This weekend we are presented with the Easter story of the two disciples who leave Jerusalem in sadness after the death of Jesus on Calvary. They probably wanted to get away for a while and try to sort out all that had happened. They had put their hopes in Jesus and now He was gone. A stranger joins them and the ‘stranger’ will turn out to be the risen Christ. But they do not know that. Jesus is in their midst and they do not recognize Him. How often that happens in our lives, especially when we face challenges and difficulty. We get so caught up in our concerns and fears that we think God has abandoned us.
A conversation takes place where these two disciples tell the stranger about the events in Jerusalem and how they had hoped that Jesus would be the one to redeem Israel. Jesus then explains the Scriptures to them but they still fail to realize that they are in the presence of the crucified and risen Christ. It is only in the breaking of the bread, that is, in the celebration of the Eucharist, that they realize that it is indeed Jesus who is with them. He then disappears from their sight.
The experience is life-changing for them. They tell the other disciples that their hearts were burning within them as Jesus spoke with them on the road. This is precisely what needs to happen to each of us who profess the name of Christ. We need to allow Jesus into our hearts. We need to meet Him in all His goodness and His beauty as the Son of God. A personal encounter with Jesus and a personal relationship with Him are at the heart of living the Christian life.
Many people are searching today for spiritual nourishment and guidance. Tragically, many are not looking for this spirituality in institutional religion. I say ‘tragically’ because I think our rich Catholic tradition has much to offer. Yet the media love to remind us of the sins of the Church and we, indeed, should never forget them. The scandals of recent years are a true tragedy and a source of unspeakable harm to victims of abuse. May we never forget them and may we approach the altar of God with humility and integrity as ministers of Christ. We are stewards of a great treasure in the person of Jesus Christ, His teachings, and the Eucharist we celebrate each Sunday.
If you live at a distance from the Church and the Sacraments, please come home, come home to the Eucharist. You will grace us by your presence and humble us by your honesty. We are not perfect but neither are you. So together we can approach the throne of grace and experience the love of God. If you come to Mass regularly, you can belong more deeply by getting personally involved with Jesus Christ as your Savior and your God. Then you will have a better disposition to welcome others rather than judge them or resent that they took ‘your seat.’ Jesus has so much to offer all of us.
In this season of the Resurrection may our hearts burn for love, for truth, for peace. And may we be on fire with love because we have allowed Jesus, the Risen Christ, into our hearts.
May the Lord give you peace.
Fr. Jim McNamara