Sunday, May 4, 2014

Road to Emmaus

Today's Gospel is about the Road to Emmaus.  Two of Jesus' disciples are walking to Emmaus from Jerusalem.  While they were walking, they were having a discussion among themselves regarding the events that occurred during the passion of Christ.  

During this time, Jesus approached them and walked with them.  They did not know it was Him. He joined them in the discussion acting as if He did not know what was going on.  Cleopas who was one of the men was shocked that Jesus did not know what went on in Jerusalem.  Remember: The men had no idea it was Jesus and spoke to Him as if he was just a stranger on the road.  

While pretending He was not aware of the events in Jerusalem, Jesus asked them "what sort of things happened?"  The men told Him about Jesus the Nazarene who lived among them, did miracles, was crucified.  The men seemed disappointed believing Jesus was "the one to redeem Israel." They then tell the man (Jesus) that women informed them that the body of this Nazarene was gone from the tomb.  Here we see how the disciples still were doubtful.  They were expecting Jesus to be this warrior prince who would save Israel. His death seemed to show to them that He was instead weak, or a fraud.

The man (Jesus) tells them that they are foolish and slow to believe.  He tells them that the Christ had to go through all these things in order to fulfill God's will and enter into His glory.  He starts from Moses and goes throughout Scripture giving evidence regarding the work of the Messiah (Himself).  Jesus must have talked for a long time because they were getting closer to the village of Emmaus which was miles away.

He kept walking as if Emmaus was not his destination, but the men asked Him to stay with them because it was getting dark.  He complied and sat with them at the table, took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them.  At this moment, the men realized that this man was no mere stranger who happened to be a walking Bible scholar.  He was Jesus!

Once they realized this, Jesus vanished.  Both men then in hindsight remarked how they felt their hearts burning as He spoke the Scriptures to them.  The men then returned to Jerusalem and told the others of what happened.

This story not only tells us that Jesus rose from the dead and was appearing to His friends, but it also tells us about the real presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.  Jesus, before He was arrested took bread and wine, blessed them and said that they were His body and blood.  This action linked Him to the priest Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18) showing that Jesus is the true priest (Hebrews 7:17). Bread is an ancient food.  It is easy to make and nutritious; granted you are not on a low-carb diet. It makes sense that God would use this food to connect to His people in every culture and generation.

Jesus would use bread and wine not only to represent Him, but to be His literal presence, body, blood, soul and divinity (Luke 22:7-20). The bread and wine during consecration become Jesus Christ in Sacramental form.  This idea can be hard to process by some, especially atheists and Protestants, but this is how Christ wanted it.  Before His last supper, Christ performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes. After this, He told the people about the "bread from heaven."  The people wanted this bread after He described it as giving eternal life.  Naturally, the people were reminded of the Manna that their ancestors ate (Exodus 16).  However, when Jesus said that He was this bread and His flesh was food and blood drink, the people walked away possibly believing Jesus to be a lunatic (John 6:22-69).

We know that Jesus was not being deceitful here.  He literally meant that His flesh was food and that this is the bread of life. Using bread to show the presence of God is not new.  We see it in the Old Testament or Jewish Scriptures. Bread was left on the altar with a lampstand and incense showing God's presence.

This is why the Catholic Church has the sanctuary lamp which is a red candle near the Tabernacle showing God is present and why she has Eucharistic adoration (Exodus 25:30, Leviticus 24:1-81 Kings 7:48-50).  Since her beginning, the Catholic Church has always taught and believed that Jesus is truly present under the form of bread and wine after consecration. This is a teaching of the Church that is central and cannot be erased or modified.  Any attempts to alter or remove this doctrine will make the Catholic Church useless and irrelevant.  The Church exists to proclaim and worship Jesus Christ.

It is important that Catholics show true devotion to the Holy Eucharist.  It is there that we truly encounter Christ just like the disciples on their way to Emmaus.  Our separated brothers and sisters in the protestant faith rely on the Bible or Scripture Alone in order to worship or define theological principles.  However, we read in today's Gospel how the Scripture merely gave a "burning" sensation, and did not truly reveal Jesus to the disciples.  It is only in the breaking of the bread that the disciples see Jesus Christ present before them.  Catholics are fortunate to have churches where they can visit to spend time before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  We must make it a genuine habit to visit our Lord often even if it is for a few minutes.  He waits there for each one of us.  

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

1357 We carry out this command of the Lord by celebrating the memorial of his sacrifice. In so doing, we offer to the Father what he has himself given us: the gifts of his creation, bread and wine which, by the power of the Holy Spirit and by the words of Christ, have become the body and blood of Christ. Christ is thus really and mysteriously made present. 
1358 We must therefore consider the Eucharist as:
- thanksgiving and praise to the Father;
- the sacrificial memorial of Christ and his Body;
- the presence of Christ by the power of his word and of his Spirit. 
1374 The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend."201 In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained."202 "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."203 
1375 It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ's body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. The Church Fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ and of the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion. Thus St. John Chrysostom declares:
It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but he who was crucified for us, Christ himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God's. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered.204
And St. Ambrose says about this conversion:
Be convinced that this is not what nature has formed, but what the blessing has consecrated. The power of the blessing prevails over that of nature, because by the blessing nature itself is changed. . . . Could not Christ's word, which can make from nothing what did not exist, change existing things into what they were not before? It is no less a feat to give things their original nature than to change their nature.205 
1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation."206 
1377 The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.207 
1378 Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. "The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession."208 
1379 The tabernacle was first intended for the reservation of the Eucharist in a worthy place so that it could be brought to the sick and those absent outside of Mass. As faith in the real presence of Christ in his Eucharist deepened, the Church became conscious of the meaning of silent adoration of the Lord present under the Eucharistic species. It is for this reason that the tabernacle should be located in an especially worthy place in the church and should be constructed in such a way that it emphasizes and manifests the truth of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. 
1380 It is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain present to his Church in this unique way. Since Christ was about to take his departure from his own in his visible form, he wanted to give us his sacramental presence; since he was about to offer himself on the cross to save us, he wanted us to have the memorial of the love with which he loved us "to the end,"209 even to the giving of his life. In his Eucharistic presence he remains mysteriously in our midst as the one who loved us and gave himself up for us,210 and he remains under signs that express and communicate this love:
The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.211 
1381 "That in this sacrament are the true Body of Christ and his true Blood is something that 'cannot be apprehended by the senses,' says St. Thomas, 'but only by faith, which relies on divine authority.' For this reason, in a commentary on Luke 22:19 ('This is my body which is given for you.'), St. Cyril says: 'Do not doubt whether this is true, but rather receive the words of the Savior in faith, for since he is the truth, he cannot lie.'"212
Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.
Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived;
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there's nothing true.213      

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