Ascension of Our Lord

Ascension of Our Lord [A] -14

Acts 1:1-11; Eph.1:17-23; Matt.28:16-20

There is the funny story of the raw army recruit standing at attention on the drill field. The drill instructor yells, “Forward, march!” And the entire ranks begin to move, all except this one raw recruit. He’s still standing there at attention. So the drill instructor strolls over to him and yells in his right ear, “Is this thing working?” “Sir, yes, sir!” The recruit yells. Then the drill instructor walks around to the other ear and yells, “Is this thing working?” “Sir, yes, sir!” The soldier says. “Then why didn’t you march when I gave the order?” “Sir, I didn’t hear you call my name.”

Some of us are like that soldier, standing around waiting for God to call our names. But the great commission given by Jesus on the day of his Ascension is a blanket order. It has everyone’s name on it. And you can be sure that the man in charge says, “Go! Make disciples! Teach!” It is your mission and my mission.

Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into Heaven. That is, he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. Each Sunday we profess through the Creed, “He ascended into heaven.”  Christ’s Ascension was the culmination of God’s divine plan for Christ Jesus, by his return to his Father with “Mission Accomplished.”

Jesus’ Ascension was the grand finale of all his words and works done for us and for our salvation.  It was a culmination, but not the conclusion. As he is now with God in glory, he, the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God, dwells within us: “Lo, I am with you always.”

There was a long-winded pastor who preached salvation history from Genesis to Revelation in every sermon. On the feast of Ascension as he reached Isaiah, he remarked that the prophet said nothing about the ascension of Our Lord. He asked his audience, “What shall we do with him?” One old man in the front seat said, “He can have my seat, Father, I am leaving.”

The Biblical accounts of the Ascension focus not so much on the details of the event as on the mission Jesus gave to his disciples. For example, in the accounts narrated in Luke and Acts, the Ascension took place in Jerusalem. In Matthew and Mark, on the other hand, the event occurred in Galilee. All accounts, however, agree that the Ascension took place on a mountain.

In Luke and Acts, the Ascension happened forty days after the Resurrection, a period during which Jesus appeared repeatedly to his followers. In Matthew and Mark there is no indication of the time period between the Resurrection and the Ascension. The Gospel writers apparently were not aiming at accuracy of historical detail but were more concerned with transmitting Our Lord’s message.

When we think of the Ascension of Jesus, the account given us in chapter 1 of the Acts of the Apostles naturally comes to our minds. In fact, some may find that this passage from St. Matthew’s gospel is not an ascension story at all. This moment in the life of Jesus was significant from several points of view, however, and each account stresses some aspects over others.

We can identify three main aspects:

– At the end of his earthly life, and especially of his passion, Jesus makes his triumphant entry into heaven, to sit forever at the right hand of the Father.

– The time for forming his little community has come to an end, and Jesus sends his disciples out into the world.

– From now on Jesus and his followers must relate with each other differently.

All these aspects are present in the text. But do not look for them; just enter deeply into the story and you will discover for yourself how it presents the mystery of the Ascension.

In verses 16 the disciples make their way back to Galilee, the place where the whole adventure began. Let the verse 17 speak to you deeply; the scene is very touching. Ask yourself why some hesitated.  The commission of Jesus in verses 18 and 19 is in three waves:

– a statement of his own authority; “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”        – a three-fold command; “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” – and a promise; “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

The ascension of Jesus has something to do with us, with a solemn commission to evangelize the entire world in the name of the Holy Trinity. A Chinese proverb says that a picture is worth a thousand words. Before Jesus left, He commissions His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. For me the word that is worth a thousand pictures is the word “go.”

It is because it brings to our minds pictures of missionaries riding in boats, donkeys, horses, ferries, carts, old vehicles, walking on foot in order to bring Jesus to hidden corners of this planet earth. This is our mandate from Jesus Himself. We have a mission to spread our faith.

There was an old saying: “Words push, examples pull.” Someone adds: Any good Christian is a walking Bible even though he has never quoted a verse. In fact good Christian example may be the only gospel illiterate people can read.” In other words, even if we speak convincingly, even if we speak too much but our actions contradict to what we are saying, nothing happen.

This mission also includes: to witness to Christ in the world, to preach the Good news that God redeemed us and to show by our love that He is always with us. To witness to Christ in the world, Jesus said: “…your light must shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father,” (Matt 5:16) but how? Through our prayer and worship, loving concern and care for others or a good life.

This mission is not given to a select few but to all believers. To be a Christian is to be a proclaimer and an evangelizer. There is a difference between preaching and proclaiming. “We preach with words but we proclaim with our lives.”

As we celebrate the Lord’s return to His Father in heaven – His Ascension – we are being commissioned to go forth and proclaim the Gospel of life and love, of hope and peace, by the witness of our lives. On this day of hope, encouragement and commissioning, let us renew our commitment to be true disciples everywhere we go, beginning with our family and our parish, “living in a manner worthy of the call [we] have received.” Amen.

6th Sunday of Easter

6th Sunday of Easter [A] – 14

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; Jn.14:15-21

Once a little boy approached his mother and said: “Mama, what are the 10 Commandments?” The mother replied, “Those are the commands of God to us”. “Mama, you’re higher than God.” The mother was startled and asked: “Why?” He said, “Because He has only 10 commands but you have more commands!”

In the gospel message for this 6th Sunday of Easter, Jesus talks about His commandments. He says to his disciples, “If you love Me, you will obey My commandments.” It is like a mother telling her child, “If you love me, do as I tell you.”

We are now approaching the end of the Easter season. Next Sunday, we will celebrate the Ascension of the Lord into Heaven. And soon, the feast of Pentecost will remind us of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The readings of today lead us to reflect upon two gifts which are interior, two gifts that are deep within us. They are mysterious and can be known only in their outward expression. One is love. The other is the Holy Spirit. Both cannot be really known in themselves; both are made real for us, they are realized, in their activity, in their expression, and in their external manifestations.

We all know so very well that talk is cheap and mere words are without meaning unless our words are expressed in deeds. Love is not simply a nice feeling, a sentiment, a warm emotion. Affection is a feeling. Love becomes real in decisions made and in the actions that follow. It is in activity that love is realized.

Don’t get me wrong; words of love are of great importance. There’s nothing wrong with saying “I love you”. In fact they can be the most beautiful and powerful words in a person’s life. It is vital for husbands to tell their wives they love them. It’s vital for wives to tell their husbands they love them. It is very vital for children to hear words of love from their moms and dads, along with lots of hugs. And so should be with friends too.

Probably more lives have been changed by those three little words than by all of the sermons ever preached. Jesus did not discount the value of the verbal communication of love but He went way beyond it because He knew that love is much more than mere words. Jesus, on the other hand, defines love in terms that are strong, concrete and quite real.

Love is action; love is a way of living; love is an attitude toward others that expresses why God created us in the first place. He created us to love us and in return be loved by us. Jesus went on to say: “The one who has my commandments in his heart and keeps them is the one who loves me.” It’s how you live that lets you know that you live in love.

The Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Blessed Trinity who is Love personified, acts internally within each one of us. The Holy Spirit is present within our hearts and souls, animating, vivifying, and inspiring us. We can never see the Holy Spirit all by Himself standing alone. The Holy Spirit lives and moves deep within us, within our souls. Like love, we see Him in our actions; we make His presence real; we realize Him.

As Jesus gets ready to leave his disciples, he promises to send them the Paraclete who is often depicted as a dove. The Bible assigns several different names to the Holy Spirit – the Consoler, the Advocate, the Sanctifier, and the Paraclete. The bible tells us that the Holy Spirit protects and defends us against our Ancient Enemy. He is our Advocate, the One who stands with us.

The word “Paraclete” in Greek translates into English as “to stand beside one”. The Holy Spirit stands beside us. He is our Advocate, our Counselor, and our Guide. Why? Because our Ancient Enemy, Satan, is always accusing us as being rotten, no good, and damned by God. The Father of Lies is always accusing us of being rejected by God. The Holy Spirit tells us otherwise. He guides us to act in God’s ways.

We should look for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to work within us. From Him we look for Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Reverence for the Lord, Strength, and Courage. The Holy Spirit vivifies us and animates us, that is to say He enlivens us, giving us God’s life. He is beside us to defend us when we are depressed.

When the sacraments of the devil (?) beset us, the Holy Spirit is our advocate, our counsel, in order that we might defend ourselves. He tells us that even when we have sinned we can repent and be forgiven. We are, He reminds us, being redeemed sinners because God loves us. And what are the sacraments of the devil? Well, they all begin with “D’s”, just as the name of Lucifer, the Devil.

His “sacraments,” (there are seven of them) are Doubt, Disillusionment, Discouragement, Depression, Defeat, Despair, and Death. We need our Advocate, our Consoler, our Defender, our Paraclete, the “One called to be beside us” when we face doubt, disillusionment, discouragement, depression, defeat, despair, and death, both spiritual death and physical death.

And just like love, we discern the Holy Spirit’s presence within us when external things happen – when we act and engage others and engage life. Love and the Holy Spirit – both cannot be known in and of themselves. Both are made present to us, both are realized in acts, in deeds, in things that are done. Both animate and vivify us, filling us with their special life.

Both are the expression of God. God makes Himself real for us, expresses Himself and becomes present to us through both love and the Holy Spirit. And so as we approach the Ascension of our Lord and the great Solemnity of Pentecost we should look to God with expectant faith, open to His great gift to us, His many gifts to us, in the coming of His Holy Spirit into us.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was raised from the dead into new life. By the power of that same Holy Spirit we also can be raised into a new, better, and higher life. We need to be open to the Holy Spirit, our Paraclete.  The purpose of the indwelling Holy Spirit is to help us grow towards maturity and wholeness.

We all have faults that prevent our growth: blocks of sin and imperfection, blocks due to childhood conflicts, blocks due to deeply ingrained personality traits and habits, blocks caused by addictions, and blocks resulting from bad choices we have made.  We all have these blocks within us and they keep us from becoming what God wants us to be.  They prevent us from growing into maturity and wholeness.

Let us ask God, the Holy Spirit to help us to see the truth about ourselves, to discern the blocks that inhibit our growth and to allow Him to transform us. The Holy Spirit comes to our aid and gives us the strength to make difficult and painful decisions. God’s Spirit actually lives in us, and we hear the voice of the Spirit, counseling and guiding us in the way of truth.  Let us open our minds to hear Him and to obey His promptings. Let us receive the Holy Spirit and share His presence with those around us. Amen.

5th Sunday of Easter

5th Sunday of Easter [A] – 14

Acts 6:1-7; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12

Story: Five-year old Johnny is in the kitchen with his mother who is preparing supper. She asks him to go to the basement and fetch her a can of tomato soup. Johnny replies, “It’s dark in there and I’m scared.” The mother tries to convince him saying that it is safe to go alone to the basement but without much success. Finally she says “It’s all right, Johnny, Jesus will be in there with you.” Johnny walks hesitantly to the door and slowly opens it. He peeps inside, sees that it is still dark in there, and starts to go back. Then, suddenly he gets an idea. He opens the basement door a little and yells: “Jesus, if you’re in there, would you hand me a can of tomato soup, please?”

Johnny’s fear is similar to the fear of the disciples as the time draws near for Jesus to leave them. They are afraid to face the world alone. In today’s gospel reading, Jesus does pretty much what Johnny’s mother tried to do, namely, convince the disciples that there is no need to be afraid, even when he is not there with them.

I have many things to share with you regarding our gospel today. The Gospel is part of the Last Supper Discourse of Jesus. Jesus asks us to trust in Him. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” “I go to prepare a place for you.” “I am the Way.” “I am the Truth.” “I am the Life.” “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father…. I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”

Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me,” These words of Jesus are the most consoling, reassuring and trusting in the whole Bible. However, for most of us, they appear to be unrealistic. How can Jesus tell us not to be troubled, in fact, we are faced with different troubles and dangers.

For example, in the international level, Peace is threatened by war: nation against nation, race against race, principles against principles and so on and so forth. Our planet earth is threatened by global warming. This global warming gives us devastating effects: it will increase the global surface temperature by at least 5 degrees Centigrade by the year 2050; it will affect weather conditions around the world; summer will be warmer as we are going to experience this year.  Hurricanes and tornados will be stronger, fiercer and more destructive.

This global warming also reduces agricultural productivity because of droughts or massive flooding. It will threaten marine ecosystem and fisheries. It will make the region drier; water will become scarcer and irrigation will become more difficult; ice caps will melt and raise sea levels and flood the area near the sea.

On the national level, our peace is threatened by increasing violence and crimes, kidnappings, civil war between rebels and government troops, anomalies in public offices and even in private offices, church is included, and others.

On personal level, we have troubles with our work in offices, with our co-workers, troubles with our family, our marriage, parents with their children and many more. Even in the church, we have troubles too. We have also troubles with our fellow human being. We blame others. But blaming others resulted into resentment, criticism, guilt and fear. I believe that everyone, including myself, is one hundred percent (100%) responsible for everything in our lives, the best and the worst.

So, if we are 100% responsible for everything in our lives, then, there is no one to blame, but ourselves. Doesn’t Jesus realize all these troubles? Jesus does know them. That is why he consoles us because he experienced them too. He said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God have faith also in me.” In other words, trust in God at all times and have faith in Him even when worst things may happen to us. Remember this too: “Never trouble troubles, till trouble troubles you.”

Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” We should not think of it as a physical space, but inevitably we do: that is how our imaginations work.  But we can free up the image a little, as St Teresa of Ávila did with the ‘interior castle’.  Eternal life does not mean being fixed as in amber; we will be alive in God, not dead in God.  God is a God of the living, as Jesus said.

Jesus said, “I am the Way.”  Not a physical path, nor a program, but a person whom we know.  We have seen him on his way: it is a way of forgiveness, love, hope, justice. No one can come to God by force or violence, by tricks or shortcuts….

Jesus said, “I am the Truth.” The truth is not abstract, then, it is living in the eyes and mind and heart of this Friend.  We cannot reach it simply by thinking, nor even by agonizing about it; it is not a formula or a theory; it is word made flesh. Jesus is God’s body-language.

Jesus said, “I am the Life.” Not just survival, nor half-life, but life to the full.  Not a question endlessly deferred, but life here, now, within our grasp.

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father.” His request echoed that of Moses, who said to God, “Show me your glory” (Ex.33:18). He believed that Jesus was capable of organizing an experience for them such as that of Moses or Isaiah.  There was daring in the question: God had replied to Moses’ request, “You cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live” (Ex. 33:20).  His reply to Philip has shaped Christian awareness of Jesus’ identity, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father…. I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (Jn.10:38).  He does not simply represent the Father, he presents him.  His words and actions have the Father as their source.

Jesus said, “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do.”  His works have the Father as their source; so a disciple’s works too have the Father as their source. We need to know Jesus the Truth and walk Jesus the Way. If we really believe that Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life, then we will find fresh and creative ways to keep alive his memory.

Jesus asks us to keep alive his memory by reading and praying the Scriptures, by gathering in Jesus’ name and celebrating the Eucharist “in memory” of him, by handing on the great tradition of Christian faith and by living according to his wise teachings. We need to possess Jesus the Life. We share the divine life of God by making use of the means Jesus established in his Church:

By actively participating in the Eucharistic celebration and properly receiving the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion, By the worthy reception of the other Sacraments, By the meditative and daily reading of the Word of God, By following the guidance of the life-giving Spirit of God, living within us, By communicating with God, the source of life, in personal and family prayers. Amen.

4th Sunday of Easter

4th Sunday of Easter (A) – 14

Acts 2:14a – 36-42, 1Peter 2: 20b – 25, John 10: 1-10

Today I am reminded of a story of a sheep farmer whose neighbor’s dogs were continually killing his sheep. To remedy the situation he came up with three options: (1) He could sue and bring his neighbor to court. (2) He could build a stronger and higher fence to keep the dogs out. (3) Finally, he chose the third option: he gave two lambs to his neighbor’s children. In due time the lambs grew up and had other little lambs and the neighbor and his children had to see the sheep not as an impersonal herd, but as something warm and fuzzy. They soon penned in their dogs and the problem was solved.

Happy Mothers’ day to all the Mothers. My God bless you all. Today is known as ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’, and each year the gospel reading focuses on some aspect of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. This year (Year A) it is “I am the gate of the sheepfold” (Jn.10:1-10). Year B: “The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep” (Jn.10:11-18). Year C: “My sheep hear my voice – I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” (Jn.10:27-30)

Back in Jesus’ time everyone knew about shepherds, their sheep, and how shepherds and sheep interacted with each other. The dynamics between them were well known. Not so today. Few of us have watched shepherds tending their sheep. But if we think of shepherding as leadership we can get a better grasp of what it means for us in our times. Shepherding and leading have similar dynamics in our relationships with others, particularly in caring for others as God would have us.

The shepherds of our day, to mention a few, are parents and grandparents, coaches, teachers, clergy and nuns, senior partners in firms, officers in the military, and executives in companies and so on. If anyone is placed under your supervision or care, you are a shepherd. All who are in leadership positions are modern day shepherds.

This is Good Shepherd Sunday.  Today, the Church calls us to reflect on the meaning of God’s call and to pray for vocations to the priesthood, the diaconate and the consecrated life, reminding us that the entire Christian community shares the responsibility for fostering vocations. Both the Old and New Testaments use the image of a Shepherd and His flock to describe the unique relation of God to Israel and of the Christ to Christians.

When Jesus said, “All who came before me are thieves and bandits,” he can hardly have meant to include the great prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel…. But there were plenty of his contemporaries who deserved to be described as spiritual thieves and bandits. The expression ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ we owe to Aesop, whose stories have delighted and instructed children and adults alike for 25 centuries.

“A wolf found great difficulty in getting at the sheep owing to the vigilance of the shepherd and his dogs.  But one day it found the skin of a sheep that had been flayed and thrown aside, so it put it on over its own pelt and strolled down among the sheep.  The lamb that belonged to the sheep, whose skin the wolf was wearing, began to follow the wolf in the sheep’s clothing; so, leading the lamb a little apart, he soon made a meal of her.”

A deceiver has to look like the real thing – has to look and sound genuine.  Otherwise he will deceive nobody.  Someone can quote and preach the Gospel to you, making all the right sounds and looking very serious, while robbing you spiritually  –  robbing you even of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit in you: your real wisdom, your understanding…your fortitude…your joy…. Jesus gives the Spirit, the deceiver steals it away.

The genuine shepherd “goes ahead of the sheep and they follow him.”  He does not stand back, indicating the gate; he “goes ahead.” Perhaps that is the key to discernment. What are the characteristics of good shepherds? What makes them effective?

Good leaders (shepherds) want those who are in their charge to succeed, to grow in competence, and to advance. Their own success is found in the successes of those under their supervision. After all, the growth of an enterprise comes from the growth of those who comprise it.

Good leaders have character. They stand for something and exert a positive influence on others. Good leaders are accountable for the choices they make and likewise hold those in their care accountable. Leaders, good leaders, have a clear sense of purpose. They know where they are going and they clearly communicate their goals to those around them.  They make their choices knowing that they will be accountable, accountable to others and accountable to themselves.

Good leaders know their own limitations but they are not governed by them. A leader who cannot accept himself or herself, who labors with doubt about his or her competency, with feelings of inferiority or inadequacy will lose his or her ability to lead. Good leaders are people who are comfortable with themselves and at peace with themselves.

One cannot give what one does not have. A leader filled with self- doubt will project that on to those whom he or she is leading. Self-punishment leads to punishment of others, Doubt of self leads to doubt of others. Leaders: it’s not about you; it’s about those in your care. Self-centered leaders who think only of their own promotion need to get over themselves.

Pope Francis is calling us to serve a purpose greater than ourselves, to get over self-concern and devote ourselves to the concerns of others. That means we can’t sit behind the desks of our own sanitized environments. Good leaders smell the smell of the sheep and immerse themselves in the mud of human failures, human sins and human problems. Good leaders are good shepherds… and good shepherds are good leaders.

We need to be good shepherds and good leaders. Everyone who is entrusted with the care of others is a shepherd.  Hence, pastors, parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, government officials, caregivers, among others, are all shepherds. We become good shepherds by loving those entrusted to us, praying for them, spending our time, talents and blessings for their welfare, and guarding them from physical and spiritual dangers. Parents must be especially careful of their duties toward their children by giving them good example. Above all, parents should pray for their children and infuse into them sound Christian moral principles.

We also need to be good sheep in the fold of Jesus, the Good Shepherd: Our local parish is our sheepfold, and our pastors are our shepherds. Jesus is the High Priest, the Bishops are the successors of the Apostles, the pastors are their helpers and the parishioners are the sheep.  Hence, as the good sheep of the parish, parishioners are expected to:

(a) Hear and follow the voice of our shepherds through their homilies, Bible classes, counseling and advice. (b) Receive the spiritual food given by our pastors by regular participation in the Holy Mass, by frequenting the Sacraments and by prayer services, renewal programs and missions. (c) Cooperate with your pastors by giving them positive suggestions for the welfare of the parish, by encouraging them in their duties, by lovingly correcting them with constructive criticism when they are found misbehaving or failing in their duties and by praying for them. (d) Actively participate in the work of various councils, ministries and parish associations.

So let’s you and I get over our self-concerns and devote all of our concerns to those whom God has placed in our lives to care for, to develop, and to succeed in all their endeavors as they journey through life headed back home to our Father in heaven. Treat each person in your care as a uniquely dignified individual, a person made in God’s image and likeness, beloved by God and precious in His sight. Do that and you will be a good shepherd.

Follow the example of Pope Francis and you will be a good leader. Amen.

3rd Sunday of Easter

3rd Sunday of Easter -A-14

Acts 2:14, 22-33, 1Peter. 1:17-21, Lk.24:13-35

Story: A Farmer went to the bank. He said, “I’ve got some good news and some bad news to tell you. Which would you like to hear first?” “Why don’t you tell me the bad news first?” the banker replied. “Okay,” said the farmer, “With the bad drought and inflation and all, I won’t be able to pay anything on my mortgage this year, either on the principal or the interest.” “Well, that is pretty bad,” said the banker.

The farmer continued. “You remember I also borrowed to buy seed and fertilizer and other supplies. Well, I can’t pay anything on that, either principal or interest.” “That’s awful,” said the banker, “and that’s enough! What’s the good news?” “The good news,” replied the farmer with a smile “is that I intend to keep on doing business with you.”

I don’t know if that was good news for the banker or not. Two of the disciples of Jesus were on the road that leads to Emmaus. They were as low as that farmer because their Master had been crucified like a common thief. But now they have heard reports that their Master appeared to some of their most trusted friends. Was he really alive? The disciples were troubled and afraid. Should they believe the good news or the bad?

And that’s our dilemma, isn’t it? DO WE BELIEVE THE GOOD NEWS OR THE BAD? The good news is that Christ is alive. The bad news is how little impact that event is having in the world today. Our Scripture lessons for today have one common, encouraging theme: No matter what happens in our lives, the Risen Jesus is always with us.

God is always near to those who seek Him and who want to live in His presence doing His will. The Emmaus incident is the story of a God who will not leave us alone when we are hurt and disappointed. We all, each one of us, are walking on our individual journeys through life dealing with our questions either by ourselves or with others. Sometimes it is difficult to deal with our questions.

Sometimes our questions are difficult. Sometimes our difficulties cause us to question. Many times we ask: “Where is God in all of this?” Last Sunday’s Gospel account was about the disciples locked up in the Upper Room out of fear and then Jesus’ appeared among them. Today’s Gospel account is about two disciples dejectedly walking, journeying, from Jerusalem to a nearby hamlet called Emmaus and then Jesus appeared among them.

The first reading, taken from Acts, presents the beginning of Peter’s first public proclamation about Jesus and how God raised Jesus from death, thus fulfilling the Messianic prophecies about the promised descendant of David.  In the second reading, Peter exhorts the early Christians to place their faith and hope in God Who has saved them through the precious Blood of His Son and who has raised Jesus from the dead. The Emmaus incident described in today’s Gospel is the story of a God who will not leave us alone when we are hurt and disappointed.

The thing that is curious to me is that in today’s account the important point revolves around recognition of Jesus. Today we find this group of disciples at first failing to recognize Jesus and in the end they recognize Him. What happened? Why did they at first think He was a stranger and later come to realize who He really was?

Luke’s Gospel, written toward the end of the first century, was mainly meant for Christians who had not witnessed Christ in the flesh.  Luke tells us that we can meet and experience the Risen Lord through the reading and interpretation of Scripture and the “Breaking of the Bread” as the Lord’s Supper was known then. The story of the encounter on the Emmaus Road is presented in a liturgical fashion using liturgical language such as the commentary: “he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them”, “the Lord has risen indeed.”

Thus, the Risen Christ is revealed through the telling of the story, the interpretation of Scripture, and the Breaking of the Bread.  Jesus began revealing himself through the Scriptures and completed the revelation through the Eucharist.  This means that Christ still reveals himself to us through Word and Sacrament.

Luke’s Emmaus story teaches us that Jesus’ death and Resurrection fit God’s purpose as revealed in the Scriptures; the Risen Jesus is present in the Word of God and especially in the Breaking of the Bread; suffering is necessary for the Messiah “to enter into his glory;” and we have a Risen Savior, one Who personally walks with us in our daily paths, talks with us through His Word and with Whom we can talk through prayer.

He is the One who opens our minds to understand and respond to His Word.  He is with us and concerned about us.  He provides for us regardless of what life may bring, and he has given us the Holy Spirit so that we may teach others about Him.  Let us, therefore, with the perception of His presence, walk with Him, talk with Him, depend on Him, worship Him, and tell others about Him.

Jesus meets us on our Emmaus Road.  The risen Lord meets us on the road to our Emmaus in the ordinary experiences of our lives and in the places to which we retreat when life is too much for us.  We, too, have hopes and dreams about better health, healing, financial security and family relationships.  These dreams often get shattered.  The Gospel promises us, however, that the Risen Lord will come to us in unfamiliar guises to support and strengthen us when we least expect him.  Emmaus moments come to us when we meet the Risen Christ on our life’s journey through rough times.

May we soon have some time to make our own Emmaus awareness. And may we come to recognize Him not only in the breaking of the bread but in all those other moments where God tries to break in on our time and walk with us as we face all of the stupendous events life hurls at us. For without His presence with us we certainly will feel depressed and defeated. Without His presence we will not be journeying to a destination, we will simply be wandering.

To a newly converted who had to find Jesus on his own the monk said, “”Christ is meant to be bread for daily use and not cake for parties. So, live today as though Christ died yesterday, arose this morning, and is coming back tomorrow.”  Amen.