Homily, 3rd Sunday of Easter, April 30, 2017

I would like to leave you with 3 points in this homily which I will get around to eventually.

Regina Riley tells a familiar, true story that many parents can relate to.  How, like St. Monica, she had prayed for her two sons to return to the faith.

Then one Sunday morning she got the surprise of her life.  Her two sons came in and sat across the aisle from her.  Her heart was bursting with joy and gratitude.

Then she asked her sons what brought them back to Church.  And then her younger son related this story.

One Sunday morning, while vacationing in Colorado, they were driving down a country road and it was raining cats and dogs.  And then suddenly they came upon this old man, trudging thru the rain with no umbrella, he was soaking wet.  And he walked with a noticeable limp.  Yet he kept walking on down the road.  The brothers stopped to pick him up.

It turned out that he was on his way to Sunday Mass and the Church was 3 miles down the road.  So the two brothers picked him up and drove him to the Church.  And since the rain was coming down so hard and they had nothing better to do they decided to wait for him and take him back after Mass.

Then the two brothers decided they might as well go inside rather than wait outside.

As they listened to the Sunday readings and sat thru the Eucharistic prayers and Holy Communion something happened to both of them, something moved them deeply.

They told their mother it was like coming home after a long, tiring trip.

This story is verymuch like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and meeting up with a stranger, who was Jesus.

As one commentator said: “The road to Emmaus was West of Jerusalem.  These two sad and downcast disciples were heading into the darkness of the setting sun.”  St. Thomas Aquinas says: “Of all the passions, sadness causes the most injury to the soul.”  And St. Augustine says: “They were so shattered when they saw him hanging on the tree that they forgot all about his teachings.  They did not expect him to rise.”

If we allow sadness and discouragement to take over our lives, then we are allowing the devil to play one of his biggest trump cards and bring us down.  We are heading toward the setting sun, the place of darkness. We are heading in the wrong direction.

In the Easter Vigil this year at St. Martin’s monastery in Rapid City, during the renunciations I had the people turn and face west and hold out their hands, like this, to reject Satan and all his works and all his pomps.  Satan was believed to dwell in the west in the early Church and they were even told to spit to the west. But I didn’t think that part would go over too well.

But we all need to take a strong stand against the devil and to let go of sadness and discouragement in our life.  And not be like the two disciples walking away from the community, walking away from the rising sun in the east, from the New Jerusalem.  

But on this road into the setting sun, Jesus came into their broken lives, he opened the Scriptures for them to see that suffering is a necessary part of the life of a Christian if he is to enter into eternal life.  If he is to rise from the dead with Jesus.

So Jesus spoke the sacred and living word of the Scriptures to them.  That is the first point. And that is the first part of our Sun. Eucharist Listening to the Word of God.  Then he sat down and broke bread with them and they recognized him in the breaking of the bread.  And it is very probable that he said to them: “Take and eat this is my Body.” This the second point, the Bread of Life which we receive at every Eucharist. 

Pope Francis has some very encouraging words for us this on this  Emmaus Sunday of Easter. He says:  “The road to Emmaus is our own journey of faith: The Scriptures and the Eucharist are the two indispensable elements for encountering Jesus.  We too often go to Sunday Mass with our worries, difficulties, and disappointments…Life sometimes wounds us and we go away feeling sad, on the road to Emmaus, turning our backs on Jesus and his plans.”  So we distance ourselves from God and from our fellow Christians. But Jesus came into their broken lives and shared his Sacred Word and then he broke bread with them. Jesus changed their sadness and distress into joy.

And then the two of them quickly and joyfully returned to the community of believers in Jerusalem which was also rejoicing because Jesus had appeared to Peter. And this is the 3rd point.  Coming together as a community of believers every Sunday to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and to share our joy.  

So every Sunday we come together as a community to support one another, to listen to the Word of God spoken to us in the readings. And then we come forward to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.  We all should be like the two disciples in the Gospel today.  We should leave this table of the Lord rejoicing and return home ready to spread the good news to all we meet, more by example than by words.

Like the old man limping along the road to Church getting soaked in the pouring rain. He said nothing but he really brought those two young men back to Church.  And so can we.

Fr. Thomas Hillenbrand, OSB