Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary- Homilies

"The Divine Encounter of Emmaus in Our Lives"
Homily for
the Third Sunday of Easter
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon

8 May 2011
Year A 

It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, usually we are overcome with joy – meeting someone new who leaves a lasting impression on us, the unexpected encounter with a friend, the meeting of someone of particular importance – for instance, last week I shared the story of how I was able to meet Blessed Pope John Paul II, certainly an encounter that I will never forget. And these are simple encounters with people of everyday life but for some reason have a different effect on us. These encounters strike us to the heart.

The same could be said for the disciples in today’s Gospel. This was no chance encounter with the Risen, this was a divine initiative but it was such that the encounter with God as recorded by St. Luke opened not just their eyes to Christ but their hearts as well. The story has the feeling of springtime at dusk. As the disciples stroll along their journey, Jesus appears to them. In their rehashing of the events that had taken place in Jerusalem, they are filled with all kinds of emotions – sorrow over the death of Jesus, shock at the announcement of His resurrection, and how their hearts were burning within them as He journeyed with them. But in the opening of the story, “they were prevented from recognizing Him” – literally translated as “their eyes were bound.” They had not yet understood the nature of Christ’s mission. That is, until He Himself helped them, literally, to “see” with the eyes of faith mission of the redeemer. In a remarkable down-to-earth fashion, St. Luke shows us how the first believers came to understand the significance of the events they had witnessed and to resolve the cognitive discord between their experience and their convictions. The resurrection shed new light on Jesus’ death, His words, and the Scriptures. Without Moses and prophets they would have no way of appropriating their experience and yet at the same time, without their experience Moses and the prophets would not have made any sense. Jesus’ appearance and instruction to them brings it all together and unites their knowledge of Scripture and their experience of the events surrounding His brutal death – in the breaking of the bread. His words at table – He took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave thanks – call to mind both the feeding of the five thousand and the Last Supper. It is, thus, in the Eucharist where their eyes are unbound, finally opened to “see” Him Risen from the dead, alive, they see Him for Who He truly is – God and Man. Now they understand, now comes the joy, and their change of heart.

Jesus’ appearance to them teaches us something very profound. First, the disciples in this Gospel account remind us that our knowledge of Christ and the Church cannot be based solely on our experiences. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that Sacred Scripture reveals to us the Heart of the Savior. Scripture, therefore, informs us on the true nature of Christ and the Church. Moreover, Scripture lends itself to shed light upon our meetings with Christ and helps us to understand the action of God in our own lives. Secondly, none of it makes any sense without the Eucharist. All through Lent I preached on the nature of the Eucharist because this is the divine initiative that Jesus takes with us. Very often our eyes are bound, unable to recognize Christ in our daily lives because we have unreasonable expectations of Him. But it is here where Christ opens our eyes to “see” Him, where He touches our hearts and strikes us to the very core of our being. Here, He brings together our knowledge of Him and our experiences of faith. It is, however, a two-way street. Jesus takes the initiative but we have to willing to receive Him. Have we allowed ourselves, then, to meet Him? Have we given ourselves this opportunity to encounter the Risen Lord? How have we prepared for this meeting? Do we spend time preparing, before Mass, in quiet prayer and reflection, preparing for this encounter? Or do we come here simply to socialize? Do we take time after Mass to thank Him and ask Him to “stay with us, for evening draws near”?  If we take the time to prepare in this way, what then would change about us? How would our attitude, our understanding change? As the disciples recognized the Lord, their journey to Emmaus came to a screeching halt and they returned to their companions and shared their news in great joy. Their lives changed direction because of this encounter. The mission of the redeemer began to make sense to them. And so it can for us as well – in this divine encounter – if we but let Him.

As we prepare to receive Him now in Holy Communion, may we make the prayer of psalmist our own this day: “You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.” Amen.



Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Springfield, MA


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