Third Sunday of Easter
Often, like Cleopas and his companion, we fall to the temptation of wishing Jesus was here as though He were not; we want to see Him. But did He not promise to be with us “always, even until the end of the age?” (Mt. 28:20) Let’s not go to Emmaus, then, but to Mass.
Mass is not just a memorial service, a historic reenactment or a dramatic production; it is a here-and-now encounter with the Risen Christ. In the Liturgy of the Word we recall Moses and all the prophets, as well as the life of Christ, and the priest interprets for us what refers to Christ in all the Scriptures. Here we are reminded of when God entered into the lives of His people before and if before, can and will again; our hearts are opened and we begin to believe and see not with our eyes, but our hearts. (2 Cor. 5:7)
Then comes the Liturgy of the Eucharist when, having recognized Jesus in the Word broken open for us, our memory is stirred further by what we witness upon the altar, just as Cleopas and his friend were stirred at table, recalling what they’d heard of the Last Supper. Notice it was not until the breaking of the bread that they recognized Him. It was then that they realized Christ was present; they say, “Were not our hearts burning while…he opened the Scriptures to us?” In other words, it was when Jesus opened the Wordto them that their hearts also were opened, and it was when the Word was broken before them at table that they recognized Jesus was there in their midst.
It was when Christ had died that the centurion—representing the whole world estranged from God—declared, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mk. 15:39). It is when He revealed His wounds to the Apostles (Lk. 24:39-40) that they are consoled by His presence; Thomas did not gasp, “My Lord!” until he had seen Christ’s wounds (Jn. 20:24-29) for himself. In the Mass we do not address Jesus specifically as a people until we proclaim His “death and resurrection…”, and not individually until the broken Host is raised before us: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”
Emmaus was the “Thomas moment” for Cleopas and his companion; the Doxology is ours, and in Communion He vanishes from our sight, being consumed and hidden in our very flesh to dwell in our hearts, for it is in Christ’s suffering that we are moved to love Him most. This is where Christ desires most to be recognized and beheld; this is why He vanished from their sight at Emmaus. He wants us to know Him; He wants to live in our hearts, not before our eyes. The Eucharist is the means by which He achieves this, opening our hearts by breaking open the Word, bringing us into His Passion and Death in the Eucharist where our hearts break for Him and we come to love Him. It is by loving Him that He is able to keep His promise to be with us always; it is by seeing Him in our hearts that we are able to see Him even in this broken world. Jesus did not vanish from sight; He revealed Himself to the heart.