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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Why we need Emmaus

Today's Gospel presents us with St. Luke's account of the journey to Emmaus.  Two of Jesus' discples, one of them Cleopas (whose wife, Mary, joined the Blessed Mother and St. Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross), make the long journey back to Emmaus, walking the seven-mile trip (or so) and reviewing all that had happened three days ago concerning Jesus.  Cleopas and his friend are walking away from Jerusalem, away from the surviving 11 and away from Jesus. 

All of a sudden, the One whom they are discussing suddenly appears, but, they do not recognize Him.  Jesus asks them what they are talking about and Cleopas asks Him if He's the only one who does not know what had happened during these past three days. There is a bit of humor here.  Of course, He knows.  Jesus was there.  At this point, Jesus begins to explain to the two disciples just why these things had to happen, breaking open the Scriptures in the process, the Liturgy of the Word, if you will.  Suddenly, something is stirring within the two men and they invite their Guest to abide with them.  Little do they know that they are in for a major surprise.  Jesus takes bread, says the blessing, breaks it and gives it to the disciples.  The moment they recognize Him, He vanishes from their sight.  Cleopas and the other disciple recognize Jesus in the "breaking of the bread", that is to say, in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  Then, they make a mad dash back to Jerusalem to tell the others.  When they get there, they find out that Jesus has, indeed, appeared, first to Simon Peter and then the others.

When Jesus said "Do this in memory of Me" at the Last Supper, He was telling the Apostles and their successors, that this was now how He would remain, how He would continue to abide with them, and with us, under the forms of bread and wine.  The Eucharist is His pledge of Love to us, a Love that endured suffering and torment for our sakes. 

It is that same love that compelled Cleopas and his friend to rush back to Jerusalem, the very place they were running away from, and return to the Upper Room.

In his Apostolic visit to Aquileia, Pope Benedict XVI noted that we need to have another Emmaus, so to speak.  We need to return back to Jesus and not run away.

Here is the Google translation of the homily he preached this morning:

Dear brothers and sisters!
I am very pleased to be among you today and celebrate with you and for you this solemn Eucharist. It is significant that the place chosen for this liturgy is the Parco di San Giuliano: a place where you usually do not celebrate religious rituals, but cultural and musical events. Today, this area hosts the Risen Jesus, truly present in his Word, in the People of God with their pastors, and so prominent in the sacrament of his Body and his Blood. To you, venerable Brother Bishops, priests and deacons, to you religious and laity address my most cordial greetings, with a special thought for the sick and infirm are present, accompanied dall'UNITALSI. Thank you for your warm welcome! I greet with affection the Patriarch, Cardinal Angelo Scola, who I thank for his touching words he addressed to me at the beginning of the Mass. I pay my respects to the Mayor, the Minister of Heritage and Culture on behalf of the Government, the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs and the civil and military authorities, who by their presence they have honored our meeting. A heartfelt thanks to all who have generously offered their collaboration in the preparation and conduct of this my Pastoral Visit . Thank you!

The Gospel of the Third Sunday of Easter - just heard - has the story of the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35), a story that never ceases to amaze and move us. This episode shows the consequences that the risen Jesus by the two disciples: conversion from despair to hope; conversion from sadness to joy, and even conversion to community life. Sometimes, when it comes to conversion, it is thought only to its appearance tiring of detachment and renunciation. Instead, the Christian conversion is above all a source of joy, hope and love. It is always the work of the risen Christ, Lord of life, we have obtained this grace for us through his passion and communicates the power of his resurrection.

Dear brothers and sisters! I have come among you as the Bishop of Rome and successor of Peter's ministry to confirm fidelity to the Gospel and communion. I have come to share with the bishops and priests of the missionary proclamation anxiety, which we all must engage in a serious and well coordinated service to the cause of the Kingdom of God You, here today, represented the Ecclesial Communities born of the Mother Church of Aquileia. As in the past, when those churches were known for apostolic zeal and pastoral dynamism, so today we need to promote and defend the truth with courage and unity of the faith. Must give an account of Christian hope for modern man, often overwhelmed by vast and disturbing issues that arise in crisis the very foundations of his being and his activity.

You live in a context in which Christianity presents itself as the faith that accompanied the centuries, the way of so many people, including persecution and testing very hard. Eloquent expression of this belief are the many testimonials scattered everywhere: churches, art works, hospitals, libraries, schools, the very environment of your cities, as well as the countryside and the mountains are dotted with references to Christ.

Yet, today this is likely to be of Christ be emptied of its truth and its deeper contents, could become a horizon that only superficially - and the issues rather than social and cultural - and embraces life, risks being reduced to a Christianity in which the experience of faith in the crucified and risen Jesus does not illuminate the path of life, as we heard in today's Gospel about the two disciples of Emmaus who, after the crucifixion of Jesus, they returned home surrounded by doubt, in sadness and disappointment. This tends, unfortunately, to spread in your area: this is when the disciples of today are moving away from the Jerusalem of Jesus Crucified and the Risen Lord, no longer believe in the power and the living presence of the Lord. The problem of evil, pain and suffering, the problem of injustice and oppression, fear of others, strangers and far who come into our land and attempt to seem what we are, leading to today's Christians say sadly, we were hoping that the Lord deliver us from evil, pain, suffering, fear, injustice.

It is necessary, then, for each of us, as happened to the two disciples of Emmaus, be taught by Jesus: first, listening to and loving the Word of God, read in light of the Paschal Mystery, it warms our hearts and enlighten our mind, and help us to interpret the events of life and give them meaning. Then, you must sit at the table with the Lord, to become his guests, so that his humble presence in the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood we return the eyes of faith, to look at everything and everyone through the eyes of God, in light of his love. Stay with Jesus who was with us, to assimilate his style of life offered, he choose the logic of communion between us, solidarity and sharing. The Eucharist is the ultimate expression of Jesus' gift of himself and is a constant invitation to live our lives in the logic of the Eucharist as a gift to God and others.

The Gospel also says that the two disciples recognized Jesus after the breaking of bread, "set out immediately and returned to Jerusalem" ( Lk 24:33). They feel the need to return to Jerusalem and tell the extraordinary experience: the encounter with the Risen Lord. There is a great effort to be made ​​that all Christians, here in the Northeast as in any other part of the world, becomes a witness, ready to proclaim with vigor and joy the event of the death and resurrection of Christ. I know the care that, as the Church of Triveneto, lay in trying to understand the reasons of the heart and how modern man, referring to the ancient Christian traditions, do you bother to trace the program guidelines of the new evangelization, looking with attention to the many challenges of present time and rethink the future of this region. I wish, with my presence, to support your work and instill confidence in all the intense pastoral program initiated from your pastors, hoping for a fruitful engagement of all members of the ecclesial community.

Even a traditionally Catholic nation may, however, warn in the negative, or assimilate almost unconsciously, the repercussions of a culture that ultimately suggest a way of thinking which is openly rejected, obstructed or hidden, the Gospel message. So what has been and continues to be great as your commitment to defend the perennial values ​​of Christian faith. I encourage you to never give applicants to the temptations of the hedonistic culture of consumerism and materialism to the calls. Accept the invitation of the Apostle Peter, with the second reading today, to lead "with fear of God in the time when you live here as strangers" ( 1 Peter 1:17) and I call that takes the form of a life lived intensely in the streets of our world, aware of the goal to be achieved: unity with God in Christ crucified and risen. In fact, our faith and our hope are addressed to God (cf. 1 Pet 1.21): addressed to God because it is rooted in him, based on his love and his faithfulness. In past centuries, your churches have a rich tradition of holiness and generous service to others, thanks to the work of zealous priests and religious of active life and contemplative. If we listen attentively to their spiritual teaching, it is not difficult to recognize the unique and personal appeal that we address them: Be holy! Put Christ at the center of your life! He built on the edifice of your existence. In Jesus you will find the strength to open up to others to make yourself, following his example, a gift to all humanity.

Around Aquileia join together people of different languages ​​and cultures, not only made to converge by political needs, but above all by faith in Christ and inspired teaching of the Gospel from civilization, the civilization of love. The churches are called now generated from Aquileia to reinforce that old spiritual unity, particularly in view of immigration and the new geopolitical circumstances in place. The Christian faith can contribute significantly to the reality of such a program, which covers the full and harmonious development of man and society in which he lives. My presence among you will be, therefore, also a keen support for the efforts being deployed to promote solidarity among your Diocese of the Northeast. He wants to be also an encouragement for all initiatives aiming to overcome the divisions that might undermine the concrete aspirations for justice and peace.

This, my brothers, my hope is, this is the prayer to God for you all, invoking the heavenly intercession of the Virgin Mary and many saints and blessed, among whom I wish to recall St. Pius X and Blessed John XXIII but also the Venerable Giuseppe Toniolo, whose beatification is imminent. These shining witnesses of the Gospel are the greatest asset in your area: Follow their example and their teachings, blending them with current needs. Trust: The Risen Lord walks with you, yesterday, today and forever. Amen.

One of the Holy Father's priorities remains the re-Christianization of Europe.  As he pointed out in his homily, there is an urgent need to once again evangelize the continent.  Like St. Benedict in the Dark Ages, Pope Benedict XVI is trying to restore Europe's Christian identity.  During the Last Supper, Jesus told St. Peter that when he turned, that the Prince of the Apostles should confirm his brethren in the Faith.  That is exactly what Pope Benedict XVI has spent these last six years doing.

Many of us have fled the place of loving suffering to walk towards our own Emmaus.  But, Jesus walks along with us, though we do not yet recognize Him.  Yet, He is there if only we look for Him in the Holy Eucharist where He breaks open the Scriptures for us and then breaks the heavenly Bread that is His very self.

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