3rd SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A. HOLY MASS.
POPE FRANCIS ON THE DISCIPLES OF EMMAUS. 3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER GOSPEL YEAR A
Below you have three writings of Pope Francis for your personal meditation on the Gospel of the 3rd Sunday of Easter Year A. A blessed Sunday and a great week ahead. Fr. Rolly Arjonillo.
CLICK ON THE LINKS
- REGINA CAELI Saint Peter’s Square, Third Sunday of Easter, 4 May 2014
- GENERAL AUDIENCE Wednesday, 24 May 2017
- MORNING MEDITATION IN THE CHAPEL OF THE DOMUS SANCTAE MARTHAE Tuesday, 2 May 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
The Gospel from this Sunday, which is the Third Sunday of Easter, is that of the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35). They were two of Jesus’ disciples who, after his death and the Sabbath was past, leave Jerusalem and return, sad and dejected, to their village which was named Emmaus. Along the way the Risen Jesus draws near to them, but they do not recognize him. Seeing them so sad, he first helps them to understand that the Passion and death of the Messiah were foreseen in the plan of God and announced in the Sacred Scriptures: and thus he rekindled a fire of hope in their hearts.
At that point, the two disciples experienced an extraordinary attraction to the mysterious man, and they invited him to stay with them that evening. Jesus accepted and went into the house with them. When, at table, he blessed the bread and broke it, they recognized him, but he vanished out of their sight, leaving them full of wonder. After being enlightened by the Word, they had recognized the Risen Jesus in the breaking of the bread, a new sign of his presence. And immediately they felt the need to go back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples about their experience, that they had met the living Jesus and recognized him in the act of the breaking of the bread.
The road to Emmaus thus becomes a symbol of our journey of faith: the Scriptures and the Eucharist are the indispensable elements for encountering the Lord. We too often go to Sunday Mass with our worries, difficulties and disappointments…. Life sometimes wounds us and we go away feeling sad, towards our “Emmaus”, turning our backs on God’s plan. We distance ourselves from God. But the Liturgy of the Word welcomes us: Jesus explains the Scriptures to us and rekindles in our hearts the warmth of faith and hope, and in Communion he gives us strength. The Word of God, the Eucharist. Read a passage of the Gospel every day. Remember it well: read a passage from the Gospel every day, and on Sundays go to Communion, to receive Jesus. This is what happened to the disciples of Emmaus: they received the Word; they shared the breaking of bread and from feeling sad and defeated they became joyful. Dear brothers and sisters, the Word of God and the Eucharist fill us with joy always. Remember it well! When you are sad, take up the Word of God. When you are down, take up the Word of God and go to Sunday Mass and receive Communion, to participate in the mystery of Jesus. The Word of God, the Eucharist: they fill us with joy.
Through the intercession of Most Holy Mary, let us pray that every Christian, in reliving the experience of the disciples of Emmaus, especially at Sunday Mass, may rediscover the grace of the transforming encounter with the Lord, with the Risen Lord, who is with us always. There is always a Word of God that gives us guidance after we slip; and through our weariness and disappointments there is always a Bread that is broken that keeps us going on the journey.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, I would like to reflect on the experience of the two disciples of Emmaus, narrated in the Gospel of Luke (cf. 24:13-25). Let us imagine the scene: two men are walking; disappointed, sad, convinced that they are leaving behind them the bitterness of an event which ended badly. Before that Easter, they had been full of enthusiasm, convinced that those days would be decisive: their expectations met as well as the hopes of all the people. Jesus, to whom they had entrusted their lives, had seemed to arrive at the final battle. He would now manifest his power, after a long period of preparation and concealment. This is what they were expecting. And it was not to be.
The two pilgrims had been nurturing a uniquely human hope which was now falling to pieces. That Cross raised on Calvary was the most eloquent sign of a defeat which they had not foreseen. If that Jesus was truly in accordance with God’s heart, then they had to conclude that God was unarmed, defenceless in the hands of violent people, unable to offer any resistance to evil.
So on that Sunday morning, these two men flee from Jerusalem. They still envision the events of the Passion, the death of Jesus unfold, and their souls bear the painful torment of those events during Saturday’s forced repose. That Easter, which should have inspired a song of liberation, has instead transformed into the most painful day of their lives. They leave Jerusalem to go elsewhere, to a tranquil village. They look like people who are intent on removing a burning memory. They are thus on the road, walking in sadness. This scenario — the road — had already been important in the Gospel narratives. It will now become increasingly more important, at the moment in which the history of the Church begins to be told.
Jesus’ encounter with those two disciples appears to be completely fortuitous. It seems to be one of those chance meetings that happen in life. The two disciples are walking, deep in thought, and a stranger comes up alongside them. It is Jesus, but their eyes are not able to recognize him. And therefore, Jesus begins his “therapy of hope”. What takes place on this road is a therapy of hope. Who administers it? Jesus.
Firstly, He asks and listens. Our God is not an intrusive God. Even though he knows the reason for the disappointment of those two men, he gives them time to be able to deeply fathom the bitterness which has overcome them. Out of this comes a confession that is a refrain in human existence. “We had hoped, but…. We had hoped, but…” (v. 21). How much sadness, how many defeats, how many failures there are in the lives of every person! Deep down, we are all a little like those two disciples. How many times we have hoped in our lives. How many times we have felt like we were one step away from happiness only to find ourselves knocked to the ground, disappointed. But, Jesus walks with all people who, discouraged, walk with their heads hung low. And walking with them in a discrete manner, he is able to restore hope.
Jesus speaks to them, above all through the Scriptures. Those who take up God’s Book will not encounter easy heroism, fierce campaigns of conquest. True hope never comes cheaply. It always undergoes defeat. The hope of those who do not suffer is perhaps not even [hope]. God does not like to be loved as one would love a ruler who leads his people to victory, annihilating his enemies in a bloodbath. Our God is a faint light burning on a cold and windy day, and as fragile as his presence in this world may appear, he has chosen the place that we all disdain.
Jesus then repeats for the disciples the fundamental gesture of every Eucharist. He takes bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it. Does not Jesus’ entire history perhaps lie in this series of gestures? And is there not in every Eucharist, also the symbol of what the Church should be? Jesus takes us, blesses us, “breaks” our life — because there is no love without sacrifice — and offers it to others; he offers it to everyone.
Jesus’ encounter with the two disciples of Emmaus is a fleeting one. But the entire destiny of the Church is contained within it. It tells us that the Christian community is not enclosed within a fortified citadel, but rather journeys along its most essential environment, which is the road. And there, it encounters people with their hopes and disappointments, burdensome at times. The Church listens to everyone’s stories as they emerge from the treasure chest of personal conscience, in order to then offer the Word of Life, the witness of love, a love that is faithful until the end. And thus, the hearts of people reignite with hope.
We have all had difficult moments in life, dark moments in which we walked in sadness, pensive, without horizons, with only a wall before us. And Jesus is always beside us to give us hope, to warm our hearts and to say: “Go ahead, I am with you. Go ahead”. The secret of the road that leads to Emmaus is simply this: despite appearances to the contrary, we continue to be loved and God will never stop loving us. God will walk with us always, always, even in the most painful moments, even in the worst moments, even in moments of defeat. That is where the Lord is. And this is our hope. Let us go forward with this hope! Because he is beside us and walks with us. Always!
(by L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly ed. in English, n. 19, 12 May 2017)
We each must enter a “dialogue of three”, each as a protagonist, face-to-face with both Jesus and the adulterous woman, who is a sinner but victim par excellence of those “hearts of stone”. In this way, we can be overwhelmed by the “tenderness of God” who, as he did with the two disciples of Emmaus, “warms our heart” and opens our eyes. With this invitation during his homily at Santa Marta on Tuesday morning, 2 May, Pope Francis strongly advised that we not close ourselves off in the “rigidity” that leads us to “close our ears and grind our teeth”, not allowing the Holy Spirit to pass.
“Last week we reflected on ‘being Christian’”, Francis recalled, and “we saw that a Christian is a witness to obedience”, just as Jesus, “who obeyed unto death, death on the Cross”. And, “today the first reading shows us another witness of obedience in Stephen”, the Pope explained, referring to the passage from the Acts of the Apostles (7:51 – 8:1) which recounts how he is “persecuted, accused, even with the same cruelty to which Jesus” had been subjected, “for telling the truth, for being a witness to obedience”. This, Francis said, “makes me think about the different ways of not understanding the Word of God, because these people who stoned Stephen did not understand the Word of God”.
For comparison, the Pontiff offered the example of the “disciples of Emmaus”, who “did not understand and were on the road”. So, “what does Jesus say to them? — ‘Foolish men, and slow of heart to believe’”. Francis then observed: “they were not closed, but they did not understand”. Of course, the Pope acknowledged, calling someone foolish “is not praise; but it is not as harsh as what Stephen says to these people” who end up stoning him: in fact, Stephen calls them “‘stiff-necked, uncircumcised in heart and ears’ — and saying ‘uncircumcised’ is to say ‘pagan’”.
Jesus “does not say ‘pagan’” to the disciples of Emmaus, but says “halfway believer”. He says: “You believe; you did believe, but not now: you have doubt”. However, Francis explained, those who stone Stephen “are convinced. They are pagans”. The disciples of Emmaus “did not understand; they were even afraid because they did not want problems, and they distanced themselves from Jerusalem: they were afraid. But, they were good”. They had “these limitations, but they were good: they were open to the truth”.
On the other hand, the Pope remarked, the people who accused Stephen and stoned him “were closed to the truth, closed; and when Stephen rebuked them with these harsh words — ‘As your fathers did, so do you’ — they were vicious at heart: their heart was closed by rage ‘and they ground their teeth against’ Stephen”. The disciples of Emmaus, for their part, had a different attitude to the rebuke: “they listened, they let Jesus’ words enter, and their hearts warmed”.
The Acts of the Apostles, the Pontiff continued, also recounts that “when Stephen says he sees Jesus in his glory”, his persecutors “stopped their ears: they did not want — did not want! — to listen”. And “this is the tragedy of closure: closing the heart; the hardened heart; hardness of heart”.
“The Lord admonishes his people in Psalm 95: ‘Harden not your hearts, as at Meribah’”, the Pope repeated. “Then, with the Prophet Ezekiel, he makes a beautiful promise: ‘you have a heart of stone, but I will give you a heart of flesh’”, that is, a heart that is able to hear, that is able to listen, that is able to receive the witness of obedience and that the Word truly became flesh”. This, the Pontiff added, “makes the Church suffer so very much: closed hearts, hearts of stone, hearts that do not want to open, that do not want to hear; hearts that know only the language of condemnation”. They “know how to condemn” and “do not know how to say: ‘explain to me, why do you say this?’”. Instead, the Pope stressed, they remain hardened: “they are closed; they know everything; they do not need explanations”. And, he continued, “as Stephen and even as Jesus rebuked them: ‘what did you do to the prophets? You killed them, because they told you what you did not like’”.
In other words, the Pope said, “there was no room in their heart for the Holy Spirit”. But “today’s reading tells us that Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, had understood everything: he was witness to the obedience of the Word made flesh, and the Holy Spirit does this”. And, whereas Stephen’s heart “was full” of the Holy Spirit, “an empty heart, a stubborn heart, a pagan heart does not allow the Spirit to enter, and feels self-sufficient”.
Francis recommended that we fix our gaze on “these two groups: we are the two of Emmaus, with many doubts, many sins”, and often “we are cowards and want to distance ourselves from the Cross, from trials. But let us make room to feel Jesus, who warms the heart. And let us ask for the grace to be like them”.
“Let us look at the other group”, the Pope continued, made up of those “who stopped their ears; they did not want to hear: [self-]sufficient, closed in the rigidity of the law”. In response, “Jesus spoke a great deal” to these men, “and said worse things than Stephen had said”. Thus, Francis said, “we can end with a dialogue, a dialogue of three: each one of us enters a dialogue between Jesus and the victim of the hearts of stone, the adulterous woman”. The scribes and Pharisees “wanted to stone her: she was a sinner”. But “Jesus simply responds: ‘Look within yourselves’”. And this way, the Pontiff stated, “we see this tenderness of Jesus: the witness to obedience, the great witness Jesus, who gave his life, shows us the tenderness of God, as compared to us, to our sins, to our weaknesses.
Therefore, “let us enter this dialogue”, Francis concluded, “and let us ask for the grace that the Lord make these rigid hearts more tender”, the hearts “of those people who are closed within the law and condemn all that is outside that law: they do not know that the Word came in the flesh, that the Word is witness to obedience; they do not know that God’s tenderness can move a heart of stone and put in its place a heart of flesh”.