Gospel & Homily Transcript
That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his Body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the Eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
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.
Unprecedented Religious Freedom Transcript
Today’s gospel account of these disciples on the road to Emmaus is probably my favorite resurrection story. It is one of many eye witness accounts of Jesus’ resurrection. When we make an act of faith in Jesus’ resurrection we’re actually making a double act of faith. We’re certainly believing in Jesus and that Jesus was raised from the dead, but we’re also making an act of faith in the early Christian community that they were not deceiving us; that they’re not—to put it baldly—liars.
We have in our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles chapter 3, the first of the miracles attributed to Peter and John. It takes place at what’s called “The Beautiful Gate” into the Temple area. Jerusalem, being a walled city, you’d have to go through a variety of different gates and these gates were named and you can actually, if you have the opportunity to go over to Jerusalem, they know where this “Beautiful Gate” is. That specific detail is not accidental, it’s to say, ‘This actually happened. We’re not making this up. This isn’t a pious myth.’
I’m a great fan of superhero movies. I’ve loved Superman and Spider-Man and all of those stories since I was a kid, but those are fantasy stories. What we read here in the Gospel account is not a fantasy story and yet many today, especially many young people who don’t identify with any religion—we call them “nones.” That’s not “NUNS” but “NONES” because they put down on surveys I don’t have any religion. I want to be spiritual but not religious. Increasingly today many young people are identifying themselves as spiritual but not religious and when they confront the reality of Jesus of Nazareth, they would say yes to Jesus as an inspired teacher, yes to Jesus as a moral guide, yes to Jesus as a prophetic figure, yes as somebody to emulate. But as the Son of God? Eh. As the Christ? Eh. As somebody that we would put unconditional faith in and declare him as Lord of our life? Eh.
We who claim Jesus as the Christ make a double act of faith not only in Jesus, but also in the early followers because all that we know of Jesus comes from these early followers; from the evangelists: from Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, from Paul, from Peter, from those who wrote the sacred texts that have been passed down to us and the ancient traditions and 300 years of people who laid down their life because they believed in Jesus as Lord of their life.
There are terrorists who kill in the name of religion today, suicide bombers, people who are so convinced of the truth of their cause that they’re willing to blow themselves up as they blow others up in the name of their God. That’s not the Christian experience. Our martyrs—our fathers and mothers in faith—didn’t go out and say, ‘You believe in us or we’re going to blow ourselves up and blow you up so that you’ll be convinced.’ No, they willingly laid down their lives for the sake of the Christ they believed in. That’s our heritage.
In fact the early scriptures go out of their way to say the apostles in so many instances didn’t get it. The early disciples didn’t get it. They didn’t understand who Jesus was. They go out of their way to say that Peter—the rock of the faith, our first pope—denied Jesus three times but here we have Peter and John repenting and believing in the Christ and that same power that was in Jesus’s hands coming now through the hands of Peter and John—that same healing power coming to them, through them, and healing this man who was crippled and lying at The Beautiful Gate.
These stories are stories of people who put their reputation and their life on the line for the sake of what they believed in. That’s our heritage. We who enjoy unprecedented religious freedom in this country, don’t have to suffer nearly as much as our ancestors in the first 300 years that if you went public and you proclaimed yourself as a Christian, you would be stripped of all your possessions, you would be thrown in jail, you’d be separated from your family in attempt to get you to apostatize.
The early Jewish leaders didn’t want martyrs. They didn’t want more Christs, and the Romans didn’t want more Romans, what they wanted was people to apostatize and to say, ‘No, no, I used to be a believer but I’m not a believer anymore. Yep, yep that’s a lot of hokum. That’s a lot of hogwash.’ And that happened in some instances but the heroes, the heroes of the early Christian faith—and we remember many of their names in the first Eucharistic prayer—are those who stood by and they said you can strip me of every possession that I have, you can separate me from my family, you can torture me, you can kill me, but I’m not going to deny what I believe to be true: that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead and I felt his presence alive in my heart.
That’s the experience of these disciples on the road to Emmaus: Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road? Did we not recognize him in bread that was broken? Look back on your own experience of faith. Have you not felt the presence of Jesus at the Holy Mass, as the Holy Scriptures have been read, as you’ve entered into prayer? We are all called to be evangelizers today, to pass this faith on to the next generation and if that’s going to happen, it’s going to be because of our witness, not just the witness of Pope Francis or Cardinal Cupich or Fr. Michael or Fr. Bernie or Sister so-and-so or Deacon so and so. It’s going to be within those spheres of influence, people who know you, people who respect you, people who value your opinion. They look at you and they see your life filled with hope.
Life beats us up doesn’t it? None of us get out of this life alive and there’s always going to be problems; there’s always going to be difficulties. The easy way is to give in to despair or discouragement or bitterness or partisan bickering. If the faith is going to have power it’s going to be because of our witness; not just our words, but the way we live our lives filled with hope. That’s what gives credible witness and that’s what caused Christianity for the first 300 years to spread like wildfire in the midst of the Roman Empire. To take this little-known sect and a far outpost of the Roman empire and spread throughout the world to the point where eventually the Roman Emperor himself and his mother were evangelized and converted. With people who said, I’m going to care for the sick. I’m going to care for the poor. I’m going to care for the lonely. I’m going to care for the outcasts. I’m going to put my life and everything that I have on the line for the sake of what I believe in. That’s the power of our faith. That’s what has come down to us and let’s pray that we’re able to pass that on to the next generations of faith. Amen? Amen.