We meet Jesus at Mass like the disciples on the road to Emmaus

Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter Year A

by Fr. Tommy Lane

We may say, “what a privilege for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus to meet Jesus, to listen to him explaining the Scriptures to them, to share in the Eucharist with Jesus.” Yes it certainly was a wonderful privilege. You might say you would love to have been with those two disciples on the road, you would love to have been part of this experience on the road to Emmaus. But, in fact, every time we celebrate the Eucharist here we meet Jesus in the same way. Jesus explained the Scriptures to the two disciples; “he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27) and we also listen to the Scriptures. Then Jesus “took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them” (Luke 24:30) and we partake of the Body of Jesus in the Eucharist.

It was Jesus who directed the encounter on the road to Emmaus, firstly explaining the Scriptures and then breaking bread with the disciples. The chief celebrant was Jesus. He had the leading role in the encounter. It was he who decided that firstly the Scriptures should be explained and secondly that there would be a Eucharistic meal. Every time we celebrate the sacraments it is Jesus who is the chief celebrant. Jesus is the chief celebrant of this Mass and every Mass. Jesus’ offering of himself on the cross is the same offering now made by the priest during the sacrifice of the Mass when that one sacrifice on Calvary is extended through time to us now. (Vatican II Sacrosanctum Concilium §7) It is the same Christ who once offered himself on the cross who now offers himself at Mass through the priest. Not only at Mass but in every sacrament Jesus is the one leading us in our celebration. Jesus is the chief celebrant of every sacrament. (Vatican II Sacrosanctum Concilium §7) You might say you would love to have been with those two disciples on the road, you would love to have been part of this experience on the road to Emmaus. When you come to Mass you meet Jesus just like those two disciples.

“And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27) Jesus fed the two disciples on the road with a correct interpretation of Scripture and then fed them with his Body and Blood. We have the same experience during every Mass. Jesus is present with us not only in his Flesh and Blood in the Eucharist but also when we listen to the Word of God in the Scripture readings. You could say we are nourished in two ways from one table at Mass, the table of God’s word and the table of the Eucharist,

…the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord's Body. She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God's Word and Christ's Body. (Catechism of the Catholic Church §103; Vatican II Dei Verbum §21)

We have two candles lighting during Mass symbolizing these two ways in which Christ is present to us in the “one table of God's Word and Christ's Body.” Therefore as the Scripture readings are proclaimed we want to give them our full attention because we are being fed by God. In fact it is Jesus himself who is talking to us as the Scriptures are proclaimed to us,

He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. (Vatican II Sacrosanctum Concilium §7)

What an awesome responsibility on those who proclaim the Word of God to us. Jesus chided the two disciples, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25) I think Jesus would say the same to us if we too were slow of heart to believe that he speaks to us in his Word at Mass.

When we hear the Word of God not only do we hear it with our ears and understand it with our minds but the Holy Spirit works within us to allow the Word of God to heal and renew us just as the Word healed and renewed the two disciples on the road to Emmaus burning their hearts, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32) The disciples did not realize at the time that their hearts were burning within them, it was only later they realized this. Without they realizing it the Holy Spirit had been working on their hearts, changing their hearts and renewing them. “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” The Holy Spirit works on us too when the Word of God is proclaimed every time we gather in Church. You might say you would love to have been with those two disciples on the road, you would love to have been part of this experience on the road to Emmaus. But every time we come here to celebrate Mass our hearts burn within us even if like the two disciples we don’t realize it.

When Jesus was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight. (Luke 24:30-31) It is strange that Jesus vanished immediately but surely Jesus wanted them to understand that he is present with the Church every time it celebrates as they did on that road to Emmaus. During the Last Supper Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) Jesus did the same four things with the bread on the road to Emmaus as he did at the Last Supper; he took it, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. Jesus himself taught them on the road to Emmaus that when they do this in remembrance of him he really is with them and their hearts burn within. From now on every time they do this in remembrance of Jesus he will be with them just as he was with them on the road to Emmaus. Every time we do this in remembrance of Jesus he is with us just as he was with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Every time we celebrate a sacrament it is Christ as Priest who bestows the sacrament upon us. Christ as the Priest of the New Covenant is the chief celebrant of every sacrament,

…every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others (Vatican II Sacrosanctum Concilium §7)

Rightly, then, the liturgy is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. (Vatican II Sacrosanctum Concilium §7)

This is why only ordained priests can celebrate Mass because they received their priesthood from Christ during their Ordination and their priesthood is a sharing in the one Priesthood of Jesus. Jesus is the one Priest of the New Covenant but during the Last Supper Jesus shared his priesthood with his apostles and they and their successors are the priests of the New Covenant. Every time we celebrate a sacrament it is Christ as Priest who bestows the sacrament upon us.

We may say, “what a privilege for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus to meet Jesus, to listen to him explaining the Scriptures to them, to share in the Eucharist with Jesus.” Yes it certainly was a wonderful privilege. But every time we celebrate the Eucharist here we meet Jesus in the same way and are nourished from the one table of God’s Word and Christ’s Body.

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2008

This homily was delivered in a parish in Maryland near where I have joined the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Third Sunday of Easter Year A

Attitudes Healed on the Road to Emmaus by meeting Jesus

Related Homilies: We are the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus 2013

Homilies on the Eucharist