HOMILY FOR THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER (A)


We all had hopes for this Spring, Easter and Summer, for our families, jobs and businesses. These hopes did not include being locked in, worried, confused and fearful of what was happening around us, going to work each day in real danger of contracting the Corona virus or the pain of losing a loved one

Apart from this I think we can all, young and old, relate to the Gospel story today’ From a small child wanting to explore, to a teenager hoping to pursue a certain career, to a young adult hoping for the perfect relationship, the middle aged person looking back on the first half of life, to the elderly, coming to terms with unfinished

dreams and conscious of diminishing ability to achieve all of them.

‘We had hoped’ the disciples on the road to Emmaus tell the stranger who has joined them. They had obviously been in Jerusalem and believed in Jesus who ‘proved himself as a prophet by the things he said and did’. They had hoped. ‘he would be the one to set Israel free’ Something worth committing their lives to! Now they are on their way home. Things have turned out very differently. Their prophet and deliverer has been executed as a common criminal. His suffering and death had not been part of the plan.

As they went ‘Jesus came up and walked by their side but something prevented them from recognizing him’ They tell him their story, they are so deep in their sadness and disbelief that the bit about rumours of the resurrection doesn’t really get through to them.

Jesus listens to their story and when they finish he draws them into the bigger picture, just as Peter does to his hearers in the first reading, ‘the full message of the prophets’. ‘was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory. The last thing they expected was a Messiah who would suffer and die. Now this stranger invites them to look at recent events from a different stance, in the light of the Scriptures.

They, and we, are confronted here with the mystery of suffering. To go into the mystery of Christ’s suffering and ours would require more than this short reflection and anyway, as Brian Grogan S.J. said ‘Getting a perspective on suffering is more a matter of entering into its mystery than sorting it out’ Jesus embraced suffering, endured it and moved through it to resurrection and empowers us to do the same.

I believe God is with us in our present suffering and weeps now with us ,in our isolation, feeling deeply the pain of the world.

The disciples did not fully understand either but later they were to say ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us.’

They are now better informed but that is all. It is only at the Breaking of Bread that ‘their eyes are opened’ and they recognise him. They know that he is alive and with them. They cannot wait to spread the good news so these men who were afraid to let the stranger travel at night now, much later, ‘set out that instant’.

The road to Emmaus is our road too, a gradual journey to full understanding, to having our eyes opened, our hearts burning. Reading the Scriptures and the

Breaking of Bread, so available to us with each Mass we attend, can be moments which open us to the bigger picture and help us to recognise the God who walks with us always.

We could reflect:

What’s the ‘bigger picture’ within which I can look at what is happening to my hopes?

What keeps me from recognising the God who always walks with me?

Can I listen like the author of Footprints in the sand?

One night I dreamed a dream. As I was walking along the beach with my Lord. Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that at many times along the path of my life, especially at the very lowest and saddest times, there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it. "Lord, you said once I decided to follow you, You'd walk with me all the way. But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me."

He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you Never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you." ( Anon.)

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