Homily April 23rd, 2023

Third Sunday of Easter – Year AActs 2:14,22-33; Ps 16:1-2,5,7-11; 1 Pt 1:17-21; Lk 24:13-35

Dear brothers and sisters, as we make our way through the Easter season, today’s Gospel recounts for us the apparition of Jesus to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. This apparition can serve us as a beautiful example for applying joy of Easter to every moment of our lives, especially in difficult moments (like today) where it can be hard to live it out; the Gospel is a model for how we must live and act as Christians. We can divide the Gospel into three parts: first, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, second, the encounter with Christ in the breaking of the bread, and third, the disciples’ return to the other believers in Jerusalem. So the road, the bread, and the return.

First, we have the journey to Emmaus. The first thing that calls our attention is the attitude of the disciples. They are downcast, sad, and, as they tell Jesus, they “had hoped” in Christ; indeed, the expression is emphatic in the Greek, “We, the disciples, were hoping . . .”[1] It was a personal sense of disappointment, pain, sadness, and loss.

All of us can relate to the disciples. At times, we have to live through things where we can’t see God’s hand at work; there are moments of difficulties where it’s almost impossible for us to see how God is working. This is perhaps particularly true today, when we’re surrounded with so many difficulties and struggles, so much uncertainty and suffering.

Yet, Christ doesn’t leave His disciples alone: we can see two things that He does for them. First, He draws near to them and walks with them; He becomes their companion. The word companion itself derives from the Latin cum, meaning “with or together,” and panis, “bread”; literally, then, a companion is someone who shares the bread, to “share something of vital nature like ‘the bread of the journey,’ that is, share one’s own faith, the experience of . . . God’s love, hope, difficulties,” and the like.[2]

As He draws near to His disciples, He does something else: He explains things to them, sharing their burden and His infinite loving wisdom. Christ takes all the Scripture passages that refer Him, and shows the disciples how it is that He has worked everything out. It’s as if He’s trying to say: “Look. . . .  See how My Love is fulfilled. See Me at work. Look at what I have done, and how I have fulfilled everything, including your hopes.” Of course, in the moment they were living it, everything seemed pretty awful to the disciples. It’s only afterwards, after that encounter, that everything begins to make sense.

This experience is mirrored in our own lives. Speaking to young people in 1997, Pope Saint John Paul II said: “Christ constantly repeats this journey to Emmaus. . . .  He also wants to walk it again with you. . . .  When you perform your daily tasks, in study or work, when you serve your brothers and sisters, when you share your doubts and hopes, when you reflect on Scripture, alone or in church, when you take part in the Eucharist, Christ joins you; He walks beside you; He is your strength, your nourishment and your light. . . .  Do not be afraid to let Christ join you like the disciples of Emmaus.”[3]

To let Christ accompany us is to allow Him to work in our lives, to transform sadness and despair into charity. In the Book of Revelation (21:5), right towards the end, we read the following that was said by God the Father (who, incidentally, seldom speaks in the Book of Revelation): “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.’ The one who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ Then he said, ‘Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.’” Note that emphasis: God doesn’t do anything in vain; He knows how hard it is for us to trust. “Behold, I make all things new.” The Greek verb for make is in the present tense: Right now, I am making all things new.

Think of those words for a moment: I make all things new. All things – not some things, not only good things, not just the best things, not things that I think are ok, but all things. Even the bad ones. Even the worst ones. Even the ones that don’t seem to have any explanation, humanly speaking, other than the consequences of original sin. I make them new – not, I make them ok, not, I make them bearable or tolerable. I make them new. Even more, the English word doesn’t do justice to the richness of the Greek new καινὰ. It doesn’t mean newness in the sense of age; the Greeks have a different word, neos, for that. The Greek καινὰ means recently made, fresh, unused, unworn, superior and better than what came before it, unprecedented, novel, unheard of. It’s like the Lord said through the prophet Habakkuk: “Look over the nations and see! Be utterly amazed! For a work is being done in your days that you would not believe, were it told” (1:5). In our days, this is being done continually, constantly. God takes the worst things of this world, and transforms them into holiness. We can ask ourselves: do we believe this? Do we allow Jesus Christ to accompany us on the rough roads of life?

There is a moment when Christ’s presence, His power at work, is seen in a special way. This is our second point. This moment is the breaking of the bread: our second point. It’s precisely when Christ breaks the bread that the disciples recognize Him for who He is.

The disciples are so transformed that they don’t want Jesus to leave. “When the disciples on the way to Emmaus asked Jesus to stay ‘with’ them, [however], He responded by giving them a much greater gift: through the Sacrament of the Eucharist He found a way to stay ‘in’ them.”[4] He truly become their companion, breaking the bread of His very body with them. Is it any wonder then that Saint Madeline Sophie Barat called the Eucharist, “paradise on earth,” since that is where Jesus is? Do we recognize Jesus as our companion, especially during the Mass and Adoration? Do we make the effort to let Him accompany us in those moments? Even in this time where it is difficult for us to have access to Mass and the Eucharist, do we think about how important they are for our lives? Do we miss them, and, if not, why not? Do we appreciate them for the gifts that they are?

Thirdly, the disciples are so moved by Christ’s presence and so inflamed with His love that they return to Jerusalem, making that long journey in the dark, but illuminated by the light of faith. It is that love from the encounter with Christ that impels them, as Saint Paul would say, to share the Good News with others. When we truly allow Christ to accompany us, especially in the difficult moments, we are able to share His presence with others. The joy of Easter is no longer just ours, but rather a gift to be shared.

As we celebrate throughout this Easter season, let us remind ourselves that the Resurrected Christ becomes present at every consecration, becoming our companion here and now, to help us in our sorrows and our difficulties, and to bring us that limitless joy. Do we allow Christ to accompany us at every moment, even the difficult ones?

Let us ask, through the intercession of Mary, Cause of Our Joy, for the grace “to be glad and rejoice intensely because of the great joy and the glory of Christ our Lord.”

[1] ἡμεῖς δὲ ἠλπίζομεν – The ἡμεῖς isn’t needed and is thus emphatic.

[2] Ratio Formationis of the Servants of Charity, Rome 2006; n. 49.

[3] Homily of John Paul during the Meeting with the Young People of Lebanon: 10 May 1997

[4] Aposotolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, 19.



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