Gospel reflection for April 23, 2023, Third Sunday of Easter
Father Koch: Reading the Scriptures should draw us closer to the Eucharist
On the day of the Resurrection two of Jesus’s disciples were on their way along the road to Emmaus, a village about seven miles from Jerusalem. There they encountered the Risen One whom they did not recognize. The conversation that ensues between them gives us the first model of evangelization in the Scriptures. While the disciples thought that they were evangelizing the stranger, by speaking to him about the marvels and mysteries they encountered in the Death and rumors of Resurrection of Jesus, it was instead the stranger -- Jesus himself -- who was evangelizing them. There is much we can learn from this encounter.
The disciples knew Jesus; they had heard him preach and they had seen the miracles. They placed much faith in his ministry. They lacked, however, the depth of understanding of who he was. Therefore, once he had been executed by the Romans, they were left in a state of confusion.
We do now know why they were leaving Jerusalem. Some will speculate that this shows that they were making their break with the disciples and were returning to their former way of life. Whatever their motives were to leave, they are anxious to talk about what has just happened. It is they who breach the topic with the alleged stranger walking along with them. Their desire to speak about Jesus shows their on-going desire to understand more fully what they had seen in him, along with a desire to explain their encounter with others.
This is true for all of us as Christians. Our experience with Jesus, our encounters with the community of believers, should well-up within us, causing us to desire to lead others to Christ.
Our path to understanding our faith is two-fold. First, the Scriptures. From the dawn of time God speaks his Word. It is through his Word -- the LOGOS -- that the Father authors creation. This same Word inspired prophets, the many writers of the scriptural passages and the laws of the Old Testament. The Word then “becomes flesh and dwelt among us” in the great mystery of the Incarnation. In his ministry Jesus is the Word both in himself and in what he speaks. The Word then continues to be proclaimed by the evangelists, missionaries, and the church everywhere and at every time. The Word is foundational to our understanding of God.
But that Word points us also to the Eucharist. Through the Incarnation -- literally “taking on flesh” the Word has a dimension of physicality. While on one hand this is transformed at the Resurrection, The Word inaugurates and leaves behind the Eucharist. Once the world has encountered the Word in the flesh, then we desire the presence of the flesh always. Therein lies the great mystery of the Eucharist. Christ remains with us, fully present in the Eucharist.
The encounter of the disciples with the Lord on the road to Emmaus shows the interconnectedness of Word and Eucharist. The Word opens their hearts to him. The Eucharist assists them in seeing the fullness of the Word. One without the other, is incomplete. Hearing the Word should open our desire to receive the Lord present in the Eucharist. Receiving the Eucharist should draw us to a deeper reading of the Word.
We do not think of faith as one or the other -- it is necessarily both Word and Eucharist. Many who come to the Church do so because they see their hearts welling-up within them, desiring a deeper union with Christ. Those who leave the Church have never made this connection.
We must allow our life of faith to draw us ever deeper into the Word so that we might more faithfully encounter Christ in the Eucharist. This is why the Mass is structured the way it is -- the Word compels us to the Eucharist. We are fed by the Lord on multiple levels, not just in our intellect or in the reception of the Eucharistic bread.
We continue our walk with the Lord to Emmaus, our hearts burning within us.
Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.