The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

The thoughts expressed here are my personal thoughts and sometimes reflect my political views. As a private citizen I have every right to express these views.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Homily: Wednesday in the Octave of Easter

Reading: Lk 24:13-35

What the two disciples encounter – and what we encounter – on the Road to Emmaus is conversion. It began with a loss of hope and shattered faith, didn’t it? They’re looking no further than themselves and their humanity. Despite all they heard while they were with Jesus, despite all that they saw Him do, despite all His assurances that He would remain with them, despite their conviction that He was the Messiah…despite all these things, when they came face to face with death, what little faith they had evaporated.


“They were downcast…we were hoping that He would be the one to redeem Israel…”  We were hoping…and where were they headed? Away from Jerusalem – presumably back to the lives they led before they met Jesus.

And so, what’s the first step in their conversion? It’s a step taken, not by them, but by Jesus. In His zeal for souls, Jesus approaches the disciples who have lost hope and the meaning in their lives. For Jesus understands their sorrow; He sees into their hearts and communicates to them some of the life He carries within Himself. It’s the life of grace, and that gift of grace begins to have its effect. And so, moved by grace, in their sorrow, they unknowingly turn to Jesus and listen.

You see, it all begins with Jesus, the Eternal Word of God. And so it shouldn’t surprise us that Jesus turns to the Word of God. He turns to Scripture. Brothers and sisters, all Scripture – the Old Testament and the New Testament -- has only one ultimate purpose, to lead us to Jesus Christ. And, remember, at this point in salvation history, there was no New Testament.

How does Luke put it? “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them what referred to Him in all the Scriptures.” And the result?

“Were not our hearts burning within us while He spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”

That’s when conversion begins, brothers and sisters – it begins when you hear your story in Scripture. But sadly, far too many Christians stop right there. They read the Bible and believe, but unlike the two disciples, they don’t take the next logical step on their journey of faith.

You see, it’s one thing to believe in Jesus, but it’s something much more drastic to invite Him into your life, into your heart, to invite Him to stay with you, to let Him lead you on that journey. And so, late on that first Easter Sunday, Jesus responds to the disciples’ invitation by celebrating the 2nd Mass. And it’s there, in the Eucharist, that the disciples recognize Him. “…He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

Their faith is deepened by Scripture, but is cemented by the Eucharist.

Do you see now the power of the Eucharist? The power of this gift that Jesus Christ has given His Church, a power beyond all comprehension, a power that brings Jesus into our hearts, into our inner selves, a power that confirms our faith so we can carry Him to others. And now, filled with the joy that only such faith can bring, what do they do? They do the only thing they can do: they go to the Church. Yes, they go to the very heart of the Church; they go to the Apostles and report all that they had witnessed.

“Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

And with their conversion, they are called to make Christ present among men. But they do so within the Church, the Church established by Jesus Himself.

What a marvelous story this is. This Lord of ours never forces Himself on us.  He wants us to turn to Him freely, when we begin to grasp the depth of His Love, a Love He has placed in our souls. Like the disciples, we want to hold onto Him.

We want to beg Him, `Stay with us, Lord. Our souls are shrouded in darkness and You alone are the light.  Only You can satisfy this longing that consumes us.' 

And Jesus stays. He stays because He loves you. He loves you so passionately that He will chase after you relentlessly…until the very last moment of your life.

Conversion, then, begins with Jesus on the road.

Our faith is deepened through the Scriptures, by God’s Holy Word. Our eyes are opened by the gift of grace in the sacraments. And our conversion continues to completion only in the Church, where again we encounter Jesus through those same sacraments. That’s what true conversion is: a turning to God, a turning, really a continual re-turning, that turns despair into joy. And that’s why we need the Church, for it’s the Church that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and following the lead of Jesus interprets Holy Scripture for us. And it’s in and through the Church that we receive the sacraments and the graces that allow us to continue our lifelong conversion.

Yes, conversion, like every good thing, begins and ends with Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, He who loves beyond all comprehension. And so the way to reconciliation is now open.

May we, trusting in His promise, be reconciled with God and experience the touch of His mercy and goodness and forgiveness.

May we let God love us.

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