Walking side-by-side with the Word of God

3rd Sunday of Easter, Year A.
Acts 2:14, 22-33 – 1Pet 1:17-21 – Luke 24:13-35.

Following His resurrection from the dead, Jesus showed Himself many times to His disciples. Today’s Gospel account is about an appearance of Jesus to two disciples who were walking dejectedly from Jerusalem to Emmaus.

Jesus didn’t want these disciples to recognize Him right away; rather, He wanted them, through an understanding of the scriptures, to come to the knowledge of Him as the Messiah, and through the breaking of the bread, to recognize Him whom the prophets had foretold. That’s why Jesus spent some time explaining the scriptures to the disciples so they might view them in a new light – His light – and then recognize Him. What a revelatory moment it must have been when, after recognizing Jesus, the disciples exclaimed to one another, “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?” [Luke 24:32].

Just as He didn’t show Himself right away to these disciples, Jesus gives us daily, through the study of the scriptures, an opportunity to have a deeper understanding of Him. From that deeper understanding, we are empowered to recognize Him in the breaking of the Bread which is His Body.

The Holy Mass gives us a similar opportunity to encounter Jesus. Jesus doesn’t simply say to us, “Hi there, I’m your risen Lord.” Instead He uses the Scriptures to instruct us, to enlighten our minds and to lead us to recognize Him in the Holy Eucharist. After the fraction and before we receive, we join the two disciples in acclaiming Him, saying, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”. In today’s Gospel we have both parts of the Holy Mass in a nutshell: The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

You know what it’s like when someone’s speaking to you, but you don’t catch what the person is on about because you aren’t really listening? Well, when the two disciples initially engaged Jesus in conversation, they perceived Jesus as a stranger because they weren’t giving Him their full attention. Why weren’t they? They were downcast, and with very good reason: they thought Jesus was dead. But when they did give Jesus their full attention and listened to Him, their lives changed. Attentiveness to the word of God is so important for us because it is the key to understanding the Faith and the risen Lord Jesus who is with us.

In the first reading, Peter called on the crowd to pay attention. He said, “Men of Israel, listen to what I am going to say…” and then he spoke to them about Jesus. Unless we too pay attention, the Word of God can be like a stranger to us and the Holy Scriptures no more than a collection of ancient writings. Unless we pay attention, we may not grasp the meaning of the words we say and hear during Holy Mass; consequently, we are likely to miss out on having our hearts set ablaze with joy, love and hope as those of the two disciples were.

You and I might find ourselves feeling as dejected as those disciples were on the road to Emmaus. They had good reason to be: they were talking about the terrible events surrounding the Passion and crucifixion of Christ. We might well be preoccupied by the unpalatable experiences the world is going through at the moment, and by the impact of them on our families and on our neighbourhood. Preoccupation risks precluding us from paying full attention to Jesus, who is invariably walking alongside us, consoling us and nourishing us with His words. He cares for us and He wants to know, “What’s going on? What’s the matter? Please tell Me. Why not bring your problem to Me to deal with?” I think Jesus would like us to take a break from the internal conversation of our hearts, to stop talking just to fill the void, and to pay attention to what He has to say through the Scriptures about the power, love and mercy of God who can deliver us. We all need to pause, to reflect, and to ask ourselves: “what is Jesus really saying to me about my personal fears, anxieties and worries?” I believe that Jesus wants to give you every opportunity to see how powerful He is to save and heal each one of us.

Imagine for a moment the situation in which these two disciples found themselves. Until a few days previously, they had followed Jesus with joyful hope that He was going to be the militaristic Messiah to deliver them from Roman rule. On Good Friday their hopes appeared to be disappointed. Disillusioned, the disciples wanted to put the past behind them and go back to life as it was before for them. Then they encountered Jesus as if by chance, and He came across as a stranger to them because they weren’t expecting to see Him.

From our own experiences of life, there are times when we feel (mistakenly) that God does not meet our expectations about Him. At those times we might be tempted to give up on Him and walk away. Some people have lost their faith in God because what they prayed for and expected Him to deliver didn’t happen. It was into the disciples’ swamp of feelings, awash with brokenness, lukewarmness, spiritual tepidity and laxity that Jesus intervened to draw them back to Him. Jesus deliberately intervenes to engage with us whenever we are far from Him and His community of faith, the Church. He intervenes to encounter us in our homes, to open our eyes to His word, to recognize Him as God and to give us valid reasons to rejoice and be reunited with Him and His community of faith.

Today’s word of God prompts us to recognize Jesus as being present in human brokenness. Our brokenness opens our eyes to the presence in our midst of Him who was broken for us. When we encounter people with broken hearts, Jesus is there. When we offer comfort to someone with a broken spirit, Jesus is there. When we encounter someone who is experiencing loss, pain or suffering, Jesus is there. It is in suffering and in broken humanity that He is present, He who for limitless love of us was broken on the cross and is broken in the Holy Eucharist.

In your pilgrimage of life, have you yet been able to recognize Jesus walking alongside you? Allow Him to open your eyes today, to enable you to see and to recognize Him in your brokenness and in the breaking of the Bread that is His Body. God bless you.