Jump to content

Pastor's Letter 20200426 - 26 April 2020 - Word and Sacrament

Recommended Posts


April 26th, 2020

Third Sunday of Lent

A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme: “Word and Sacrament”


 Scripture Note

 Today’s Gospel relates the disciples responding both to God’s Word: “Were not our hearts burning within us while He...opened the Scriptures to us?” and to one of God’s holiest symbols, a sacrament:“He was made known to them in the breaking of bread.” (Luke 24;13-35)  The Emmaus story is a sophisticated Eucharistic catechesis (directly similar to our Holy Mass:) a “Liturgy of the Word,”followed by a “Liturgy of the Eucharist.” (The expression, “Breaking of bread,”is a technical term for the Holy Eucharist.)  Luke deliberately uses Eucharistic language: “Jesus took bread; blessed it, broke it and gave it to them.”  By the time Luke wrote his Gospel, nearly a half-century had passed since our Lord’s death and resurrection.  So his readers might look back with envy at the people who were fortunate enough to have seen the risen Lord with their own eyes.  But in this story, Luke makes the point that even those who were in that enviable position did not truly knowJesus until the Scriptures were expounded and the bread was broken.  The Christians of Luke’s time had the same means of recognizing the Lord—the Scriptures and the breaking of the bread in the Holy Eucharist—as we do.  Since apostolic times, the Scriptures and the Holy Eucharist have been the essential componentsof the celebration of the Mass.  In the matter of encountering Jesus with faith, a past generation is no more privileged than we are now.  Our lives can be seen as a series of stories coalescing over time to form one story.

Sharing the Story 

It is said that all sorrows can be borne if we tell a story about them. Jesus’ death plunged His disciples into gloom.  Their dreams about Him as their Messiah were reduced to so much rubble.  They looked at their predicament from every possible angle:, yet they still couldn’t make sense of it.  A humiliated, crucified Messiah was impossible—unthinkable.  Jesus helped the two disciples share their story so that it mingled with His.  He drew it out of them, and then illuminated it with His.  The story also shows us what ministry is all about: walking with people, being present to them, to pray, and to listen—essential “good works” all of us are called to perform in our lives, every day.  Jesus showed great sensitivity in joining them as a stranger.  He simply “accompanied” them—an activity that is, by its very nature, very gentle.  (People often find it easier to talk to a stranger.)  Gradually, He built up a “communion” with them, along with mutual trust and a desire for the truth.  (People also often don’t want to listen to the truth, or face reality in times of great sorrow.  They have to wait for the “right moment” to help them accept things.)

 Christ enquired into their conversation and grief: “What are you discussing as you walk along?”   Though Christ had now entered into His state of exaltation, yet He continued to be tender with His disciples, and concerned for their comfort.  He spoke as one troubled to see their melancholy: Wherefore look ye so sadly to-day?” (Genesis 40:7.) Christ has hereby taught us to be conversational.  Falling into discourse with two gravely serious persons, to whom He was a stranger, they readily embraced Him, nonetheless. It does not become Christians to be morose and shy, but to take pleasure in sharing good company. We are hereby taught to be compassionate. When we see our friends in sorrow and sadness, we should, like Christ here, recognize their grief, giving them the best counsel and comfort we can: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.”   With a simple, direct manner, He prompted them to “open up,” and share their sad tale.  He showed them how the prophets foretold the Messiah would suffer and die, and thus enter into glory—how no one can attain to glory without sacrifice and suffering. He revealed the death of Jesus, far from being the end of a dream, was precisely the way in which it had been realized.   

 The encounter also reinforces our Lord’s words: “Wherever two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20.)  In this way, we observe that whenever we are well employed, Christ will come to us for our encouragement and support. “When they that fear the Lord speak one to another, the Lord hears and is with them in truth” (Ecclesiastes 4:12.)  In their walking and reasoning together, our two disciples, today, were searching for Christ; comparing notes concerning about Him in order to gain more knowledge.  So, Christ came to them: “You shall find [the Lord] when you seek Him, when you search after Him with your whole heart and your whole soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29.) 

 It becomes Christians to first “talk” of Christ and “keep good company,” which, together with good conversation is an excellent antidote against prevailing melancholy.  When Christ’s disciples were sad they did not each one get by himself, but continued as he sent them out (“two by two,”—for two are better than one, especially in times of sorrow.) The act of venting  grief may ease the mind of those who are aggrieved; and, by talking it over, we may talk ourselves (or our friends may talk us) into a better frame of mind.  Joint mourners thereby become mutual comforters. 

 It wasn’t until the encounter was concluded that the disciples understood what had happened to them on their journey.  But, isn’t this just how it is in “real life?”  We live our lives “forward,” but only understand them “backwards!”  Often, we don’t know at the time the significance of what is happening to us.  Human beings lack global perspective and full understanding.  Normally, we have a sufficient amount of both to cope with our lives moment-to-moment, hour-to-hour and day-to-day.  Only afterwards—sometimes LONG afterwards—are we able to reflect and have our “eyes opened.”  

 Eventually we may even be grateful for our sad experiences, and are better off for them, having “soldiered” through.  Like the two disciples in today’s story, we finally understand the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection—glory attained through suffering.  Similarly, we may be enabled to “turn our lives around,” and return to “our community” with renewed faith and vigor.  

 Our lives can be seen as a series of stories, which coalesce into one story.  The sad fact of life is that all our stories end in death.  We like stories that with happy endings!  The resurrection of Christ opens all our stories to the prospect, not just of a good ending, but of a glorious one!  The first and last words in each of our stories belongs to God!

Burning Hearts

The Emmaus story is essentially a story about the heart.  We relate to it, because we also tend to spend much energy relating the stories of our loved ones who have died—at least immediately after their death.  While they live with us, we enjoy their vitality, their wisdom, their love, and our lives are correspondingly enriched by their presence.  After they are gone, our lives seem haunted by their absence. It is then we encounter the “grieving process”—a seven-stage affair, with which we are all too familiar: shock; denial; anger; bargaining; depression; testing and acceptance (a la Kubler Ross and David Kessler: “On grief and Grieving 1969) We can see the disciples going through this process (in an abbreviated fashion)in our Gospel story, today. But we realize, eventually, that it could have not occurred without their having faith.  Truly, Jesus illuminated their minds—no question about that.  But He did something better:  He set their hearts on fire. “Were not our hearts burning within us as He explained the Scriptures to us?” they asked.

Faith is very much concerned with the mind in so far as it has to with truth, dogmas, doctrines, creeds and catechisms. But it is even more concerned with the heart.  It consists in a relationship of love, with the God Who first loved us. Without this, faith is like a fireplace without a fire.  “We will never believe with a vigorous and unquestioning faith unless God touches our hearts.  Is to the heart that the call of God comes.”(Blaise Pascal) 

 The main conviction that made Cleopas’ and the other disciple’s heart “burn” was that Jesus loved them.  The story shows us the goodness of God, who makes our deepest dreams come true in the most surprising ways.  The Risen Christ is with us on our life’s journey, so close that our stories merge with His—even though we may not recognize that He is with us.

May God Richly Bless You!

And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and He vanished out of their sight(Luke 24:31)

I Can See-On the Emmaus Road.docx

I Can See (On the Emmaus Road).mp3



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...