Gospel Luke 24:13-35
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 bread.
This passage has always intrigued me. When I had the privilege some years ago to be able to travel to the Holy Land, the one place I wanted to visit was Emmaus. We were seeing all the sights and I finally asked the guide, “Are we ever going to see Emmaus?”
And he said, “Oh, yes.”
I don’t know what I was expecting but when we got to Emmaus and I got off the bus my reaction was, “Emmaus is not a vacation spot. There isn’t anything here.” I thought, “Wow! This is that famous walk where Jesus broke bread. And these two guys who were walking with him didn’t have a clue who Jesus was, even though they were close to him.”
Then you realize Emmaus is that place that you and I often don’t see.
It’s just like when God puts somebody in our life we don’t see. Something can happen to us and then afterwards, “Oh, that’s whom I was talking with, or that’s whom I was with.”
In Switzerland there lived a theologian named Karl Barth, and he was very well known in the 20th century. One day he got on the streetcar and he sat down with a young man. He turned to him and asked, “Are you visiting, or do you live here?”
The young man said, “I’m visiting.”
Karl Barth asked, “What would you like to see in Switzerland?”
The young man answered, “If you really want to know, the only thing that I would like to happen while I am here in Switzerland is to see Karl Barth. I don’t care about anything else.” And he turned to the man and asked, “Do you know Karl Barth?”
The man said, “Well, I shave his face every morning.”
The young man said, “Really!”
They got off the streetcar, and the young man went back to his friends and said, “Guess what? I met the man that shaves Karl Barth every morning.” But his eyes and his heart didn’t pick up on the clue — I’m Karl Barth. I shave my own face. This is who I am.
That’s what our life is all about.
This week I was in Wichita and one of our diocesan priests was named the new Bishop there. We were having evening prayer in the cathedral and I was sitting in one of the pews and people were coming in and sitting down. The seat next to me was empty. There was this priest standing there and I kept looking at him and thought, “It seems like I know you from somewhere.” Anyway, I said, “Why don’t you sit down here with me?”
He sat down and I asked, “What diocese are you from?” And he said, “I am from the Jeff City Diocese.”
“Oh, really,” I said. “What’s your name?”
He told me his name and I said, “Do you remember Mike Kuse.”
And he answered, “Yes, I do.”
He was an intern with me for several months and it was a very difficult time for him, and for me. He probably prayed he would never see me, and God put me right there. He probably thought, “Well, he wants me to sit here, so I guess I’ll have to sit here.”
But we were invited to break bread and pray evening prayer.
Think about it in your life. When did you not see Jesus in another person, but later realized Jesus really did send that person into your life? It could be anybody, anywhere. This is what life is all about. It’s about breaking bread. It’s about being Eucharist for one another. We use these words but sometimes we don’t understand how they play out in our lives. Jesus was revealing to his disciples one by one, “Will you guys wake up? And it’s going to be up to you. You’ve seen me. Blessed are those who haven’t seen me but still believe.”
And you and I are those people.
What are we supposed to see when we come to church? It’s not who’s here, or what they are wearing or where they are going after church. We come here as sinners. We come with our brokenness, we come with our joys and happiness. The person next to you could have received news yesterday that she is a grandparent. You don’t know that but your sign of peace could mean a great deal to her. Or maybe the person next to you just got word that his mom or dad just died in Colorado and he will have to change his life for the next few days and go to the funeral. But you don’t know that.
Jesus says, “Stop thinking about yourself. You’re here to break bread. When you reach out to someone else, you teach that person to reach out to another person. And that is my kingdom.”
In our day, I don’t know if Jesus would adapt to technology and say, “I’m on Facebook. Sign up. Search me out. You’ll know everything that I’m doing.”
He probably would prefer saying, “I’m coming to Quincy. Do you mind if I stay at your house? I don’t want you to start cleaning and I don’t want you to go out and buy a lot of food. I’m coming to visit you, and to be with you. Don’t throw me a big party. I just want to make sure that when I leave — you fully understand who I am. Because when I leave I want you to invite someone else to your house, and I want you to break bread. And I want you to tell them what you see, and why you pray, and why you come to Mass, and why you live a Christian life.”
That’s sobering for us. We have comfortable lives. We want our faith to be comfortable and it never will be. Every day we are challenged to close our eyes.
What really impresses us? What really impresses us is when somebody really does become Christ and you witness that.
If you ever notice in our local paper, it may not be every day but several days a week — the Herald-Whig will have a picture on the front page and it is in color. This morning the picture was of a young couple watching the dogwood parade. I would venture to say that everyone here who looked at the paper saw that picture. You probably had a response to it, “Oh, I know them. I wonder where they were standing? I wonder who they are?”
It says a lot about us. You talk to people and ask, “Why do you subscribe to the Herald-Whig?”
Most people answer, “Number one: for the obituaries. If they would just print obituaries I would be happy even though I can get the news on the computer and Internet now.
I subscribe to the Herald-Whig so I can read the obituaries. I want to make all these connections and know who they were married to, who their children are, who their nieces and nephews are, and where they were born, and … ”
That’s good. Because that’s living the Gospel, and that’s being Christ, and when you recognize a name it is probably someone who was Christ to you. Or you were Christ to them.
So today as we celebrate this Easter joy, let us put ourselves in Emmaus and let us be the two disciples. And Jesus is passing by on Seventh Street and we say to him, “Please, stay with us. We know who you are but stay with us. There is something burning in our hearts and we want to know something more. And here we are.”
And when you receive the body and blood of Christ, it’s not for you to run out on the streets and yell, “I just received the body and blood of Jesus.” But it is putting the needs of someone else before yours.
Life is very, very quick. Coming home on Friday, the other two priests and myself were just that close to death and we could have had a pileup of six or seven cars on an expressway all going 65 miles an hour because someone swerved right in front of me. I was able to slam on the brakes and luckily the person behind me slammed on his brakes and we are all still living.
That’s how quick life is. But it’s also how beautiful life is. Jesus was there.
You are Jesus. You are bread that needs to be broken.
* * *
Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.