3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR A ON APRIL 26, 2020 (R. 1: Acts 2: 14, 22- 33; Psalm 16: 1- 2, 5, 7- 11; R. 2: 1 Peter 1: 17- 21; Gospel: Luke 24: 13- 35)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
HE BROKE THE BREAD…THEY RECOGNIZED HIM!
What have you noticed about Jesus since his resurrection on Easter Sunday? For me, it seems he has become hypersensitive to “gossips.” It seems you cannot just talk about him behind his back without him appearing like, “I can hear you!” On Easter Sunday, Mary Magdalene and the angels were still talking about Jesus by the empty tomb when he appeared. Last Sunday, the apostles were still talking with Thomas about him when he appeared. And today, the two disciples on the way to Emmaus were also talking about him when he appeared. But why did the disciples not recognize him when he appeared to them? While that is an important question, our concern now should be that he promised to be with us until the end of the world (cf. Matthew 28:20), but do we recognize him?
There are two disciples in this story on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. One of them is Cleopas. What is the name of the second disciple? In case you do not know, I would like to tell you confidently that his name is Emmanuel Ochigbo. Do you doubt me? Well, the Bible does not tell us the name of the second disciple, and that gives us the room to insert our names there. By so doing, we are no longer spectators as we listen to the story, but we are active participants. The story of the journey to Emmaus is, therefore, your story; it is also my story. The story shows how we fail to recognize Jesus in our journey through this life. It also shows three unique areas that Jesus reveals himself to us. These three places have something in common, namely brokenness. They include the broken sister/brother, the broken word, and the broken bread.
First, Jesus revealed himself to the two disciples as a broken brother, a lonely traveler, and an ignorant stranger. At the time of creation, God said, “Let us make human beings in our image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26). Then, towards the end of his public ministry, while Jesus was teaching about the final judgment, he gave the marking scheme as, “When I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me drink… whatever you did to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did to me” (cf. Matthew 25:31ff). In an attempt to welcome a stranger, they welcomed the risen Lord.
But did you notice their first words to Jesus? They said, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” Does that remind you of anyone in your life? For me, it reminds me of those classmates or co-workers who cannot answer your question or help you without first putting you down. You ask a simple question, and their first reaction is to belittle you and show you how disappointed they are that you did not know the answer. It takes humility, courage, and effort to ask a question or seek help from someone. There is no need to complicate the situation of the one seeking help. If you know the answer or if you want to help, go straight to the point; for no one grows taller by standing on someone else’s ashes. The fact that you are better than someone in any aspect today does not mean that you may not need their help tomorrow. The disciples talked down on Jesus like they were the experts talking to an ignoramus, unknown to them that not only did Jesus know the answer, he is the answer.
Secondly, Jesus revealed himself to them in the broken word. After Jesus joined them, he began to break the word of God by explaining the scriptures beginning with Moses to the prophets. Jesus reveals himself to us through the readings and the homily during the Liturgy of the Word at Mass. He is present when we reverently read our Bible at home. He comes to us when we gather as members of Small Church Communities to share the Scriptures.
Thirdly, Jesus revealed himself to them in the broken bread. “He took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them… and they recognized him.” Christ is fully present in the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the sacred species of bread and wine that have become his body, his blood, his soul, and his divinity. St. Thomas Aquinas would sing in the Tantum Ergo, “Faith will tell us Christ is present when our human senses fail.”
Another important detail in the story is that after he gave them the bread, and they recognized him, he vanished from their sight. Why? Yes, there was no more need for him to be with them since he had gone into them, and they, in turn, had become him. It has always been the longing of Jesus that he should be in us, as the Father is in him, that we may all be one (cf. John 17: 22-23). We, therefore, become Christ when we receive Him in the Eucharist. At that point, he is no longer just with us, but in us. The implication is that when I love you, I love Christ; when I hate you, I hate Christ, for you are no longer you, but Christ.
The story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is also the story of the Holy Mass. It begins with the two disciples, then Jesus joins them. It is like the beginning of the Mass when we gather as the congregation, then the priest who acts in persona Christi capitis (in the person of Christ the head) comes in at the entrance to join us. There is an introductory part of the dialogue where they say the main point of their conversation, which is like the introductory part of the Mass where the priest introduces the feast of the day or the Mass of the day. Jesus goes further to say to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe…” It corresponds with the penitential rite when the priest says, “To prepare ourselves for this Mass, let us call to mind our [foolishness] /sins and ask God for pardon and strength.” The story continues, “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.” Here comes the Liturgy of the word, where we have the readings and the homily. Then Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread, and gave it to them. Here comes the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
“[Then] they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem.” That is dismissal rite; “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” The Mass does not end here. It is the beginning of another important part of the Mass, which tells us to share what we have experienced, to go and tell the world that he is alive by the way we live our lives. Here, we are told that we have been given to give; we have been blessed to bless, for it is not enough to count our blessings; we should also share our blessings.