THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER – A
May is the busiest month of the year because we’re focusing on a lot of important events like Mother’s Day, First Communions, Confirmations and graduations. Students in college are preparing for their finals. Baseball games and other extracurricular events are happening. There is so much to do, we lose sight of the fact that we are still in the midst of the Easter Season. The risen Jesus Christ is still the focus of our celebration. Like Cleopas and his companion, though, we journey through life with our thoughts pulled in many directions, but are we aware of the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives? Does his resurrection have meaning for us? Or, do other important things prevent us from seeing him?
Even here at Mass it seems we are not always fully aware of the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. We stand up at Holy Communion, we get in line, the ritual so familiar and habitual we don’t always get the full implications of what it is we are doing. When something sacred becomes habitual, its meaning gets lost and we end up going through the motions of receiving, eating and going back to our seats. The actions of the ritual become even more important for us than the awareness of what it is we are doing.
Life is like that sometimes. We find ourselves getting so caught up in the intensity of our lives, and the mundane routines, that we lose sight of the meaning of what we do. When this happens we are like Cleopas and his companion, walking in our own direction, moving, perhaps, further away from where God wants us to be, totally unaware that Jesus Christ is present to us, hidden in plain sight and ready to open our eyes.
Mary Grace Murray, my mother’s mother, died of Parkinson’s disease twenty five years ago. Parkinson’s disease is a very slowly progressive disease of the central nervous system that shuts down the body little by little. For several years Grandma Murray was able to function quite well. Ultimately, she had to sell the house and she moved into an assisted living apartment, then into a nursing home. Over the years she needed more and more care, and the time and energy of my mother and her sister, Jeannine. During those final months and years the changes I saw in Grandma Murray were quite dramatic. I was, however, in the seminary several hundred miles away and could not see her very often. Mom, on the other hand, was so close to what was happening, that it was the care Grace needed that mattered the most. In responding to the needs of her dying mother, my mom paid very close attention to everything that Grandma needed.
It wasn’t until after Mary Grace died and Mom saw her in the casket wearing a pretty dress and some nice jewelry that she realized, “Oh, it was you all along.” Mom recognized the lovely features of her mother and remembered how full of life she had been. Mom thought about how much Grandma Murray loved the simple things in life like going uptown for a cup of coffee with friends, or sharing a can of Mountain Dew with her grandson after he mowed her lawn.
“And it happened that, while he was 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.” Cleopas and his companion recognized him because they were familiar with the action of taking bread, blessing it, breaking it and sharing it. They saw Jesus take bread, give thanks for it, break it and distribute it to the crowds who ate their fill. They saw Jesus take the Seder bread at the Last Supper when he broke it, and gave it to them saying, “Take this all of you and eat it, this is my body, which will be given up for you.” On the road to Emmaus Cleopas and his companion had been so caught up in their grief and pain that they could not see the presence of Jesus Christ who walked with them. It took something as radical and as simple as that gesture of lifting bread toward the heavens, giving thanks, and then sharing it to realize the impact of this meal, and the reality of Jesus’ presence in their lives.
In all the busyness of this month of May, with all the intensity of the stress we feel in our daily lives, with all the distractions that pull us in a million directions at once, we are here for one thing: the Body of Christ who feeds us with his love and grace. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. Alleluia. May the eyes of our hearts remain open so that we will come to know his presence with us in this sacred meal.