To listen to today’s homily please select the audio file below:
Our gospel today is part of the account of the resurrection of Jesus and his appearances to his disciples in Jerusalem from the 24th chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke. Like the other easter gospels, Luke says that some women– Mary Magdalene is the first mentioned– went to the tomb of Jesus at daybreak on Easter Sunday to complete the burial anointings of his body, but they find the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. They’re told by two men in dazzling garments that Jesus “’is not here, he has been raised…Remember what he said to you while he was still with you in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners to be crucified and rise on the third day.’ And they remembered his words.”
The women believe, Luke says, remembering what Jesus said, but when they bring the news to the apostles, to Peter and the others, they’re met with unbelief. The women believe, but the men don’t. Luke’s gospel is known for its appreciation of the faith of women, beginning with Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Our gospel today continues Luke’s story of the two disciples to whom Jesus appeared on the way to Emmaus. The two disciples, unlike the women, are not ready to believe at all. In fact, they seem to dismiss the story from the women they’ve heard earlier. They’ve lost hope altogether. Jesus walks with them as a stranger and opens the scriptures for them. As they eat with him at table towards evening, they recognize him “in the breaking of the bread.” They return to Jerusalem to tell his other followers, but there they’re met with questions. There’s still unbelief.
Jesus himself comes into their midst, he shows them the wounds in his hands and side; he eats with them, he explains the scriptures to them. Then, they come to believe in him.
In Luke’s gospel, all the appearances of Jesus to his disciples happen in Jerusalem, not in Galilee. He speaks to them in the words of the scriptures. His voice is more important than his physical appearance, his words make their hearts burn as he speaks to them on the way. He shows them his wounds, the wounds in his hands and his side; he eats with them.
In Luke’s gospel, it all takes place in one day, from daybreak on Easter Sunday till evening when Luke describes Jesus ascending into heaven from the Mount of Olives in Bethany. Before he ascends into heaven, Jesus tells his disciples to bring the news of forgiveness of sins to the whole world, beginning in Jerusalem. They’re to stay in that city till the Spirit comes upon them, and then they’re to go out to all the nations.
If you want to know why we participate at Mass regularly, look carefully at the resurrection stories from the gospels. “How slow you are to understand,” Jesus says to his disciples in Luke’s gospel. We’re slow to understand and we need a lifetime to learn. How slow we are to understand what it means when we say that Jesus rose from the dead and lives forever. How slow we are to appreciate that we also share in his resurrection, that we are meant to live with him forever.
Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we’re on the road of a life can be filled with disappointments and lost opportunities and failures. “We were hoping,” they say. Now they’ve lost hope. There’s nothing to hope for, no dream for the future.
And so, as Christians have done from earliest times, we gather at Mass Sunday by Sunday, on the day made holy by the Lord’s resurrection, on the day the Lord is especially present to his church, to be strengthened as we go on our earthly journey.
The Mass is not just a ritual, a custom, a quaint ceremony that’s survived the ages–something we can take or leave as it suits us. Jesus, our Risen Lord, stands in our midst here.
“’Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.’”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.”