Around the table of the Word and the table of the Eucharist
The word of God for the Third Sunday of Easter presents to us the journey of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. This journey reveals to us how the Risen Lord never abandoned his friends who were buried in total disappointment after his crucifixion in Jerusalem. If we carefully make the journey of the disciples, we shall notice the basic structure of what happens whenever we gather together for the Eucharist. The Risen Lord encounters us in the two tables of the Word and Eucharist.
When life becomes a total mess
The disciples, who had left everything to follow Jesus while he was still alive, had put all their hope in him. He was the one expected to restore Israel by liberating God’s people from the dominion of the Romans. When he was put to death and buried, all these hopes were dead and buried. The only alternative was for them to go back to their former lives. In the Gospel of John, Peter and his companions decided to go back to fishing (John 21, 3). Surprisingly, that night they caught nothing. Had they forgotten the art of fishing? No. Without the Lord they can do but nothing. Only when the Risen Lord joins them are they able to make a wonderful catch. The two disciples to Emmaus seemed to be moving but without sense of direction. They were in a mess of disappointment when a stranger joins them and listens to them. This is exactly what we do in the penitential act when we let the Lord listen to the mess of our lives and ask him for mercy. The good thing is that he doesn’t condemn us but gives us a new beginning.
The word that warms up the heart
The stranger who has now become a companion on the journey interprets the Scriptures to the downcast disciples. We ought to note that the core of interpretation is an exposition of God’s plan that is contained in the books of Moses and the prophets. He speaks about the place of suffering in the mission of Christ. This is exactly what was difficult for the disciples to comprehend. It was necessary for Christ to suffer in order to enter into his glory (Lk 24, 26; Mk 8, 31-33). There was no short cut to resurrection. The effect of this scriptural interpretation will be felt at the end of the gospel text: “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Lk 24, 32). The word of God is an essential part for the celebration of the liturgy, for in it we encounter the Risen Lord who intends to touch our hearts. Hearts that are cold because of the disappointments in life are warmed up for new beginnings. The word of God is in position to restore our broken hearts so that people can relate to one another in mutual understanding and love. At the end of the homily, we normally present our petitions to the Lord. In today’s Gospel, there is a petition which we should make our own especially in this time of the covid-19 pandemic: “Stay with us, for it is towards evening and the day is far spent!” If we don’t have the Lord with us all our darkness becomes even darker. Through the presence of the Risen Lord we have confidence in God who never abandons us. St. Peter invites us to let our faith and hope be in God (1 Peter 1, 21).
Bread broken to open up eyes and hearts
When the disciples requested the stranger to join them, they had the chance of recognizing the Risen Lord in the breaking of bread. The gesture that he had performed before he suffered remains a significant medium of encounter with him after his resurrection. In fact, he commanded them: “Do this in memory of me! Every time we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, the Lord breaks Himself for us and invites us to become bread that is broken for others through our readiness to sacrifice ourselves in service. It is important to note that after recognizing the Risen Lord, the disciples immediately rose and returned to Jerusalem when they joined the others. They are witnesses of the encounter they have made with the Lord. It is the same with us. When we partake of the table of the Eucharist, we are then sent as a community to be witnesses of the new life of the resurrection.
Sent to be companions
The message for us today is to recognize that the Risen Lord is our companion on the journey of life. We may be going through struggles and different challenges, but He is certainly with us. Our lives may have been messed up; we may be disappointed; our hopes may have been shuttered; the Risen Lord is with us on this journey. We are living in a pandemic which is in everybody’s mouths. This covid-19 pandemic has caused a lot of suffering. Yes. The Risen Lord is listening to our doubts and complaints. He knows our worries. It is time to deepen our trust that with Him we shall merge out victorious and we shall be witnesses that he lives. May we rediscover the transformative power of God’s word! Many of us may not have a chance of receiving Holy Communion, but let us encounter the Lord in the Words of the Holy Scriptures. May we cultivate our desire to receive him in the Eucharist! The table of the Eucharist, in which we receive the body and blood of Christ, invites us to rediscover the importance of coming together for meals as families and communities. May Christ be the invisible guest at all our tables! To be companions means that we must share bread. A companion (Latin cum – pane) is one with whom I share my bread. As we discover the solidarity in overcoming the coronavirus, may we be convinced of sharing material food. The resurrection effect will be felt through our readiness to share so that nobody has to die of hunger! Solidarity and concern for the poorest will be the wonder and sign which God does through the Risen Lord in our midst (cfr. Acts 2, 22).