Easter Sunday3 A (08 May 2011)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Nearer Than We Think
Scripture gives us new eyes, or at least new vantage points, to see and appreciate our lives of faith. The beloved resurrection appearance of Jesus with two disciples, who made their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus, knowing Jesus had died on the cross, offers us several vistas. I suggest one of them allows us to appreciate that each mass is another Emmaus for us disciples.
Jesus’ actions in this gospel selection Jesus continues at our celebrations of mass. The mass is not only two liturgies together: of the word and of the eucharist; at each mass Jesus continues to interpret[to us] what referred to him in all the Scriptures and Jesus blesses, breaks and gives us himself in the eucharistic bread and cup. Jesus “is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. He is present [also] when the Church prays and sings.”1
One Eucharistic Prayer echoes today’s gospel this way: As once he did for his disciples, Christ now opens the scriptures for us and breaks the bread.2 While Jesus does that through a few—priest, deacon, lectors—the rest of the worshiping assembly are not mere spectators. This gospel selection testifies to that. The two disciples, though outwardly quiet, roared within from grief and its distress, anger, fear and misgivings. Their disbelief, that the One who accompanied them did not know what all Jerusalem knew, opened their ears, hearts and minds. Attentive listening, theirs and ours, is active. Attentive listening prepares us for fully conscious, and active participation...[all] liturgical celebrations call from us disciples.3
Each of us comes to mass as we are. The newly initiated Catholics remain afire with the friendship of Jesus, their recent experience of our prayers and Jesus baptizing them and confirming them in the person of his priests. Veteran Catholics may be on fire, or they may feel cool toward Jesus for any number of reasons experienced in their lives. Children, not yet old enough to focus their attention, need parents, older siblings and leaders of children’s liturgy of the word to help them notice and savor Jesus’ abiding friendship and care.
Jerusalem and Emmaus are a handful of miles apart. That suggests that from our homes to Gesu we contemporary disciples might prepare ourselves to participate fully at mass by taking the pulse of our inner lives. Taking our inner pulse can happen through questions one asks oneself. For example:
- Am I on fire with Jesus and his presence in me?
- Am I cool toward him?
- Am I distracted from Jesus, what has distracted me?
- What do I desire my relationship with Jesus to be?
- What action can I take or what resolution can I make to do my part to fan the flame of our friendship?
- How is Jesus be calling me today to be his disciple
In the short time it takes to travel from home to Gesu we can ready ourselves to receive God’s word and the eucharistic bread and cup. We can receive them for our sakes and for the sake of the world to whom Jesus returns us at the end of mass. Taking the pulse of our inmost selves is not about solving anything. Taking the pulse of our inmost selves helps us welcome Jesus in his word and his eucharistic self-gift. Our pain, uncertainty as well as knowing we feel cool toward Jesus: if we are attentive, these and other hard feelings can help us welcome Jesus the way the confusion, distress and disbelief of the two disciples going to Emmaus allowed Jesus to transform them forever.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, pause in the presence of our triune God. Ask the two disciples, Emmaus-bound, to present you to Jesus. Praise Jesus for dying and rising for you and giving himself to you. Ask Jesus for grace to help you to be attentive to his care of you and to be open to Jesus caring for you in confusing, difficult and painful times. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, give us this day our daily bread, on our lips remind us that Jesus gives us himself each day. That petition also reminds us Jesus nourishes us to be his disciple one day at a time.
- Constitution on the Liturgy, 7, of the Second Vatican Council.
- Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs and Occasions. Scroll to line below the Sanctus.
- Constitution on the Liturgy, 14.