weekly gospel meditations
THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER
At Mass We Recognize the Risen Christ
Acts 2:14, 22-28; First Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24:13-35.Aim: to explain (1) the Mass as a special encounter with Christ; (2) the meaning of the Mass. for the Lord's ,followers: "they knew him in the breaking of the bread."
The Jesus who died on Calvary and was buried in a tomb is the same Jesus who, risen from the grave, now walks with us, speaks with us, and helps us in our pilgrimage through this vale of tears. He is the same Jesus whom we learn to recognize at Mass.
Today's Gospel recalls an incident on the first Easter morning. The Old Testament paschal solemnities completed for another year, Israelites were beginning the homeward trek from Jerusalem. Among them were two of Christ's disciples, one named Cleophas. As they walked down the road, they were discussing the events of the week. Sadly they recalled how Jesus, in whom they had placed their trust and hope, was betrayed to his enemies and slain. Presently Jesus appeared and began to accompany them, but they failed to recognize him.
Our Lord questioned the men about their apparent despondency. He then began to explain how everything that happened during Holy Week had been predicted of the Messiah; he helped them review the Scriptures about his death and Resurrection.
Having arrived at their destination, the two disciples asked Jesus to stay with them. The Savior accepted their invitation. While at the table with them, he took bread; blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. Immediately their eyes were opened. They recognized the risen Lord in "the Breaking of the Bread."
"The Breaking of the Bread" is one of the most ancient names for the Eucharist, or the Mass. And today's Easter Gospel is both a theological and a poetic description of the Mass, which emerged from the Easter event.
The first part of the disciples' journey is comparable to the Liturgy of the Word. Through the Bible readings and the homily, Christ the living Lord becomes present in our midst and teaches us how to recognize him.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist constitutes the recognized Christ's entering into our lives through our sincere invitation. And our union with him-our communion-is effected through our partaking of his Body in "the Breaking of the Bread."
No wonder that Peter, in today's Second Reading, refers to our life now as a "sojourn"-a kind of pilgrimage. This same Peter, in a sermon recorded by Luke in today's First Reading, adds that Jesus shows us the right "paths of life," leading to his real presence. Again, this is an allusion to the Mass, which is a Biblical journey leading to a banquet with Christ.
"Let us proclaim the mystery of faith"; thus the celebrant of Mass invites the acclamation of the congregation after he pronounces the words of the Lord over the bread and the cup of wine. Surely this means that the Eucharist is the divine, real, and effective Sign of all truth, the very sanctuary of all belief.
It is in the Mass that we, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus that first Easter morning, come to know infallibly that God is not dead, but lives (present tense indicative), enters into our lives, and awaits us at the close of this life's journey as Lord and Savior!
We too come to know Christ through "the Breaking of the Bread."