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(Part 50)


April 8, 2015
Today’s gospel: Luke 24:13-35

Many Catholics today, nominal in their faith, do not really know Jesus, and as such, do not live his way of life nor participate in the task of making him known to others. As part of their ignorance or nominalism, many Catholics do not go to Sunday Mass. Since the Eucharist is at the core of the life of a Catholic, they miss out on so much that the Mass has to offer, including grace, empowerment and Christian formation.

How can a nominal Catholic truly meet and get to know Jesus? It is through participation in the Eucharist and understanding what it stands for and teaches us.

Two disciples were walking to Emmaus when the risen Jesus joined them, but they failed to recognize him (v.16). It was when they were having supper, as Jesus took the bread, and blessed, broke and gave it to them, that “their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (v.31a). Jesus “was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (v.35b).

In the same way, Jesus is made known to us in the Eucharistic celebration or the Mass.

First, the Eucharist is a commemoration of the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross and a celebration of his resurrection. These are at the very core of our faith. Christians are followers of the Christ who was crucified, died and rose up again. We remember how the “chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him” (v.20), but on the third day, angels “announced that he was alive” (v.23c), and his disciples said, “The Lord has truly been raised” (v.34a). And being raised, Jesus will return once again. Thus at every Eucharist, we relive the mystery of faith.

Second, the two main parts of the Mass are the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In the former we listen to the word of God. This is the very word of God, spoken to us for our enlightenment, education, formation and transformation. The Bible is about God’s work of salvation, from creation (start of the Old Testament) to final glory (end of the New Testament). Through the years involving numerous Sunday Masses, Jesus teaches us about faith in him. “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures.” (v.27). The readings are intended by God to touch our very beings. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” (v.32). St Jerome says that ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ. The Mass helps us overcome such ignorance.

Third, the Liturgy of the Eucharist is the high point, where we receive the very body and blood of Jesus. At Mass, there is a re-enactment of the last supper, where Jesus “took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.” (v.30b). Jesus is the Bread of Life. The Eucharistic bread is God’s way of granting us abundant graces, of strengthening us, of empowering us, of helping us endure and persevere. It is how we can cope with the struggles and challenges of the week, until we are filled once again in the next Sunday Mass. Understanding what Jesus offers is about, it is how our eyes will be opened and we will truly recognize Jesus (v.31a).

Fourth, at the end of the Mass we are sent forth, to bring Christ’s peace into the world and to participate in the work of proclaiming the salvation of Jesus to others. As the two disciples “set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them” (v.33), we too leave the church and get back to the world, and together with our brethren and fellow apostles (those who are sent), we share Christ with all.

The Eucharist is also God’s way of bringing His people to unity and peace. In the Church right now there is a lot of division. There are different opinions about important aspects of the faith, even among theologians and those in the hierarchy. There are the liberals and the conservatives. There are those Catholics, especially in the western world, who are supportive of aspects of the culture of death, including contraception, divorce, and even abortion and same-sex unions.

How can all Catholics be brought to the truth? They need to be brought back to Christ. They need to be able to focus not on their own opinions and preferences but to what is right in Christ. They need to experience once again walking intimately with Jesus. “And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them” (v.15).

But still for many, “their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.” (v.16). Because of our own sin, the weakness of our flesh, the allure of the world, the enticements of Satan, we fail to recognize our Lord and what he truly teaches. We may even hear Jesus chastising us, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!” (v.25). This is why we need the Eucharist. There we will see Jesus. There we will receive Jesus. There we will be formed according to the mind and heart of Jesus. “So he went in to stay with them.” (v.29b). Then we will always be with Jesus, as he stays in our bodies and in our hearts.

After sharing the bread with the two disciples, Jesus “vanished from their sight.” (v.31b). We too do not see Jesus physically, but we are to see Jesus in the person of others, especially the poor.

We are to do a massive work of evangelization, especially focused on the lost sheep. Our aim is for every Catholic to meet Christ, to live Christ and to share Christ. For this, Catholics need to return to Eucharistic communion, and be formed as a people who have experienced and are continuing to experience the salvation of Jesus.

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