every day.  We need to read the Scriptures daily to meet and converse with Jesus Christ.  It should be a daily habit because people either read the Bible daily or almost never. Abraham Lincoln, whom many consider the best President of the United States, said: “The greatest gift that God gave to human beings is the Bible.”  Another President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, said that it was a principle of his to read the Bible through each and every year.  Yet another great President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, said, “A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.”  Goethe, the great German philosopher, said that the beauty of the Bible grows as we grow in our understanding of it.  

5) Find Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread.  In the Gospel story for today, we learn that we find Christ is in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.  When we kneel at the altar to receive the Sacrament, we see and receive Christ.  In John 6, Jesus says, “Whoever eats My Body and drinks My Blood shall live with me eternally.”  The Eucharist is true "soul food," the Bread of life for eternity.  It feeds us and fulfills our spiritual needs.  It is a pity that often we don’t realize what is happening during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the sacred banquet of all believers.  In this meal, we are in communion, not only with Jesus, but also with our family and friends who have preceded us in death.  The Eucharist is not simply Bread and Wine for today, but a banquet for all eternity.(Fr. Anthony Kadavil)

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