Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed: “You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and listen to my words. You who are Israelites, hear these words. Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it. For David says of him: ‘I saw the Lord ever before me, with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted; my flesh, too, will dwell in hope, because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
“My brothers, one can confidently say to you about the patriarch David that he died and was buried, and his tomb is in our midst to this day. But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld nor did his flesh see corruption. God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured him forth, as you see and hear.”
Refrain: Lord, you will show us the path of life.
1) Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge; I say to the Lord, "My Lord are you."
O Lord, my allotted portion and my cup, you it is who hold fast my lot. (Refrain:)
2) I bless the Lord who counsels me; even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the Lord ever before me; with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. (Refrain:)
3) Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices, my body, too, abides in confidence;
Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world, nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption. (Refrain:)
4) You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever. (Refrain:)
Beloved: If you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one’s works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning, realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb.
He was known before the foundation of the world but revealed in the final time for you, who through him believe in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL. This resource is available at a discount through the Homiletic Resource Center.)
If we look at today’s readings, and in fact the totality of the readings during the Easter season, they are all about one thing: love. They are about the love of a creator who became one like us to save us from our slavery to sin. I think one of the most amazing lines in all of Scripture has to be the one that we heard just a couple of weeks ago when our Lord encounters the women returning from the tomb and tells them “Do not be afraid! Go and carry the news to my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, where they will see me." (Matthew 28:10) Note that he says that the women should tell his brothers the good news. Not his friends, his children, his creatures but his brothers, in other words, his equals. I don’t know about you, but that just blows my mind (I know I’m dating myself by using that phrase. No one says that anymore. But, hey, it works for me!). It just blows me away that somehow we went from all those other names (children, creatures, friends) to brothers. This is the true meaning of love. It is also the meaning of sacrifice because Christ died on the cross so that we might inherit eternal life, as Peter notes so well in his address to the crowds on Pentecost morning which is recounted in the first reading and in his letter which is our second reading.
I mention this because it is Mother’s Day. I hope that is not news to anyone of you or else you’re in big trouble! And I know that many of you may not have had the greatest of mothers. I myself did not have the best relationship with my own mother. It wasn’t abusive or anything, but we just never saw eye to eye. However, I did have a terrific relationship with an aunt, my father’s sister, who never married and who treated me like the son she never had. From her, I learned about love. But today I would like to address those of you who have had good mother/child relationships and the meaning of sacrificial love. Consider the following story. The author writes:
- Children learn a great deal from their parents through the years, from the basics of walking and talking, to the more complex concepts of beliefs and values. Some of this information is taught through words, but most is simply learned by example. Occasionally, a lesson remains so vivid in your memory, that it dramatically influences your life. My mother's old green coat had that impact on me.
My mother and I never had one of those cutesy "dress in matching mother-daughter clothes" relationships. But it was good—until my teenage years when my mother became my opponent in a battle of wills. In the confused, uncertain mind of a teenager, this translated to, "She doesn't care, understand or love me." As a matter of fact, I was quite sure that she had no idea what love was really was all about. While she was mopping the floors, cooking meals, helping my father with their business and raising five children, I was listening to the music, reading poetry and experiencing the excitement of love.
As the winter of my sixteenth year approached, the tension between us grew. Looking back now, I realize that I took every opportunity to lash out at her in an effort to soothe my own insecurity. And that is exactly what I did when she unpacked that old green coat of hers. Well-worn and out of style, I bluntly told her that I could not believe she would wear it for another season. She began to say something about not having the money for a new coat, but I was already toting phrases like, "When I'm older, I will have a beautiful coat, a rich-looking coat. I wouldn't be caught dead wearing a rag like that." She hung the coat in the closet and said nothing.
Christmas morning was always an exciting time in our house, that year was no exception. The sound of laughter, kids yelling and paper ripping filled the living room. Though I tried to maintain what I thought was a sense of maturity, I was anxious to see what Santa had brought. One box way in the back caught my attention. It was large, brightly wrapped and it had my name on it. I quickly tore it open and lifted the lid. Inside was the most beautiful coat I had ever seen. Brown suede with a white fur collar, it was nicer than anything I had ever dreamed of owning.
Looking up, I caught my mother's eyes. I thought of the old green coat and, instantly I realized how precious this gift really was. She knew what a coat like this would mean to me, and she was willing to make do with her old coat so that I could have it. And what was even more profound was what I saw in her eyes. They did not reflect resentment from her having made this sacrifice, but instead they gleamed with joy, as if it were she who had received the very best gift. Suddenly the true meaning of love was clear to me.
I wish I could tell you that our relationship magically changed to a loving and giving one after that day, but that only happens in the movies. We still fought and found fault with each other, but I always held a special place in my heart where I loved her and I knew that she loved me.
Eventually, the teenage years ended and mutual love, respect and friendship grew between us, and has remained there since. I now have children of my own and I love them with an intensity they cannot yet understand. It’s the love my mother taught me the year she wore her old green coat - and I began to grow up. (1)
I think the reason this story appealed to me so much was not only because it was a wonderful example of sacrificial love but also for something even more profound. Did you catch it? The author says “I caught my mother's eyes...they gleamed with joy, as if it were she who had received the very best gift”. I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to believe that our Heavenly Father rejoices in our joys just as much as this mom did in her daughter’s.
Now obviously this is a poignant example of a mother’s sacrificial love. But there are sacrifices and then there are sacrifices. I have used the following story before but I just have never found a more powerful one. The author writes:
- Mother is always there when you need her. She helps, protects, listens, advises and nurtures physically and morally. She makes sure that her family is loved 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. At least that's how I remember my mother, for the few precious years I was blessed to have her. But no words can describe the sacrifice she made out of love for me, her young son. I was 19 years old, and I was being taken to a concentration camp with a large group of other Jews. It was clear that we were destined to die. There was another group of Jews who had passes and these were going to remain in the ghetto. As I passed by her, at the last possible moment and without being noticed by the Nazi officers, my mother handed me her card and took my place in the line. And although it was more than 50 years ago, I will never forget her last words to me and her good-bye look. "I have lived long enough. You have to survive because you are so young," she said. And I never saw her again. Most kids are born only once. I was given birth twice - by the same mother. (2)
This is the ultimate sacrifice: to lay down one’s life so that another might live. Christ laid down his life on the cross so that those who believe in Him might inherit eternal life. He laid down his life so that we were no longer just his friends, or his children, or his creations, but his beloved brothers and sisters.
1. The Old Green Coat, copyright 2009 by Kathy Smith Solarino. From Chicken Soup for the Soul, Thanks Mom pp. 106-107. Copyright 2009 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Wendy Walker. Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing.
2. Most Kids Are Born Only Once, copyright 1997 by Joseph C. Rosenbaum. From Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul, pp. 35-36. Copyright 1997 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jennifer Read Hawthorne and Marci Shimoff. Health Communications Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL. Used with the explicit permission of the author.
(Copyright 2014 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for oral use in whole or in part in local communities. For permission to use in written form, please contact the human intermediary at email@example.com )
In reflecting on this week's gospel passage, there were two things which I found very striking. First of all, there was the range of emotions which are conveyed in it. For example, in the beginning Luke tells us that Jesus approached them in the course of their "lively" exchange. When he asks what they were discussing, they halt "in amazement" that he is unaware of what has happened. And then our Lord feigns a lack of knowledge in order to discern their own beliefs. In the midst of their description of recent events, they confess that they "were hoping" that Jesus would set Israel free from the Roman rule. And they say that the news which the women brought was "astonishing". In response to their summary, our Lord rebukes them for not understanding why the Messiah came to earth. Then he begins to interpret all that the prophets have predicted about him. As they will say later, all the while, their hearts "are burning". One of the definitions of "burning" which Webster gives us is " to become emotionally excited". Because of these feelings, when Jesus pretends that he will go on, they implore him to stay with them. And finally at the end of this passage, after they have recognized our Lord and he has vanished from their sight, they return to Jerusalem excited and renewed by what has happened and find the others just as excited about what has happened there.
The second thing which struck me was that it can be broken into three parts. The first part is the explanation by Christ to the disciples of the passages from the prophets that applied to him. The second part of the passage is the Eucharist, the sharing of the Body and Blood of Christ. And how is this meal shared? In the community of believers which is seen for the first time when the disciples beg Jesus to remain with them and later when the passage concludes with the disciples returning to Jerusalem to rejoin the rest of the disciples who have stayed there.
So if we put all of these parts of the passage together, we have related here the first recorded worship service of Word, Sacrament and Community. First of all, we have the Word. As John Pilch has said in his book The Cultural World Of Jesus, our Lord here preaches the first Easter sermon (1). Any good homily will include an explanation of what has occurred in the particular passage of Scripture which is under consideration. And that is just what our Lord did here. Then, once the disciples have invited our Lord to stay with them, they all share a Eucharist together as a community. And this is what our worship is all about: listening to the Word of God and then sharing the sacrament of the Eucharist together as a community of believers.
So what does the road to Emmaus have to teach us? On the journey of life, there are many ups and downs, just as Luke has conveyed so well. Our emotions range from elation one day to despair the next. For example, our lives are full of expectations, the same expectations - mistaken as they may be - which the two disciples had. "They had hoped" that Jesus would be the one who would restore the rule to Israel. They were disappointed to realize that this was not to be. We too have many expectations for our own lives. As our lives progress, many of the expectations which we originally had remain unfulfilled. Our lives move on in directions which we would never have guessed, almost as if they were being guided by something that is beyond us. We can respond to this unexpected direction in either of two ways: the way that the disciples did, i.e., with disillusionment because our expectations have not been met, or with contentment, because we know that there is a greater force at work, a force in whose hands we will always be safe.
So how do we achieve this contentment, this feeling of safety in the midst of all the adversity which life throws at us? We can achieve this contentment by realizing that Christ has stayed with us, just as he did with the two disciples. When we feel overwhelmed by life, when we feel that we just can't go on, when we feel all alone, we need to realize that we are not alone, that Christ is still with us. In the depths of our despair, we need to realize that Christ has been there before us, as we read about him in the Word. After all, as John tells us in the very first verse of his gospel: "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us".
But there is more. In the depths of our despair, we need to reach back into our faith and see that he has provided us with a continual remembrance of the sacrifice which he made for us in the celebration of the Eucharist, in the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine, his Body and Blood.
And most of all, we need to realize that he is still here among us in the community of believers, in all of those whom we encounter in our daily lives. Consider the following story.
- There was a famous monastery which had fallen on hard times. Formerly its many buildings were filled with young monks and its big church resounded with the singing of the chant, but now it was nearly deserted. People no longer came there to be nourished by prayer. A handful of old monks shuffled through the cloisters and praised their God with heavy hearts.
On the edge of the monastery woods, an old rabbi had built a little hut. He would come there from time to time to fast and pray. No one ever spoke with him, but whenever he appeared, the word would be passed from monk to monk: "The rabbi walks in the woods." And for as long as he was there, the monks would feel sustained by his prayerful presence.
One day the abbot decided to visit the rabbi and to open his heart to him. So after the morning Eucharist, he set out through the woods. As he approached the hut, the abbot saw the rabbi standing in the doorway, his arms outstretched in welcome. The rabbi motioned the abbot to enter. In the middle of the room was a wooden table with the scriptures open on it. They sat there for a moment in the presence of the book, until finally the rabbi said: "You and your brothers are serving God with heavy hearts. You have come to ask a teaching of me. I will give you this teaching, but you can only repeat it once. After that, no one must say it aloud again."
The rabbi looked straight at the abbot and said, "The messiah is among you." For a while, all was silent. Then the rabbi said, "Now you must go." The abbot left without a word and without ever looking back.
The next morning, the abbot called his monks together in the chapter room. He told them he had received a teaching from "the rabbi who walks in the woods" and that this teaching was never again to be spoken aloud. Then he looked at each of his brothers and said, "The rabbi said that one of us is the messiah!"
The monks were startled by this. "What could it mean?" they asked themselves. "Is Brother John the messiah? Or Father Matthew? or Brother Thomas? Am I the messiah? What could this mean?" They were all deeply puzzled by the rabbi's teaching. But no one ever mentioned it again.
As time went by, the monks began to treat one another with a very special reverence. There was a gentle, whole-hearted, human quality about them now which was hard to describe but easy to notice. They lived with one another as men who had finally found something. But they prayed the scriptures together as men who were always looking for something. Occasional visitors found themselves deeply moved by the life of these monks. Before long, people were coming from far and wide to be nourished by the prayer life of the monks, while young men were asking, once again, to become part of the community. (2)
The challenge of this gospel for us is the same as it was for these monks: to recognize the presence of Christ in one another. If we can achieve this end, then it can have a profound effect in our lives. For we must never forget the Words that he himself has left us: “whatsoever you do for the least of my brethren, that you do for me”.
1. From The Cultural World of Jesus by John Pilch, p. 73. Copyright 1995 by the Order of St. Benedict, Collegeville, MN. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN.
2. From The Sower's Seeds, copyright 1990 by Brian Cavanaugh, T.O.R., pp. 74-76. Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ 07430. Used with permission.
(Copyright 2011 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for oral use in whole or in part in local communities. For permission to use in written form, please contact the human intermediary at firstname.lastname@example.org )
Lord Jesus, you are the Son of God who fulfilled the words of the prophets. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you are the Lamb of God who shed your blood to ransom us from sin. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you have shown us the path to life, the way to attain the fullness of joy in your presence. Lord, have mercy.
Celebrant: Jesus is always able to save those who approach the Father through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them. Therefore, in confidence that he will intercede for us, we bring our needs to the Father.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, hear our prayer".
That the leaders of the Church will proclaim the Good News of Christ's resurrection by word and example, we pray to the Lord.
That the leaders of all nations will seek peace instead of war, we pray to the Lord.
That we will come to recognize face of Christ in the poor, the handicapped, and all those in need, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those whom we have welcomed into the Church at Easter will be a sign of Christ's continued presence among us, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those whose lives have been affected by natural disasters will be strengthened in their efforts to rebuild their lives and not give in to despair, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Gracious Father, may the joy of this Easter season fill our lives until such time as we come into the fullness of joy in your presence with all of your saints in their heavenly glory. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.