Third Sunday of Easter – A
30 April 2017
There is a phrase in one of the Mass prayers for the Easter season that makes me smile a bit. It is found in the Easter Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer – that prayer that the priest prays just before we all sing the “Holy, Holy, Holy.” That phrase is: “overcome with paschal joy, every land, every people exults in your praise.” “Overcome with paschal/Easter joy…”
How “overcome with paschal joy” are you right now? To be honest with you, I am still not quite “overcome” at this very moment. And it is already the Third Sunday of Easter!
I know that even in this Easter season I still have a cross to carry. Jesus has promised me eternal life in heaven, but right now I am still on the way there. And the same is true for you.
Today’s Gospel is about two grieving disciples who are walking seven miles from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus. They had suffered the loss of Jesus in His death on Calvary, and even though it was Easter Sunday night, they did not yet know that He was now alive.
Perhaps you are suffering a loss right now – a death, a disappointment, a friendship gone sour, unemployment, a move… What does today’s Gospel have to say to us who are not exactly “overcome with paschal joy” right at this moment? And how can “the four signs of a dynamic Catholic” – prayer, study, generosity and evangelization – help us? Let’s take a look.
In today’s Gospel, Luke proposes three steps to help us find inner healing when we face death or some other serious loss – as the disciples did when faced with the death and the loss of Jesus.
Notice the first step: the Scriptures.
When these hurting and grieving disciples were talking on the way to Emmaus, the Stranger approached and listened to them.
And then, although they did not recognize Him, “Jesus interpreted for them what referred to Him in all the Scriptures.”
Luke is teaching us that in a serious loss, the first step to healing is to read the Scriptures.
And so we open them – in prayer and in study – to find comfort and direction. I encourage you, during this Easter season, to open your Bible and read the resurrection accounts in each of the Gospels as well as the material that follows them. Read the Acts of the Apostles, also written by Saint Luke, to see how the early Church coped with their struggles and persecutions – and still could be “overcome with paschal joy.” Find yourself in the Scriptures – as you pray with them and study them.
The Scriptures open up for us the meaning of our life and death in Jesus. They help us through all of our losses to find hope in and through Him.
The second step: the grieving disciples finally recognized Jesus in “the breaking of the Bread.” “The breaking of the Bread” is a term the early Church used for “the celebration of the Eucharist, the Mass.”
In the Mass, we get a glimpse that we are not alone in life or in death or in any of our losses. We recognize, however dimly, that right now we are at table with Jesus – at His table, at this altar.
The Jesus that comes to us here in Holy Communion is the same Jesus that one day we will see in all of His glory.
We acknowledge His generosity to us. And we pray generously in gratitude for this wonderful gift of Himself to us, the Eucharist.
The third step that Luke gives us in coming to terms with death and loss is community.
At the end of the Emmaus story, the first thing the disciples did – when they received the good news of the Scriptures and when they recognized Jesus in “the breaking of the Bread” – was to turn around and go back to their community in Jerusalem.
And so do we: we gather as a family, as a community of faith, as parishes. And here in this faith community we freely acknowledge our hurts and our pains, our hopes and our love. And, in the context of such communal faith, healing can eventually take place.
And what is the sign here? The sharing of the Gospel: evangelization.
Luke’s formula still works: the Scriptures, the Eucharist, the Church Community.
And “the four signs of a dynamic Catholic” — prayer, study, generosity and evangelization – are our tools.
The two grieving disciples on the road to Emmaus heard Jesus explain the Scriptures to them and they came to recognize Him “in the breaking of the Bread.” “Overcome with paschal joy,” they hurried back to their faith community in Jerusalem to share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.
And so do we. Even now in our grief and in our losses, we can be “overcome with paschal joy” – or at least be “on the way.”