Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year B

Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Pilgrims_of_Emmaus_on_the_Road_(Les_pèlerins_d'Emmaüs_en_chemin)_-_James_Tissot

As we can see in all the Gospels, the sign of Jesus’ empty tomb was not enough for many people to make them believe in the resurrection of Christ. That is why Jesus gave them another sign – he appeared to them himself, but to some people, this was not enough either. We could mention at least a few examples: Mary of Magdala, Thomas, two disciples going to Emmaus or the apostles from today’s gospel. Even when Jesus said to them “Peace be with you!”, they didn’t recognize him. And yet they must have remembered his face, they remembered his unique silhouette, height, hair colour and facial features, and yet they still didn’t recognize him.

As we read in today’s Gospel: In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. So, Jesus showed them the wounds on his hands and feet, and – as Saint Luke says – Their joy was so great that they could not believe it, and they stood dumbfounded. But we could ask: Why? Why they didn’t recognize him straight away. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart – we read in the first book of Samuel. We could say that the apostles only knew him by sight, though they didn’t know him fully and completely. They needed something much more, they needed Jesus’ gestures such as breaking bread, eating fish – as we hear in today’s Gospel – but also, they wanted and needed to see Jesus’ wounds. But in addition to Jesus’ gestures, they needed also his words very much. Let’s see that since Jesus came to the apostles, they dumbfounded, fell completely silent and stopped talking.

And we too – like the apostles from the Gospel – we need to get to know Jesus more and more, because we still know him too little, because we still cannot recognize him in everyday life. On the one hand, we need Christ’s gestures like breaking bread. Yes, breaking bread – that is, the Eucharist – is for all of us a special, unique and irreplaceable gesture of Jesus. After all, it is the same Jesus who, in the gestures of liturgical prayer – through our priestly ministry – breaks the bread for all of us during every Holy Mass which we attend physically or even spiritually at the present time of the pandemic.

On the other hand, we need Christ’s words as well. It is definitely not enough if we only want to speak, if our only expectation and wish is that Jesus will listen to us, even if we express the most beautiful prayers and praises addressed to him. It is not enough if we only speak to Jesus without letting him speak to us. Yes, we need to learn how to listen to his words, through individual reading of the Scriptures. Many people do not read the Bible at all, because they assume that it is too difficult and incomprehensible and they get discouraged very easily. Yes, it is true – and I know it mostly from my personal experience as a priest – that God’s Word may seem incomprehensible and difficult at times, but let’s see a bit further what Jesus did in today’s gospel when He spoke to the disciples. As Saint Luke says: He opened and enlightened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

When you read the Bible, when you regularly read and ponder the Scriptures, when you listen to the Word of God, even if you get discouraged and say – I don’t understand anything or only a little, then be sure, believe and remember that Jesus will open your mind to understand more and better. Don’t be discouraged! Moreover, God will enlighten your mind to understand your own life and all your problems, struggles, dilemmas, anxieties and fears, in the light of God’s Word. God will open our minds very wide so that we can understand, that God’s words are fulfilled every day, that God’s words are fulfilled in our personal life. Sometimes this process may take us a long time and demand from us a lot of patience. Sometimes a long time may pass until we say that we know Jesus well, not only by sight but also by listening to Him. Perhaps this process of getting to know Jesus and understanding our life in the light of his Word will continue until the end of our lives. But it’s worth it, it’s worth being persistent and not getting discouraged. At finally, the end of my reflection, I would like to wish you and myself such persistence, enthusiasm and encouragement first in recognizing and then in getting to know Jesus more and more. Amen.

Fr Gregory