Third Easter: Emmaus and the Mass
On the evening of the first Easter two disciples walked down a road, seven miles from Jerusalem. They were upset. The One in whom they had placed their hopes had died. The finest person they had ever met had ever met was gone. All the beautiful things that he said about the future, the kingdom of God, were they to be just pleasant memories, but not realities. They were crushed. Yes, they had heard a rumor that he had risen, but that didn't seem reasonable. They didn't know it was true.
And then the Lord appeared to them. Now, you would think that when the Lord appeared to them, they would have recognized him immediately. But he didn't want it that way--he transformed his appearance so that they wouldn't recognize him just with their eyes--they would recognize him by what he would say and do that evening.
First he explained the Scripture to them. He gave them a sermon about the Messiah. They heard what he had to say and felt such a burning within themselves that they didn't want him to leave them. They begged him to stay for supper, so he entered their house and their lives. He performed the same ritual he had performed the Thursday before. He broke bread, blessed it and gave it to them to eat. He gave them the Eucharist. It was at this point that they fully recognized his presence. It was at this point that he disappeared. He disappeared, but he didn't leave them. They had received the Lord.
They hurried off to tell the disciples in Jerusalem about their experience of the resurrected Lord. As they were still speaking the Lord appeared again. At first the disciples thought the were seeing a ghost, but then Jesus let them touch him, ate something, did the things only a person with a body could do. Then we hear that wonderful expression: the were incredulous for sheer joy and wonder. We would put it this way: it was all just too good to be true. Again, as he had done for the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus explained the Scriptures. Finally he tells them and us this: you are to be witnesses of this.
We are called to be witnesses of the Lord through Word and Eucharist. We are called to preach penance of the remission of sins. Penance for the remission of sins? What is this about? We are called to join Jesus in seeking forgiveness and healing for a hurting world, even if this means taking the pains of the world upon ourselves. We are called to continue the presence of the Lord by joining his healing ministry, not just as doctors and nurses, but as forgiving and caring people. We are called to encourage people to join us in bringing our burdens to the Lord. Seek forgiveness, receive healing, and live in peace.
Let's return to those disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus wanted them to experience his presence the same way he invites us to experience his presence, through Word and Eucharist. He spoke on the scriptures and shared the Eucharist--these disciples celebrated what we have since named the Mass. We have continued meeting the Lord in this same way, every time we attend Mass.
Years back we used to use an expression"to hear Mass". Thank God that expression and the reality it conveyed are long gone. Why, because we are all an integral part of the Mass, we're not just observers. We come together not just to hear the Mass but to pray the Mass. We come together to meet Christ in the Scripture and the Eucharist just like the disciples at Emmaus did.
The Mass is an experience of the Resurrected Lord. Back when the Mass was in Latin, many of us followed the Latin very closely with our missals so we could know exactly what was happening. And that was good. Now we are not just concerned with what is happening during the Mass, we are concerned with how we are a part of the meeting with the Risen Lord. And that's even better.
That is why we come together on Sundays--to meet Christ in the Scripture and the Eucharist. We come to tell him our fears, to thank him for our accomplishments. We come because, basically, we enjoy being in his presence--just as the disciples at Emmaus enjoyed his presence.
When we leave here, we leave with the commission to take our experience of the Risen Lord with us to the world. The whole meaning of the term Mass is taken from the Latin missa, or sending. We are to take what we receive here and here out there. We are sent.
Last Thursday, April 16th, I celebrated my thirty-second anniversary as a priest. I have been given the opportunity to serve in many different ministries as a Diocesan priest. Every diocesan priest wears many hats every day. Every day is different. Every priest is different. Yet we all have one thing in common: we all celebrate the Lord's presence in Word and Eucharist for his people. This nourishes us in our ministry as we participate in God's nourishing his people to continue his ministry.
You have gone to many different Churches in your lives. Perhaps you have traveled and attended Mass in languages that you could hardly understand. There has been one constant though: the ministry of the Lord in Word and Eucharist. You have spent a brief amount of time considering the scriptures. You have taken the Lord within you.
Perhaps, many times you may not feel the joy and enthusiasm of the disciples in that room, but you have always experienced his presence and his grace. It is this presence and grace, the Lord in Word and Eucharist that gives us the power to proclaim his life, his words, his way to the world we live in.
Today we join the apostles in the joy of the Resurrected Lord. And we pray that we might bring his presence to a world that seeks him.