Today’s Emmaus story is a favorite for a lot of people. It
follows immediately upon the account of the women who remained at
the foot of the cross until Jesus died. They then followed Joseph of
Arimathea, when he took Jesus’ body and placed it in the tomb.
The day after the Sabbath they returned to the tomb with spices
for the body. They discovered the body missing. Two men in "dazzling
clothes" appeared and told them that Jesus had risen. When the women
went back to tell the disciples what they witnessed they did not
believe them. The lowly status of women in the ancient world meant
they weren’t taken seriously.
Peter ran to the tomb, saw the linen cloths and was "amazed."
Luke doesn’t tell us he believed; nor did he get the same revelation
the women received. Up to this point in Luke Jesus has not appeared
to the disciples in the upper room. No special appearances yet. What
Luke gives, after the episode with the women, is the account on the
road to Emmaus. It is a very low-key story, almost ordinary-sounding
in light of what has happened. There’s a lesson in that for those of
us who look for special signs and illuminations. The risen Christ
appeared in a daily setting – on a road and at the table.
Like the other gospel accounts, Luke tells us that Jesus rose on
the first day of the week and he too features the empty tomb. But
why does Luke present his first appearance narrative in such a
low-key way? Possibly because he was writing for a Christian
community about 50 years after the Easter event. His audience is a
long way from Jesus’ time and might ask, as we might: "How is the
resurrected Christ in our midst now? Where shall we look for and
Luke’s response to such faith questions is his description of
Christ’s appearance in a setting that he structures like a
Eucharistic liturgy, as it might have been celebrated by his early
The story opens with the disciples’ confusion and disappointment
about the events of Jesus’ life and death. "We were hoping that…,"
they tell the stranger who has joined them on the road. Things had
not turned out the way they had hoped. They seldom do for us too.
The worshiping community today will notice the "liturgy" begins, as
ours does, with a need for healing for the two disillusioned and
crestfallen disciples. Then it moves to a "preacher" breaking open
God’s Word for them, enabling them to see God’s plan in what had
happened. What follows is a sacred gesture we will experience
ourselves around the table today, "the breaking of the bread." In
Luke and then later in Acts, "the breaking of the bread" is a term
used for the Eucharist.
It’s as if Luke is telling his readers, "do you get it?" The
risen Lord is present to us in the celebration of the Eucharist when
we gather to receive Christ in his Word and Sacrament. Like the two
on the road, we don’t get the extraordinary appearances of Christ
the disciples in the upper room would have. Nor does Christ appear
to us as he did to Thomas, inviting us to touch his wounds. That
would be wonderful and life altering. What we have that is also
wonderful and life altering, Luke tells us, is that each time we
gather to celebrate the great deed God has done in Jesus with joy
and gratitude, Jesus is as present to us as he was in the upper room
and to the Emmaus travelers.
What fills us with joy and gratitude is Jesus’ presence with us –
in one another, in the proclamation of the Word of God and in the
Eucharist. Just as Jesus entered/interrupted the conversation of the
downcast disciples as they journeyed and discussed their
broken-hearted and discouraged condition, so we invite him to come
into our conversations when we feel defeated or inadequate.
These are the difficult conversations when we: seek
reconciliation after a long period of hurt; struggle to guide our
children and young people; search for words to explain our faith to
an inquirer, or doubter; try to comfort a broken spirit weighed down
by guilt, sickness, addiction, exclusion, etc. At times like these
we too are on a journey, involved in conversations that matter. We
invite Jesus to join us so we can discover him, not just as a memory
of long ago, but as a living presence with us, on the road as we
travel to the home he has prepared for us by his death and
The Eucharist is a moment to express thanks for those times when
the Word of God has come alive for us. When, with the Emmaus
disciples, our hearts have burned with excitement within us. We also
give thanks when, in the midst of a dark journey, God’s Word came to
us during a meditative reading of Scripture, or a moment of worship.
Sometimes the Word speaks clearly and a light is turned on for us,
surprising us as it speaks a present and relevant word that brings
with it the fellowship of the Lord. With the Emmaus travelers, we
celebrate his presence with us today in his Word, the breaking of
the bread and the sharing of the cup.
The disciples’ coming to faith is a lesson for us. We don’t come
to see right away. It is a process of reflecting on the Scriptures,
walking with others and seeking understanding as we gather to
celebrate Eucharist. Luke provides us sojourning Christians with a
short and pointed prayer. Like the disciples on the road we say to
Jesus, "Stay with us!"
A word about the reading from Peter’s letter. He refers to his
hearers being in a time of "sojourning." Hence the link to our
gospel story and the couple "sojourning" to Emmaus. But these early
Christians are not on a tour, traveling to see the cities and
monuments of the world. Their sojourn is a painful journey; they are
undergoing sufferings because of their faith in Jesus.
Today’s passage is taken from a larger one that focuses on hope.
How could they be Christians without hope? If they, and we, didn’t
have hope they would be crushed in spirit, overwhelmed by the
adversity afflicting the community. Previously (2:11) Peter reminded
his hearers that they are "aliens" and "exiles." We’re not fully at
home in this world, not until the Lord returns to make all things
new. Meanwhile, Peter advises, we are to live holy lives, "conduct
yourselves with reverence." A life of reverence is based on our
faith that God has paid for our redemption with, "the precious blood
of Christ." Peter’s encouraging his readers that if such a price
were paid for us (Christ’s blood) there is no reason to fear the
powers that once influenced or controlled our previous lives.
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
He is risen! That is the
first and last word about what it means to believe and
live as Christians. The resurrection of Christ is the
one event in history that gives meaning to all of
history, including our own.
made known to me the paths of life.
Acts 2: 28
When the Christian movement first emerged within Judaism, it was
known as "the Way," a phrase first coined by the Pharisees. In the
Gospel of John 14:6, we have Jesus’ own words, "I am the way and the
truth and the life." What does it mean for us, as followers of
Jesus, to follow him on the way?
Reflecting on Jesus’s post-Resurrection journey to Emmaus, Pope
Francis states: "[W]e need a church capable of walking at people’s
side, of doing more than simply listening to them; a church that
accompanies them on their journey; a church able to make sense of
the ‘night’ contained in the flight of so many of our brothers and
sisters from Jerusalem; a church that realizes that the reasons why
people leave also contain reasons why they can eventually return.
But we need to know how to interpret, with courage, the larger
picture. Jesus warmed the hearts of the disciples of Emmaus" (World
Youth Day, 2013). This begs the question for those of us who
consider ourselves to be a part of the Church, are we accompanying
others in their journey? Where are we going if not to God?
A few weeks ago, I had the honor to attend a Mass at Sacred Heart
with our Prison Ministry. Three women they have been accompanying
came into the Church then. For those three women and the other women
that the Prison Ministry touches, the ministry is making a profound
difference in their lives. I don’t often get letters from family and
friends of incarcerated women, but I received two on behalf of one
of the women, who was becoming Catholic, giving profuse thanks for
the work our parishioners do.
As another example, one of our Support Circles, that assists
homeless families by a year-long accompaniment, was hosting a final
get-together with the family. Before the family arrived, the team
was lamenting that they didn’t feel that they had been really
effective in helping this particular family. So, in the course of
the gathering, Sharon Mitchell, our Catholic Charities coordinator,
asked the mother how she felt about the help we had given her and
her family. Her response so surprised us as she said that, while
struggling with depression and setbacks, we had shown her reason to
get up and get moving. She was full of smiles and hope for the
Accompaniment is what Jesus did; it is love in action.
Coordinator of Social
Sacred Heart Cathedral –
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed
for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be
posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
happened that while [the disciples] were conversing and debating,
himself drew near and walked with them....
them, "What are you discussing as you walk along?
Jesus walked with the discouraged disciples and entered their
conversation about their disappointments over what happened to
Jesus’ So, we invite him to come into our conversations when we feel
defeated or inadequate and give us vision and renewed hope.
So we ask ourselves:
- Is there some part of our current faith journey that feels
- Despite our struggle, what could Jesus be saying to us at
this moment in our lives?
DEATH ROW INMATES
"The use of the death penalty cannot really be
mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Timothy Richardson #0492102 (On death row since 6/1/95)
- Richard Cagle #0061528 (6/16/96)
- William Herring 0180479 (7/22/95)
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
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4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those
wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the
Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent
weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above
Thank you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert Priory
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736
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