3rd Sunday of Easter. May 4th 2014
Acts 2:14,22-33; 1Pet1:17-21; Lk 24:13-35
“They recognized Him in the breaking of bread.”
Some months ago, while waiting at the airport for my flight from Cebu to Manila, the passengers at the boarding gate suddenly crowded around two young men arriving at the gate. They were taking pictures and conversing with the young men with so much joy and happiness. I asked someone close by who they men were and he looked at me like I was from another world as if to say, “What? You do not not know these guys?” He then told me that they were celebrities, famous Filipino movie actors.
How easily we recognize and willingly identify with our famous celebrity figures. We know every detail about them, both relevant an irrelevant details. But do we ever stop to ask questions like, “What have these celebrities done for me in the past? What are they doing for me now? What am I guaranteed that they will do for me in the future?” Maybe they entertain us and make us feel good about ourselves. That is all that they can do for us and there is no guarantee that this will be the case for ever. Yet we easily recognize them and identify with them.
But do we recognize the presence of Jesus in our midst today? Is Jesus Christ just a historical figure who lived thousands of years ago? Are we open to an encounter with Jesus that will bring us to recognize His presence among us? Are we satisfied with repeating the stories that we have heard about Him troughout our lives?
Why should we strive to recognize Jesus in our midst? St. Peter reminds us in today’s Second Reading that, bearing in mind what Jesus has done for us in the past, what He is doing for us now, and what He will do for us in the future, things that no person could ever dream of doing for us, it is unpardonable for us not to seek to recongnize Christ in our midst today. In the past, Jesus “ransomed us from our futile conduct, not with perishable things like silver and gold but with His precious blood, the blood of a spotless unblemished lamb.” At the present moment, it is through “Jesus Christ that we believe in God who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory.” St. Peter also reminds us in the Reading from the Acts of the Apostles that Jesus christ has brought us now into such a deep filial relationship with the Father that we are certain that the Father will not abandon us in our sins and sufferings just as the Father did not abandon Christ “to the netherworld nor let His flesh see corruption.” Recalling the words of Jesus, “As the Father has sent me, so do I send you,” by the merits of Jesus Christ, we know that we will not be abandoned by the Father in life and in death and we hope for a share in Christ’s glorious resurrection.
Jesus has shed His blood to ransom us from sin, He has brought us now into a deep and abiding relationship with the Father that guarantees us that we will never be abandoned by the Father and we are certain to share in His own glorious Resurrection. Jesus alone has and will and do these for us; but do we recognize His presence in our midst? Do we long for a deeper relationship and knowledge of Him? Are we satisified in mouthing the stories we have heard about Him?
What happens if we do not recognize christ’s presence in our midst. Our testimony about the risen christ will not be strong and consistent; it will be a witness that is that is limited to repeating second hand stories and information and it will be a witness that lacks the joy of knowing and proclaiming the living Christ in our midst.
In today’s Gospel passage, the two disciples on the way to Emmaus failed to recognize Christ in their midst and when He asked them what they were talking about, they “stopped, looking downcast.” What type of witness about Jesus did they give to this “stranger” walking with them? Their stories lacked conviction and it is based on stories of what they heard from others and what they were thinking about these reports. It is also a witness that lacks joy. It is only after they recognized Jesus in the breaking of bread that they returned to Jerusalem with joy to confirm the faith of the others disciples about the risen Christ. Jesus never abandoned the disciples even when they were “slow to believe all that the prophets spoke” but He walked with them and provided encounters to bring them to recognize His presence with them.
How do we recognize Christ Jesus in our midst today? We are usually tempted to begin with the Eucharist. Jesus did not begin with the Eucharist in making the disciples recognize Him. There are certain things that prepare us to recognize Christ’s abiding presence in the Eucharist and help us to recognize His presence after the Eucharistic encounter and in daily life. Let me share with you five of these things that open us to this encounter with Christ.
First, prayerful reflection on the sacred scriptures inflames us with a greater desire for sacramental communion with Jesus and prepares us for this encounter. By interpreting the scriptures to the disciples on the way to Emmaus, Jesus’ words made their hearts to “burn within them.” The scriptures are never a replacement for the Eucharist but they are an opportunity to let Jesus shape our hearts and minds in preparation for Eucharistic communion. Are we letting the words and promises of God’s word shape us or are we shaping God’s word according to our taste? How attentively do we attend to the readings at Mass? Our preparadness to recognize Jesus and our desire for Him dwindles when we fail to let God’s word shape our hearts and illumine our minds.
Secondly, we must return to that childlike and trustfull listening to Christ speaking to us in the Church. In the Second Reading, St. Peter and the Eleven stood up to speak to the crowd about God’s plan in Jesus’ death and Resurrection. Peter ended by saying that it is the words of the Spirit that is being heard in their own human words. Sinful and weak men like the Apostles are now the channel for the Spirit of christ to speak to His Church. In and through the Pope and the bishops, the successors of the Apostles, Jesus is constantly guiding us and leading the Church to recognize fully His presence in our midst. To ignore the Church’s teaching on faith and morals is to refuse an encounter with the living Christ today.
Thirdly, we must listen to our well formed conscience, one that is formed by the scripture and teaching of the Church. Jesus speaks words that sting the conscience of the disciples about their unbelief in the past: “Oh, how foolish you are. How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke.” The disciples do not argue with their mysterious companion on the journey but accept the rebuke of His words. This voice of consceince is one that convicts us of past wrongdoing and moves us to choose rightly in the future. Are we forming our conscience and listenig to the its voice in our daily life? The risen Christ continues to instruct us through our conscience and our attention to this voice determines our ability to recognize His presence in life.
Fourthly, we must also show loving concern for all people if we are ever going to recognize Jesus in our midst. The turing point towards faith in the risen Christ for the two disciples occured when they urged the stranger, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” Inviting a stranger into their home, they unknowingly prepared themselves for an encounter with the risen Christ that led to their recognizing Him in the breaking of bread. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has a similar warning, “Closing our eyes to our neighbors also blinds us to God.” Our ability to recognize Jesus depends on our ability to show loving concern to all people, born and unborn, rich or poor, young or old, male or female, etc.
Lastly, the disciples had a willingness to make life changes. Upon recognizing the presence of Christ at the breaking of bread, they did not wait for daybreak but they “set out at once and returned to Jerusalem.” If we are searching for an encounter with Jesus, are we ready to make the changes that Jesus will demand from us? Are we willing and ready for a deeper conversion and a radical following of Christ that comes with a true encounter with Him? We cannot be longing for a deep encounter with Jesus while holding on to our own sinful and selfish ways of life.
Indeed Jesus is with us today and He walks and talks with us along our own earthly journey, providing us with countless opportunities to encounter Him and to recognize His presence with us. He will never abandon us because, though “all things were created for Him and by Him,” (Col 1:16) He did not hesitate to shed His precious blood to ransom us from the futile life of sin. He has done for us what only He could do for us and is doing for us now what no mortal could ever dream of. His blood assures us that we will never be abandoned in life and in death. He is closer to us than any of our celebrities and He has done and will do anything to bring us to recognize His presence amongst us and to give joyful witness to Him.
As we encounter Him in the breaking of bread in this eucharist, if we fail to recognize His sacramental presence with us, if we fail to recognize His presence in our lives, we will be pathetic witnesses of His Resurrection and we will always be sad.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!