Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS
I hear myself so often from this lectern saying that this or that Gospel reading is one of the most beautiful in the Bible. But surely today’s story of the disciples going to Emmaus must be in the Scriptural Top Ten. So many of my friends tell me that it is their favourite reading and I certainly would include it in my own list of Desert Island Bible Stories.
Why? Because it is such a human story, and it is about one of the greatest mysteries we know, the encounter with the risen Lord in the Eucharist. It tells us the about this great sacrament we celebrate here each day.
One writer I know reckons that because it says in the text that there were two disciples but only one name is given ‘Cleopas’, the other disciple must have been his wife. He says that this could be the same Cleopas mentioned in John 19:25 where it gives the names of those who stood at the foot of the Cross and speaks about Mary the wife of Cleopas.
If this scripture scholar is correct then I think it gives a wonderful new dimension to the story. The Eucharist is about sharing, there is no closer sharing of two people than in the sacrament of marriage. What a wonderful thing to have happened that the first celebration of the Eucharist after the Last Supper should by with the risen Lord himself together with a married couple.
‘He made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. “It is nearly evening” they said “and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.’
Things were no different then to what they are now. It was not safe to continue a long journey on foot in the dark. It was too dangerous. So out of concern for their companion’s welfare and because they were so engrossed in hearing what he had to say about the scriptures and how these made perfect sense of the events they had witnessed in Jerusalem they press him to stay with them.
These are some of the details that give this Gospel story the ring of truth. We have no difficulty in seeing ourselves in the situation and doing the same sort of thing. Two thousand years may have passed by but human nature remains the same.
Jesus stays with them and enjoys their hospitality, and then during the meal he took ‘their’ bread and broke it. This is another little detail which is worth drawing attention to. Jesus did not give them something, he took what they had given him. He said the blessing, broke it and gave it back to them. It is in this wonderful exchange of gifts that the Eucharist takes place. We get back what we give. You will notice how the same thing occurs in the mass.
It reminds me of the story of the rich man going to heaven being shown the mansions in which the poor lived and who was very put out when shown the hovel he was expected to live in. St Peter said to him: ‘But we can only build with what you send on ahead.’
Jesus only gives us what we give him, but he transforms it and becomes part of it. We give him our time in prayer, we give him our tongue when we speak the truth, we give him our hands when we help the weak, we give him our feet when we visit the sick, we give him our minds when we study the Gospels, we give him so many things.
And he blesses them and breaks them and returns them to us. But they are returned transformed. They have been broken which means that they bear the imprint of the Cross. But it also means that they have been shared. Our gifts to him are returned with a blessing. They bring blessings on us and on the whole Christian community. They help to make us one.
You might say that these are nice pious thoughts, but don’t mean much. Well, I’m telling you, you would be wrong. And I suggest that you open your eyes and look around you because this process of transformation is going on around you. Look along the pew and you will see people who are giving their lives to the Lord. And while you are seeing this in others, others are seeing this in you.
There is great work going on in the parish and it is the work of the Lord. He is in our midst, just as he was in the midst of those two disciples at Emmaus. And just as they were galvanised into action through their recognition of him in the Eucharist so are many people in this parish.
For all their solicitude and anxiety that Jesus should not go travelling in the dark, as soon as those disciples realise who he was they set out that instant and now without regard to robbers, muggers or other dangers travelled back the seven miles to Jerusalem. It didn’t seem so dark any more, it didn’t seem so full of danger.
Their faith filled them with fearlessness, they had to tell the Apostles as soon as they could what had happened. So, they set out as it says ‘that instant’ to bring the Good News to them.
What a wonderful sense of urgency; they couldn’t wait till the safety of daylight, robbers, muggers, wild animals didn’t bother them now. It had to be done immediately. Yet we too hear the scriptures explained to us, we too gather together for the breaking of the bread, but unfortunately we don’t always leave with the same kind of urgency to convey the Good News to others.
But, of course, comparisons are invidious and it is unfair to compare the two situations. After all they were confronted with the presence of the Christ they had just seen executed on Calvary.
But, nevertheless, just hearing what those disciples did makes our hearts burn within us.
St Joseph's Catholic Church
191 High Road
18.00 (Vigil with Hymns)
09.30 (Family Mass)
11.00 (Solemn Mass)
12.30 (With Hymns)
Weekdays: 07.30 & 10.00
Confessions: Saturday 10.30-11.00 & 19.00-19.30
St Joseph's Catholic Church
T: 020 8427 1955
Saturday: 18.00 (Vigil with Hymns)
Sunday: 08.15, 09.30 (Family Mass), 11.00 (Solemn Mass), 12.30, 18.00
Weekdays: 07.30, 10.00 - additional mass every first Friday at 19.00
Saturday: 11.00 & 19.00-19.30
First Friday: 18.00-18.45
EXPOSITION & BENEDICTION
First Friday: 18.00-18-45