April 23, 2023
Girls and boys, we have a beautiful Gospel today for your First Holy Communion. It is about two disciples walking to Emmaus – a town or village seven miles from Jerusalem. One is named Cleopas. Ancient sources and modern scholars suggest the other disciple is his wife. They are leaving Jerusalem troubled and disappointed. Jesus has died on the cross and now there are reports from women that his tomb is empty, and the women have seen a vision of angels announcing that Jesus is alive. As they converse and debate all these things, Jesus walks with them. They don’t recognize that the stranger is Jesus. After listening to the disciples recall all that has happened, Jesus explains to them recent events are part of God’s plan and have been foretold by Moses and the prophets. When the walkers approach the village of Emmaus, and Jesus gives the impression of going farther, the two disciples, urge him, “stay with us.” And when they sit at table together, Jesus takes bread, blesses the bread, and breaks it, and gives the bread to them. “With that their eyes are opened, and they recognize him.” Jesus then vanishes. The two disciples return to Jerusalem to share their story. They say to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within when he spoke to us and opened the Scriptures.” And then, once back in the city, they tell the other disciples, “He was made known to us in the breaking of the bread.”
What we proclaim at Mass today from the Gospel according to St. Luke, is happening here on this special occasion. “Jesus opening the Scriptures” is the Liturgy of the Word. Jesus “breaking and sharing the bread” is the Liturgy of the Eucharist and Holy Communion. Boys and girls, the precious gift we receive is the living Word of God and the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus is sharing with us his very life sacrificed on the cross. And what do we say, when the priest, deacon or Eucharistic Minister says, “Body of Christ?” We say, “Amen.” “Amen” means, “Yes – I believe.”
The painting I placed by the organ of the two disciples walking with Jesus to Emmaus is from a Polish lady named Janina or Janet. As a young girl she lived in Poland and, at the end of World War II, she, her mom, and siblings were taken by the Soviets back into Russia. She experienced starvation and the death of her mother. She was left to take care of her younger sisters and brothers. When I was a Parochial Vicar at St. Andrew in Kenmore, I would bring Holy Communion to Janina and her husband Stanley. I discovered her Catholic faith and friendship with Jesus had sustained her through unimaginable trauma and suffering. I learned from Janina the deepest hunger within is our longing for God.
With the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus let us beseech Jesus to “stay with us.” God is close to us when we open our hearts to receive Jesus in Holy Communion.
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