My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, may the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ continue to give you the special graces you need during this period of lockdown due to the Coronavirus.
The Gospel of today, (Lk 24:13-35), presented us with the story of two of Jesus’ disciples who were despondent because Christ’s death had shattered their hopes and aspirations. Hence, they chose to return to Emmaus from Jerusalem. As they walked the journey, they discussed the events of the Paschal Triduum – the Suffering, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ – though they had not come to the belief that he had risen from the dead. The Gospel narrated that at certain stages in their journey to Emmaus, the Risen Lord appeared and walked with them. However, their disbelief that he had risen from the dead blinded them from recognising him.
At times our minds are so made up about certain things, or the behavioural patterns of some people, that we block out any alternative views. This was explicit in the stance against Jesus by some of the members of the Pharisee party in the Gospel of John. We recall that when the officers they had sent to arrest Jesus came back without arresting him because they felt that there was something genuine about his ministry, the Pharisees chose to condemn him in absentia.
However, one of them, Nicodemus, who was a secret admirer of Jesus, reminded them that it was contrary to their common law to condemn someone without giving the person a hearing. To his push back, they retorted, “’are you a Galilean too? Look into it. You will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee,’” (Jn 7:40-52). Their response showed that they were unwilling to look outside of the box, their minds were already made up against Jesus.
Today when we watch the news on the television, we leave downhearted because it is full of negative stories and events. None-the-less, there are many good things happening in the world, but unfortunately, they do not make the headlines.
When Jesus accosted the bewildered disciples on their way to Emmaus, he enquired about what they were discussing. We read that their faces were downcast, which implied that they were disappointed with life. Today too, we might become downcast as we remain in lockdown because of the Coronavirus. We may choose only to see the nightmares. I am not denying that the current situation is difficult especially for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions who live alone. People have lost the means of their livelihood; grandparents are missing their grandchildren and so forth. However, the demand of work has led to young parents not spending enough quality time with their children, and we lack adequate self-reflection time. Thus, while acknowledging the pains caused by the Coronavirus and the means chosen to mitigate its spread, we should also try to find meaning in the current situation.
One of Jesus’ disciples called Cleopas, which means, ‘glory to the Father’, spoke to the stranger, (Jesus), and emptied his heart about the promises they had hoped for in Christ Jesus. Due to the way Jesus lived his life and the miracles he performed, they looked up to him as a nationalistic leader who would overthrow the Roman regime and liberate the land of Israel. They had a noteworthy aspiration, but that was not God’s plan for him.
Jesus was sent to be the Messiah, to show humanity how to be truly human by living a compassionate and sacrificial life. Through his life, suffering, death, and resurrection humanity was to be healed and reconciled with each other and with God.
Jesus gave a listening ear to the outpouring of grieve by his two disciples, then he gradually drew their attention to God’s plan for him, (Christ), in the Scriptures. Through this way the two disciples came to realise that they had misconstrued God’s plan for Jesus Christ. As Jesus was explaining the Scriptures to them, their hearts became open and was burning within them. They now accepted the possibility that Christ had risen from the dead.
When they got to Emmaus, their hearts were still itching to hear the Scripture spoken to them, so they invited Jesus, (who they were yet to recognise), to stay the evening with them. When supper was laid, Jesus took bread and said the words of consecration and gave it to them. Once Jesus celebrated the Eucharist with them, they recognised him immediately as the Risen Christ. Their sorrow was instantaneously turned to joy! Jesus, during his last supper with his disciples, has told them that their hearts were sorrowful now like a woman in labour, but that he would visit them again and their hearts would be turned to joy! That was exactly what has taken place. The two disciples could not keep their joy to themselves; hurriedly they travelled back to Jerusalem to share their newfound joy with the rest of the disciples. When they arrived, they also found the rest of the disciples in euphoria, for they have also confirmed the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus. Wow! Their sorrow has been turned into joy!
The Emmaus story is not only a narration about two despairing disciples of Jesus whose despondency was turned to joy by the presence of the Risen Christ. The story is also about the celebration of the Eucharist. The main parts of the Mass are the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Each part has an introduction and a conclusion. In the Emmaus story, while the disciples were walking on the road, Jesus explained the Scriptures to them, which is the first part of the Mass, and while he was with them in the house he broke the bread with them, which is the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Though you cannot physically receive Jesus today in the Sacrament of the Eucharist because of the Coronavirus, I pray that Jesus may spiritually fill your hearts with his presence. Amen.
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp